I remember reading the book “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie years ago. You see, I thought going into sales was going to be my career and that classic book was part of a foundational training for budding salesmen. Going through my first sales training was eye-opening, to say the least. We learned how to overcome objections and hesitancy in our potential customers, and I just couldn’t shake the nagging impression that I wasn’t really cut out for this. Now, don’t get me wrong, I have no problems with salespeople and their career choice. I find it fascinating to explore this marketing mindset. My problem was I really had to be sold myself on a particular product before I could sell it to others.
But I certainly had a talent for sales. I just didn’t have that strong a motivation to continue this career path. My heart was elsewhere even though I was really good at doing sales work. And that’s what bothered me as a young man: I was good at something that I really didn’t enjoy doing!
And that, my dearest, is why today’s lesson is so very valuable. One of the greatest treasures of a solid and robust practice of the Orthodox Faith is the development of the gift of discernment, the ability to know me well enough to know how to invest my life in the right way!
Look at our lesson today in Matthew 25:14-30:
The Lord said this parable: “A man going on a journey called his servants and entrusted to them his property; to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them; and he made five talents more. So also, he who had the two talents made two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your master.’ And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your master.’ He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not winnow; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sowed, and gather where I have not winnowed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him, and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to every one who has will more be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.” As he said these things he cried out: “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”
You are so very familiar with this passage, I’m sure. But have you ever really sat down and contemplated the wisdom of this passage? Today, let’s spend the time to really mine the spiritual treasures of this parable.
First, The Master Entrusts His servants with his property. And the Master knows these servants so well that he portions His property to them according to their truest selves.
Next, The Servants Reveal Their Truest Selves. In entrusting these servants with His property, the Master is blessing His servants with a chance to know themselves. He gives them His gifts to help them discover who they are.
Finally, The Master returns and Expects an Accounting. This isn’t cruel or unexpected. The servants knew the Master would return, they expected it. That’s why the very expectation of accounting reveals the heart of each servant.
It isn’t amazing that the one with 5 talents made 5 more, and it isn’t surprising that the one with 2 talents made 2 more. No, the surprise is that the one with 1 talent did nothing at all with his talent except hide it. And what motivated him was fear, not service. He was a servant of the Master and he didn’t serve. He hid. Just like Adam and Eve, this servant hid when the Master gave him a great treasure, His trust.
Today, as we remember St. Xenophon & his Companions and remember their story how St. Xenophon and his wife went looking for their sons who had been shipwrecked, we see all these pious people all become monastics in the face of the potential doom of tragedy. When faced with the imminent standing before the Awesome Judgement Seat of Christ, the wise man takes account of the talents given him and he embraces the Normal Orthodox life of investing those talents to grow the Master’s “estate!”
P.S. With your wife and sons you all did keep vigil in the courts of Christ your Lord and you cheerfully disperse your wealth to paupers, O blessed one. Hence, you all have now inherited joy divine.