Season of Creation – Friday 11th September

Stewardship

Matthew 25.14-30
(New Revised Standard Version)

‘For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away.

‘The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

‘After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, “Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.”

‘His master said to him, “Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.”

‘And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, “Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.”

‘His master said to him, “Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.”

‘Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, “Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.”

‘But his master replied, “You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest.

‘So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. ‘As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”’

Reflection

So in this new season of reflections in Church Wigan, what are we to make of today’s parable of the talents in the context of stewardship: and the call to multiply and replenish the earth? Three words jumped out at me when I read this passage: talent, ability and abundance.

Talent, because its meaning for us today is different from what it meant in the passage. For us, in 2020, a talent is a gift or particular skill. But in our reading, a talent is a measure of wealth (one talent of silver equals 3000 shekels).

I had to look that up in a biblical dictionary, and wasn’t any the wiser, but 3000 shekels is approximately 94 pounds of silver seemingly. This makes more sense to me, so a talent in the time of Matthew would have been a very valuable and precious thing.

The parable shows us that talents can be used positively, to grow and change, or not used – left to stagnate. And we can say that about talents we might have.

Personally, when I was younger I had a modest talent for playing the piano. Since I went to university back in the day, this has been a talent lying unused, and largely forgotten, and it is only in the last year or so, since I began my training for ordination, that I’ve dusted off this ability – to use in the service of others in the playing of music for worship.

Like any parable, the interpretation is up to us, how we decide to understand the bigger picture behind the narrative. The message we can hear in the parable today can relate to our actions in the world.

I know many people who think the current crisis around climate change is just a phase, it’s trendy, and it’ll go away, or be replaced by the next big thing; the next round of scaremongering by the media – but friends, the disasters befalling our precious planet won’t go away.

We’ve already heard in previous reflections how the planet is not ours to selfishly plunder for our own benefit, we have this planet in our care to nurture and to pass on as we would a precious family treasure; and it’s down to us to pass this on in a better state than we find it at the moment.

This is where our talents come in.

I can almost hear people saying “Well what can I do?” or “Well, I recycle, and it’s not my fault there’s so much packaging on things I buy.” Friends, this is where the second word that jumped out at me from the reading is important: ability.

We all have different abilities to bring to this planet – whether it’s simply acknowledging that there is a problem, or doing one small thing to show that we care for the planet, even just having these conversations.

There will be some of us with the ability to make huge differences. People in responsible roles in large businesses who can directly make changes most of us can’t.

But that’s not the point. The fact is, we all need to look openly and honestly at how we care for the environment we live in. And that brings us to the final one of the three words that spoke to me from the reading: abundance.

The precious planet we inhabit can have enough for everyone, and collectively we can reverse the catastrophe the world is living through right now. So be challenged to make a difference, and to pray that others will follow your lead.

David Halliwell
Ordinand in training
(South Hub)