Is the parable presented in the story of the Talents, as seen in the Gospel of Matthew, an invitation to live on the wild side, to be daring, to take chances? In the story, the man who was taking the trip gave enormous amounts of money to the servants to invest for him. Even the one who got the least amount still got a lot. This traveller was certainly taking a big risk. Two of the servants were also daring. They had to gamble in the market with these large amounts of money in the hopes of making profit. Had they not taken these chances, they would not have had the extremely profitable returns the money earned.
The story is part of a series of parables, sayings and images of an eschatological nature or concerning the end times. The focus has been on watching and being prepared. While the previous parable of the ten virgins might suggest hanging around and waiting, this parable suggests courageous and daring action. We can propose that what is implied here is taking what we have been given and gambling it on the reign of God. This is what is being asked of the disciple.
But then this daring lifestyle is nothing less than how Jesus was compelled to live in accordance with his mission. It would appear that once he found the power of God in the depth of his own soul, he had no choice but to live on the edge. So for the sake of spreading God’s reign, he scaled the rock faces of a tradition that had surrounded and stifled the spirit of the people. To demonstrate that God is love, he rode the mighty waves of laws and legalities in which his people were drowning, and which prohibited them from access to the saving breath of God within their own souls. These barriers he conquered, leaving not just a model, but a necessary pattern of living for any who could dare to follow in his way.
The power that God has placed within our souls is even more extravagant than the talents in the parable. Have I accepted that power, and the courage inherent in it, and used it daringly for the spreading of God’s reign in my society and world? Remember, there was the third servant who got a talent but chose to bury it. This one did not dare to risk, but relied on the security of the status quo. One talent gained, one talent safely tucked away, one talent buried in the tomb of the tradition, and one talent lost in the refusal to take God’s power embedded in the soul and gamble it extravagantly for the people of God.
This parable is followed in Matthew by the image of the last judgment, which does not commend us by how well we kept the rules of our traditions and institutions, but on how daringly and unsparingly we have loved, especially our sisters and brothers found on the margins of our status quo.
Elizabeth Ferguson, OP