Nov 15 St Ambrose
1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
The parable of the talents is a well-known story, and there have been various interpretations of it. Even our word ‘talent’ comes from this story. A talent was a measure of weight, of money. It was quite a lot – more than 50 kilos in New Testament times. This was a story guaranteed to catch the attention of the listener, using the Jewish sense of exaggeration that Jesus used in so many stories.
This story talks about trust. The man going away on the journey gave large sums of money to his servants to invest for him, trusting them to keep his affairs not only in order but productive while he was away, and could not attend to them. God entrusts us with a lot too. It doesn’t look like huge amounts of money to use, most of the time, unfortunately.
But what does God give us? God gives us everything we have – our life, our health, our family, our friends, our work, our abilities. To some, the amount is more than to others. Maybe your pile of health is a bit smaller than it used to be. Maybe your pile of talking- to-people talent is larger than someone else’s. Everyone has something in their pile.
In the story, the servant who had been given a large amount in the first place used it wisely and doubled it. This can happen with large amounts of money – they can be invested and grow. Apparently. I haven’t had the chance to try it. But what do we have that we can grow for the Kingdom? Do you have any ability? This is where we need to think outside the box. The obvious talents are things like musical gifts, sporting prowess.
When is was about 21 I met up with a girl I had gone to school with, who had never been very nice to me and my friends, -she was one of the bullies, you might say. But she told me that she had really envied us! Why? I asked. Her life seemed to have lots of stuff going for it. Because you were so talented, she said. It is true that my friends and I were good at music, and languages and such like. These were very obvious talents – it’s easy to see a talent when someone is painting a picture in front of you, or singing a song, or scoring a century at cricket.
But many of our abilities, our talents, are not so obvious. They may be talents with listening to people, the talent of encouraging people. The talent of affirming people. Loving people. These are the sorts of talents that don’t go around shouting from the roof tops, but just like investing money, they will grow if we use them.
If someone comes into the food bank and they have had a really hard day, we will meet them with love, with listening. With affirmation. I wonder what will grow then? We probably will never know what happens to that person when they go home. Maybe there will grow in their heart a bit of their own talent to love, to affirm, to be a friend. We don’t know, but God knows.
The idea behind this talent is that as God has given so we too must give. God has been incredibly generous to us – therefore we can be equally generous to those we encounter.
It’s a bit counter-cultural though isn’t it? So often in our society people do things when they will be seen, so they can be thanked. There was an add a year or so ago, which showed a man loading the dishwasher, and before he shut the door and turned it on, he checked to see that his wife was noticing! It was funny, but it showed our human need for praise. We can give other people the praise and affirmation that God leads us to give, but we don’t need to seek it for ourself.
God knows our heart, what we do and why we do it, everything about us.
Let’s look at the parable again. The first servant was given a large sum, and doubled it. The second also doubled what he had been entrusted with.
But the third didn’t do anything with it. He feared the Master, and instead of even putting the money in the bank to gain even a bit of interest he hid it in the ground!
What talents are you hiding in the ground? What attributes do you have that could be used for the kingdom of heaven, but you are not using them? This is something to take to God in prayer. There may be things about your life that you see as weaknesses, as failures, that are really talents, things of value for God. I discovered this when I used to help with Pop-in, a play group that our church ran back in Tawa. Here I was, a married woman, with my kids, and some of the young mums who came in were a bit self-conscious about their lack of a wedding ring. They were slow to warm up to me and some of the other helpers, preferring to talk to their own age group. But I got one of those Holy Spirit nudges to tell them a little bit of my story – it was only a tiny bit I shared, not a whole talent, only a couple of cents really. I just told them that I remembered the days of shared custody and struggling by on the DPB.
I could have ignored my earlier life, turned the page and pretended it never happened, but God had given me that to use. As a result, the young single mums opened up to me – they knew I could relate to them in their situation, and that I wasn’t judging them. We were able to develop a warm and friendly relationship, and they were blessed by belonging to the playgroup. As a result of this, several of them joined the church, and those who didn’t were peripheral members, and knew that they could come to us when they needed us.
God used my unlikely-looking talent of having been divorced!
Maybe your back story is a rich mine of experience to help other people. Maybe they can tell by the wise glint in your eye, the compassionate nod of your head, even without you saying a word, that you ‘get’ them, you know where they are coming from.
Our stories are our talents. No matter how ghastly, and I do know that the stories represented by people here would keep Shortland St going for years, if they were even allowed by the censor to use them!
Our reading to the Thessalonians tells us why all this stuff is so important – we don’t know the time when Jesus will come back on earth, and we need to be ready. If we need this, so do those around us, those whom we meet and interact with. We have a duty of care to God’s people everywhere to help them be ready for the coming of the Kingdom of God, and we can all bring that Kingdom closer by sharing our talents with the same generosity our wonderful God has shown to us.