Monday, November 14, 2011


Most people probably look at the "talent" referred to in the parable this week as a coin of some sort.  However, a talent was actually a weight or measurement.  It corresponded generally to the mass of water in the volume of an amphora, i.e. a one foot cube. When used as a measure of money, it refers to a talent-weight of gold or of silver.  So, when we hear about the master giving 5 talents to the first slave, 2 to the second and 1 to the third, we're talking about a whole lot of money. 

Let's look at the fact that the talent's original measure was a mass of water that fit within a container.  In other instances, this would be called the capacity of the container, and likely, the master was providing to each servant the greatest (or least) capacity he felt they would be able to handle.  The first slave was obviously a real go-getter, and likely, the 5 talents did not approach the capacity he was capable of handling.  His container would hold a considerably greater amount, a fact the master recognized, and promised to provide him with more responsibilities.  The second slave, would have about half or less the capacity of the first slave, if the master's estimation was correct, and rather than overwhelming him with more than he could handle, the master gave him what he felt his capacity could cope with.  He also did well, doubling the value for his master, and not quite reaching the amount the first slave was originally given, but doing well for himself in his own capacity.  His master rewarded that as well, being willing to provide him with more opportunities to grow, excel and increase his own capacity, or measure.

So then we get to the third slave, and have to wonder - did the master overestimate this slave's capacity?  Was a full talent's measure too much for that slave?  Or is it possible that the slave did not believe in his own capacity, and felt that it was safer to do nothing and return the same amount when the master returned?  Is it possible the slave felt the master was overestimating his capacity?

Not long ago, we had the story of Jesus walking on water to get out to the boat where the disciples were.  And Peter, wanting to believe, finds that when Jesus tells him to walk out to him, he could walk on water, as long as he kept his eyes on Christ.  As soon as Peter's eyes waivered, and he saw the winds and the waves, he faltered, and began to sink.  Jesus knew that Peter's capacity for belief was huge, and showed him that with that belief, all things were possible.  It was only when Peter allowed the outside forces to affect his own belief in his own capacity that he began to sink. 

Switching now to the modern definition of talent, as a gift or skill, do we find ourselves wondering if we're really as gifted or talented as some would describe us?  Or are we possibly just fooling ourselves - God would never find what we have to give worthy of notice, right?  Is it possible that God believes in us a lot more strongly, and has given us the capacity He believes we have, to use, to develop, to grow, so that we in turn can attract others through our own beliefs and capacity?  Is it not the height of our own ego to believe that we know better than God about our talents? 

As I was once advised by a very smart old lady - get out of your own way:  God has use for you, and He believes in you even when you doubt yourself. 

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