Today’s Gospel features one of the more confusing parables for our modern ears. Jesus tells us about a nobleman who leaves gold coins with some of his servants while he is away. When he returns, the nobleman demands an account of what each servant has done with his coins. The first servant, having received ten coins, hands over an additional ten. The second, with five, hands over an extra five. The final servant, who was given one, returns his one coin to his master. The first two servants are rewarded for their efforts; the third servant is punished for his lack thereof. The noble man’s actions seem unjust to us; it’s not like the third servant lost his coin or stole it. He saved it. Wasn’t that enough?
The answer is obviously no. Jesus casts the third servant in a poor light. Clearly, he did something wrong. But what?
At the bare minimum, the servant failed to complete his task. He was charged with the mission of engaging in trade with the coin to increase the nobleman’s profits, and he didn’t do it. The student who doesn’t hand in his homework fails the class. The worker who doesn’t complete his job gets fired. That’s simple justice. You reap what you sow. As the nobleman says in the parable, the least the servant could have done was put the coin in the bank to earn interest, and he didn’t even do that.
The servant also admitted that he was afraid. He let fear guide his decisions, and listening to fear is never a good idea. When we let fear take control in our lives, we often make choices prematurely, or without thinking through the consequences of our actions. Because the third servant was afraid of his master, he lacked the wisdom necessary to determine what would most please the nobleman.
The servant’s fear also caused him to disregard what he already knew to be true of his master. He even went so far as to admit that “you are a demanding man; you take up what you did not lay down and you harvest what you did not plant.” The servant knew what to expect, but he didn’t use that knowledge to his advantage. We have all been given gifts from God, but these gifts demand that we give thanks. Gratitude requires that we use the gifts we’ve been given to advance the Kingdom of God. We have all been given much through the grace of the sacraments, but God demands that we give the entirety of ourselves to Him in return. Fortunately, while He is a demanding God, He only asks us to give what we are capable of giving. We just need the courage to hold nothing back from the God who wants the whole of us, and wants to love every fiber of our being because He is Love Himself.
Shannon Whitmore currently lives in northwestern Virginia with her husband, Andrew, and their two children, John and Felicity. When she is not caring for her children, Shannon enjoys writing for her blog, Love in the Little Things, reading fiction, and freelance writing. She has experience serving in the areas of youth ministry, religious education, sacramental preparation, and marriage enrichment.
Featured Image Credit: Micheile Henderson, https://unsplash.com/photos/ZVprbBmT8QA