Wednesday, February 07, 2007

How much is your talent worth?

Today's New Testament reading includes the parable of the "talents," named after the amount of money entrusted to various servants.
"Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey.
Matthew 25.24-15
A talent is something like 75 or 90 pounds - "as much as a grown man can carry" is what I remember from some dictionary or another. Let's call it 80 to make computing easier, and let's say 12 (Troy) ounces to the pound, so that's 960 ounces. What's gold at today? $400 an ounce? That would be $384,000 for each talent.

That's quite a lot of money, but in those days it was worth even more, counted in terms of a day's wages, or in terms of buying power. What I see here is that the least able person was given, not a few coins, but what would have been considered a fortune to manage.

OK, so I'm cheating by using the English word "talent" to refer to skills and abilities here, but it strikes me that the skills and special abilities of any one of us, properly applied, can do wonderful things on the master's behalf. A little further down, we read that the 5-talent guy doubled the master's money, and the 2-talent guy did likewise. But the 1-talent guy, having buried the talent in the ground, has no gain to show. He makes a little speech:
"Then the man who had received the one talent came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’
Matthew 25.24-25
Whoa! What could this guy have been thinking? Was he angry because the master gave him only one talent, versus the two or five the other servants got? Was he angry because the master gave him too much -- nearly $400,000 -- to manage, rather than a more reasonable amount? And what did he mean by insulting the master?

But then I sometimes wonder... how many of us are angry with God because of not being given as much as someone else? Or because we have more problems (or so we think) than others have?

It's Sunday-School-ish to say, "count your blessings" or "be grateful for what you have," but I don't guess that makes it totally wrong, either. I mean, if even the least talented among us has a small fortune's worth (or more!) of abilities and skills to bring blessing into the world, isn't that an awesome opportunity?

Well, I'm not sure how close that was to the original meaning of the parable, but that's what I got out of it today. What will I do today with what I've been given? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to the Lord, and may they bring blessing to the world.

revised 2008-02-09

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