by José Antonio Pagola (English translation by Rebel Girl)
The parable of the talents is very well-known to Christians. According to the story, before going away on a journey, a man entrusted the management of his assets to three employees. He gave one five talents, another, two, and a third, one talent -- "each according to his ability." He expected a worthy return from all of them.
The first two immediately began to trade with their talents. You see them working decisively, identifying with their master's plan. They aren't afraid to take risks. When the man comes back, they proudly give him the fruits -- they have been able to double the talents they received.
The reaction of the third employee is strange. The only thing he can think of to do is to hide the talent by "burying it in the ground" to keep it safe. When his master returns, he justifies himself in these words: "Master, I knew you were a demanding person, harvesting where you did not plant...so I was afraid and I went off and buried your talent in the ground. Here is what is yours." The master condemns him as a "negligent" employee.
In fact, the root of his behavior is deeper. This employee has a false image of the master. He imagines him to be selfish, unjust, and arbitrary. He is demanding and doesn't admit mistakes. He is not to be trusted. It's best to defend onself against him.
This petty image of his master paralyzes him. He doesn't dare to take any risks. Fear is blocking him. He isn't free to respond creatively to the responsibility that has been entrusted to him. The safest thing is to "save" the talent. That's enough.
Probably the first generation of Christians understood the appealing strength of the parable better than we do. Jesus has left His Father's plan to create a more just and humane world in our hands. He has bequeathed us the commandment to love. He has entrusted to us the great news of a God who is friendly to human beings. How are we responding today as followers of Jesus?
When Christian faith isn't lived in confidence but in fear, everything is distorted. Faith is preserved, but not spread. Religion becomes a duty. Observance is substituted for the gospel. Worship is dominated by preoccupation with ritual.
It would be a mistake to present ourselves before the Lord some day with the attitude of the third employee: "Here is what's yours. Here is your Gospel; here is the plan for Your kingdom and Your message of love for those who are suffering. We have kept it faithfully. We have preached it correctly. It hasn't been very useful for changing our lives or for making ways of justice to Your kingdom. But here it is, intact."