It’s Only A Talent Until
Text: Matthew 25:14-30
I think we all had experience looking under the couch in your house, or under your bed, or under the sofa cushions? What did you find? Children’s toy cars, lost pens, remote control, nail clippers, even money, especially coins. You may also have some joyful experience of finding something valuable in your basement or closet that you thought was lost. You may have found ten, or twenty dollar bills in your old coat pocket. What a pleasant surprise. But not until you find them, they are not useful and they won’t bring you joy. Eventually, they may be thrown away together with the old coats. They remain worthless and useless until they are found and reclaimed by someone. There are many hidden or buried things that need to be rediscovered and reclaimed. Children are excited to play treasure hunt. They also like to read stories like treasure cove in remote island or pirate treasure map. Real treasure hunters, who dig around the world not for loose change but for treasure troves buried in the ground or sunk under the sea, believe that only when hidden treasures come to light, do they have values. Unearthed treasure can make them rich. Do you know, there are also many lost accounts out there with billions unclaimed money. These lost accounts exist because some people have forgotten when they changed their job and moved or in other personal circumstances like getting married or widowed. If you have lost accounts, only when you rediscover and reclaim them do they really belong to you. Otherwise, lost accounts belong to the government.
Now imagine yourself discover and reclaim something even more valuable in God’s eyes. Last Sunday, Pr. Lehrer asked all of us to write down what you have done, what you have trained to do and what you do well or like to do. They are gifts and talents. Today, I would like to say that a talent is only a talent until it’s ‘unearthed,’ and reclaimed by the Holy Spirit to be used for God’s purposes. Only then does a talent truly become a spiritual gift. Talents are gifts from a very good God, to be sure. But often times, we claim them as our own. We hide them from God. We use them for our own selfish purposes and bury them in this world. Only when the Holy Spirit calls us and uses our God-given talents to work in the community of faith to benefit the whole world, do they become spiritual gifts. As it is said by St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 12, “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; etc. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” What is this same Spirit then? It’s not some kind of spirit in a philosophical sense or in other religious practice. From the context of these verses, St. Paul defines the Spirit clearly. It’s the Holy Spirit Who works in the body of Christ and in whom we won’t deny Jesus, but confess “Jesus is Lord.” Therefore, a spiritual gift in biblical sense is manifestation of the Holy Spirit to confess the Gospel and to be used in varieties of service and activity for the common good. A talent is just a talent until it’s used by God and for God and others.
The “talent” in today’s parable of Jesus, is not exactly what we mean by the word we have been used today. Back in Jesus’ time, a talent was a measure of weight. It meant about 75 pounds. But it weighed coins. So it was 75 pounds of, in this story, gold. Some people say, a talent meant more than $1000. Some other people say, it was about 15-20 years worth of work of a labourer at that time. Anyway, it was a lot of money. The master had entrusted his servants with something very valuable. He expected them not to keep it to themselves, but to use it and invest it as a faithful steward. Two of the savants in the story did exactly that. The 1st servant was given 5 talents. He traded with them, and he made five talents more. The 2nd servant who had two talents made two talents more. Unfortunately, the 3rd servant didn’t invest his talent. He hid it. He buried it. He didn’t use it at all. So, it didn’t grow. It became a hidden treasure like a treasure trove in a remote island or the lost coins under sofa, or forgotten bills in the old coat pocket or your lost account. It’s a talent nevertheless. But it’s worthless because it would not become what it was meant to be – an entrusted gift by the mater to be invested and to grow.
We know that this parable is one of the Kingdom parables taught by Jesus. Here, Jesus is this master. He is the Master, the Lord, and King, Who has entrusted all of us His gifts and will return someday to settle accounts with us. A “talent” here represents a God-given gift to us including our money, time and talent, a talent in ordinary sense. Some people say the talent here should also include the Word and Sacrament that Jesus entrusts to His church. I think that’s right. Whatever it is, one thing is certain. It means not to be buried or hidden from God, but to be used for the Kingdom of God, to increase for Jesus, the Master. What does it mean to be buried in the ground? The ground represents the world. Remember the parable of weeds in the field? In the same Gospel of Matthew, chapter 13, when Jesus explains the parable He says, “The field is the world.” I think the ground in today’s parable is also the world, because the whole point of “hiding in the ground” is to hide God-given talent from God and not to be used in His Kingdom. Then it begs the question, “Where do we hide God-given talents? Where are they buried?” They are buried in the world. They are buried in the noises and busyness of this world and in the vanity of this world. As we pursue fame, money, and pleasure of this world, we are hidden from God and will not be fruitful, as Jesus says in the parable of the Sower, “the word of God is choked by the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches like a seed being choked by the thorns of the ground, and it proves unfruitful.” This is what happens when people selfishly hide their talents in this world. But then what will happen to this selfish, faithless, and worthless savant? He will be cast into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. The cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches will bury any God-given talent. It won’t become a fruitful spiritual gift until it is dug out, and reclaimed by the Holy Spirit and used for the Kingdom of God.
The things about buried talents and lost treasures remind me of other kingdom parables taught by Jesus, like the parable of treasure hidden in a field, or a merchant in search of fine pearls, or a woman looking for her lost coins. In these kingdom parables, the main character is God or Jesus. If the main character is God, then who is the treasure hidden in a field? Who are the fine pearls a merchant is searching for? And who are the lost silver coins that the woman who represents the church is sweeping the house with a lamp in her hand to seek diligently until she finds them? It’s YOU! It’s all lost and condemned human beings like you and me. Why? Because you are treasures, you are precious in God’s eyes. He has created you in His image and given you talents. Though you are buried in this sinful world, God still loves you. For God so loves you that he spares no effort to find you. He sells everything even His only begotten Son in order to purchase you back, as Dr. Martin Luther puts it, “not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death.” God searches you out, and He reclaims you “as His own, who will live under Him and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness.”
You have God-given talents and gifts because He has given you your body and
soul, eyes, ears, and all your members, your reason and all your senses, and still takes care of them. Do not say in your heart, “I have earned everything myself because I am smart.” Even your brain with all that smartness comes from God. Unfortunately, because of our unfaithfulness and sinfulness, we bury those talents in this sinful world and hide from God. A talent buried is just a talent, not a spiritual gift until it is rediscovered, reclaimed and used by the Holy Spirit for the common good of the kingdom of God. But this is not the whole story. The whole story is that someone has already found you, not only your talents, but also your whole person. God is so excited and glad to have found you that He hosts a party in heaven and there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.