Judges 4:1-7; Psalm 123; (or Zephaniah 1:7, 12-18; Psalm 90:1-8, <9-11> 12); 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11; Matthew 25:14-30
“There are wonderful things in real jazz, the talent for improvisation, the liveliness, the being at one with the audience.” Henri Matisse
Almost half of Jesus’ parables have to do with money or commerce. But money is only the presenting metaphor. These parables are speaking of abundant life. In today’s story a rich man is about to go on a long journey. Before departing he entrusts his money to three slaves. He gives five talents to one, two to another, and one to the third slave (see Greek below). Lest we mistakenly think that the third fellow was seriously short changed, we should note that his one talent was a huge amount of money (see Greek below). Upon the master’s return we learn that the first two slaves doubled the amount they received. However, the third slave was fearful so he buried his one talent so as not to lose it. There was no increase. On a deeper lever this is not about money. It’s about taking what God has given to us and working with it (see Greek below) without fear, being willing to take a risk. A true story is told of a Croatian immigrant living in California who was a superb furniture maker, real upscale stuff. But not willing to risk failure he took a job as a longshoreman. His furniture making never became more than a hobby. For the most part he buried his talent in the ground because the risk of stepping out and doing it full time was too scary. How do we know what God wants us to do? We learn from the Bible that God does not lure us into abundant life by urging us to play it safe. Hints of God’s guidance may be found in dark places, fearful dreams. Stepping out into the unknown requires improvisation, as in jazz, because the score has not yet been written. Life is a tune we all play. God wants spiritual musical entrepreneurs. Sure, it is risky and scary. No one has played this tune before. It is ours alone. Our individual abundant lives are not found in any convention, or previously published work. We hear the melody in our heads (hearts). Fear not.
In those days a “talent” was a common laborer’s earnings for fifteen years. These people were poor, but what they earned in fifteen years cumulatively was a huge amount of money. Imagine today what getting paid minimum wage would add up to over that many years. Do the math. The original Greek in Matthew 25:18 and 27 tells us that the money given to the slaves was in silver coins. We are looking at barrows of money. Matthew 25:16, in many translations, says they “traded” with the money, as we might do in the stock market. However, the original Greek simply says they “worked” with it. And so we work with what we have been given.
Round about in my head
plays the fearful, riskful tune:
liveliness starts here.