A ‘talent,’ in Jesus’ time, meant a huge quantity of precious metal – 50 pounds or more of gold or silver. It was more wealth than Jesus’ disciples could imagine. So the rich man in today’s parable is trusting each of his servants with a huge sum of money. Two of the servants repay the master’s trust; they work hard and make money for him. The third servant hides the wealth that was given to him in a hole in the ground. When the master comes home, he is punished for his lack of initiative.
What is the message of this parable? Is Jesus really teaching us to make as much money as we can? That doesn’t seem to fit with his teaching in other Gospel stories, where he describes money as a ‘tainted thing,’ and warns the rich that they can’t take their wealth with them when they die.
The most precious thing that Jesus gives to his disciples is their faith in him. Our faith is given to us as a gift; a treasure that is not meant to be hidden away, but to be shared with others. Every disciple is called to witness to their faith, and to let others know about God’s love for them. The third servant acted in the way that he did because he was afraid of his master. His fear stopped him from taking risks; it prevented him from being brave and creative. If, instead, we trust in the God of love, we can do amazing things with the gift of faith.