CAMINANDO WITH JESUS: Waiting Faithfully
Jesus said, “It is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ But his master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’”
- Matthew 25:14-30
As I write these words, we are waiting to see what Election Day and the days following will bring. Hopefully by the time you are reading these words, we will not still be waiting for a final result! We are also waiting for an end to a pandemic that has altered incalculably our lives and world. In both cases, our waiting is angst-filled. In both cases, there is great uncertainty about what the future will bring and how long we will have to wait to see the end. Many of us find ourselves caught in that emotionally fraught mix of impatience and dread. As people of faith, we are confronted with an age-old question: What does it mean to wait faithfully?
In the Gospel reading this week, we hear the parable of the talents from Matthew. It is the third in a series of parables in this part of Matthew’s gospel that addresses how followers of Jesus should behave while waiting for his return at the Parousia, which they thought was imminent. While it functions eschatologically in Matthew’s narrative and speaks to specific expectations of his first-century audience, this parable addresses a timeless aspect of what it means to be human and a person of faith.
The first two slaves took the talents generously entrusted to their care and used them in fruitful ways that brought blessing and delight to both them and their master. The third slave, on the other hand, acting out of fear, simply buried the talent entrusted to him, gaining no benefits for him or his master. The end result is that he finds himself in a place of “weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
What does it mean to wait faithfully? According to this parable, it means not allowing fear to take root in your life in a way that prevents fruitful and courageous living. The first two slaves responded primarily from a place of gratitude, which allowed them to live abundantly rather than fearfully. The third slave responded primarily from a place of fear, allowing that fear to engender a scarcity mindset, which became a self-fulfilling prophecy. His fear-based approach set him on a path towards a self-imposed isolation.
So, whenever we find ourselves in that place of waiting, not knowing exactly what the future will bring (which is frankly most of the time), with the anxiety and uncertainty that can come with the not-knowing, Jesus invites us to shift our attention to all that we have been given and to live life from a place of gratitude and abundance, rather than fear and scarcity.
To be clear, regardless of what some traditional ways of reading this parable might suggest, I do not believe for a minute that it is about what we must do to earn our place into “heaven." While eschatological in tone, especially for Matthew’s first-century audience, I believe the parable is ultimately speaking to the life of faith in the present. The more that we can approach our lives from a place of gratitude, rather than fear, the more we will be able to “enter into the joy” of our Master, here and now, even in the midst of pandemics and political turmoil! Waiting faithfully means living life as much as possible from a place of gratitude, not fear.
Tags: Caminando with Jesus