Reflecting on Matthew for the Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

From The Gospel of Matthew, by Curtis Mitch and Edward Sri, commenting on Matthew 25:14-30

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When the master returns to settle accounts with his servants, the first two are praised and promoted. Since both made a 100 percent return on their investments, both are told: Well done, my good and faithful servant and Come, share your master’s joy. Having been trustworthy in small matters, they are promised great responsibilities. This is the same principle enunciated in 24:47, namely, that fulfilling spiritual duties well earns even more of the Lord’s trust.

Then the servant in charge of one talent renders his account with an excuse for giving back the same amount. Because he knew his master to be a demanding person, raking in profits wherever he could, he was paralyzed with fear at the thought of losing his master’s money. This is why he buried the talent rather than invested it.

The reply of the master is a stern and stinging rebuke. In his view, the very reason cited for burying the talent should have been the motivation to trade with it. The fact that the servant knew his master to be a tough businessman should have prompted him to pursue some kind of financial undertaking. Even the small amount of interest he could have earned from a bank would have been better than no return at all. But having failed to make even a minimal effort, he is branded a wicked and lazy servant.

Confining ourselves to the storyline of the parable, the master’s rebuke seems excessively harsh. But if the talents represent each servant’s “knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven” (13:11), then the severity of the charge is understandable. Being entrusted with the message of salvation entails great responsibility. To sit on that message or to bury it for ourselves is a serious breach of responsibility to the Lord, who calls us to share his good news with the world. He does not want us to give it back to him unshared and unfruitful.

© 2010 Curtis Mitch, Edward Sri, and Baker Academic. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.