The Parable of the Ten Pounds
As the crowds were listening, Jesus went on to tell a parable, because he was near Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately. So he said, ‘A nobleman went to a distant country to get royal power for himself and then return. He summoned ten of his slaves, and gave them ten pounds, and said to them, “Do business with these until I come back.” But the citizens of his country hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, “We do not want this man to rule over us.” When he returned, having received royal power, he ordered these slaves, to whom he had given the money, to be summoned so that he might find out what they had gained by trading. The first came forward and said, “Lord, your pound has made ten more pounds.” He said to him, “Well done, good slave! Because you have been trustworthy in a very small thing, take charge of ten cities.” Then the second came, saying, “Lord, your pound has made five pounds.” He said to him, “And you, rule over five cities.” Then the other came, saying, “Lord, here is your pound. I wrapped it up in a piece of cloth, for I was afraid of you, because you are a harsh man; you take what you did not deposit, and reap what you did not sow.” He said to him, “I will judge you by your own words, you wicked slave! You knew, did you, that I was a harsh man, taking what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow? Why then did you not put my money into the bank? Then when I returned, I could have collected it with interest.” He said to the bystanders, “Take the pound from him and give it to the one who has ten pounds.” (And they said to him, “Lord, he has ten pounds!”) “I tell you, to all those who have, more will be given; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. But as for these enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them – bring them here and slaughter them in my presence.”’
After he had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.
This parable reminds me of many conversations I have had over the years. In those conversations I have heard people describing themselves as having no talent, or as being of no particular use. I have always been profoundly saddened by such comments. Similarly, as a musician, I have often had people express their envy that they cannot play an instrument or compose an original melody. As with those who write themselves off as having no talent or particular use, I always feel sadness when such things are said. The sadness I feel when I hear such self-deprecating words is rooted in the way I see fellow human-beings failing to explore, develop and celebrate the wonderful gifts they have been given by God.
We read in scripture that every human being is made in the image of God. This should not be seen as some sort of birthright, but as a challenge. We are all made in the image of our Creator God, the one whose imagination and creativity caused our amazing world to come into existence. And, as we are made in the image of God, we are all invested with a tiny spark of that same imagination and creativity. For some, those God-given talents are obvious from an early age, but it is not so for the majority. For most of us, we have to join Zacchaeus in making that extra effort, in climbing that tree, in order that we might come to recognize what God’s purpose is for us in this world.
Those who struggle with their belief that they have no talent or purpose in this world often feel that they see such talent and purpose in everyone else … just not in themselves. Such people find themselves wrapped in a cocoon of inward-looking despair. Just like the man in today’s reading who was too fearful to invest just one pound, such people waste their lives by failing to honour the gifts and talents they have been given.
Some people seem to overflow with gifts and talents. Sportsmen and women, actors, musicians, writers, great cooks, the list is endless. But, as we look at those who make the headlines, we forget the rest: those who are great carers and listeners, those whose compassion for others brings constant comfort and solace, those whose patience and acceptance should be a model to us all.
Today we are invited to look outward, to trust and to share in God’s creativity. Today we are encouraged to pray that we might put an end to our instinctive desire to be like those whose talents have brought them fame, and allow God to use our humble but important gifts and talents … those gifts and talents which are unique to us. Let us pray that instead of seeing the world through fearful eyes, we might see through the eyes of rejoicing and hope.