In Year C’s Parable Season, we don’t have the chance to hear the Parable of the Talents from Luke 19. It is Matthew’s version that instead gets airtime in Year A. Perhaps you recall the story of a master who gives three of his slaves portions of his wealth to watch over while his is on an extended trip. To the first, he gives five talents – roughly 100 years worth of wages. To the second, he gives two talents, and to the third slave, he gave one talent. Upon his return, the first slaves returns ten talents; the second, four; while the third simply gives back the one talent to his master. The Parable of the Talents isn’t really about money. In fact, it is pretty convenient that the monetary unity is called a talent because that seems to be what it’s really about. How are you using the gifts God has given you to the glory of God?
I’m beginning to think the Parable of the Unjust Steward is similarly about talents. The story begins with Jesus introducing us to a rich man and his manager. The manager is known to be squandering the rich man’s property. Squander is an interesting word. The only other time I hear that word used is in relation to the Parable of the Prodigal Son, who squandered his inheritance on dissolute living. It means to scatter, to throw to the wind, or to winnow. It is the opposite of “to gather together.” It wasn’t that his man was simply a bad manager, but he was wasteful with his master’s wealth. His defining characteristic was that of a squanderer.
When the manager finds out that he is going to be fired, he doesn’t panic, but instead he does what he does best. He uses his skills at squandering his master’s goods to put himself in the best possible position once he is no longer employed. He uses his talent, icky as it may be, to the best of his ability to further his own best interests. When the rich man praises him for his shrewdness, we are shocked. When Jesus suggests his followers should do likewise, we get squirmy and look for another text to preach, but what if this story is a parable about talents? What if Jesus is encouraging us to use the gifts we have, to the best of our abilities, to further God’s best interests? Preachers should preach for the up-building of the Kingdom. Bankers should manage funds for the up-building of the Kingdom. Lawyers should practice law for the up-building of the Kingdom. Cashiers should engage customers for the up-building of the Kingdom. No matter what gifts and talents we have, they should be put to use with shrewdness, for the up-building of the Kingdom.