Render to God what is God’s

The reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew 25:14-30

Today we hear the parable of the talents.  As we mentioned last week, we are confident that there is more than simply a plain straightforward reading to any biblical text.  Perhaps this point is proved most clearly through the teachings of the Lord Jesus which are called parables.  They are stories that are easy to listen to, easy to hear but difficult to grasp fully or understand.  There is something to the story as it is being told to us, but there is so much more beneath the surface.

In this parable of Our Lord Jesus Christ, we are told of a man who was about to go on a long journey and before he left he entrusted his possessions to his servants until he should return.  This is a reference to the Lord Jesus Himself who left His disciples here on earth and has physically left us.  This parable is taught within the context of the Lord who is preparing the people and the disciples for his physical departure but this departure comes with a gift.  The Lord is leaving the gifts of the Holy Spirit, with His people.  It is such an amazing gift that is given to us fully through the grace and compassionate love of God towards mankind.  The Lord is like this man who prepares to travel and entrusts his gifts to his servants.  It is as if He is saying, I want you to have this because sharing it will benefit you more than keeping it for myself.

But there are some strings attached to this giving as we see in this parable.  We are expected to do something… anything, with the gifts that have been given to us.  My dear Orthodox Christians, you who have been given more than anyone else has ever received.  You who are wealthier than the mightiest kings.  You who have been given every possible grace by God.  What have you done with the gift of the Holy Spirit that has been granted to each of you?  How have you used this gift to multiply the work of God in the world?  How have you invested the gift that was given to you in order to ensure a return.

When we receive a loan, do we understand that this loan must be paid back?  Actually the Lord is quite gracious to us because He does not expect to be repaid as long as we do something with the original funds that He has given to us.  So what have we done with the gifts that were given to us?  How have we used them to grow in holiness?  How have we used them to win souls for the Master?  How have we used the gift of the Holy Spirit that is within us, to grow in faith and love towards our family, towards our neighbors and towards our co-workers?  Do we have any idea what an amazing gift has been given to us?

Great and Holy Lent is not many weeks away now.  Do you know why we struggle through the coming fast?  To reclaim the gifts of the Holy Spirit that have been given to us at our baptism or reception into the Church.  We’ve lost those gifts through laziness.  We’ve lost those gifts through the improper use of our bodies, whether through lust or idolatry or lack of prayer or gossiping or judging others.   We struggle through the ascetic disciplines of the Church in order to properly orient our minds and hearts back to the Master.  We struggle in order to make sure that we are found holding some of the treasure that the Lord Jesus Christ has gifted to us, upon his final return.  A return which is foreshadowed by the celebration of Pascha (Easter).  This is why I tell you that there is no theoretical Orthodoxy.  There is no Orthodoxy without orthopraxy.  Orthodox Christianity is a physical faith.  We will be judged with our bodies and either saved or condemned in our bodies.  For this reason, the outward work of the body is the expression of our inward faith.

So we struggle in this life to use the gifts that have been so generously poured out on us.  Alternatively, if we have not struggled to use the gifts but have simply buried them, where no one can see them, how will this same generous Lord deal with us?  Let’s look at the parable.  The master dealt with the servant who had buried his talent not simply as a man who did nothing, but as a man who stole from the master!  An amazing gift was given to the servant, and since he did nothing with it, he in fact was treated as if he had rejected the gift or worse.  Our master would likewise look at us and if He found us having the same single talent that was originally given to us He might say “Is it possible that one of my people could ever act so negligently with what I have given him?  This means that my gift was wasted on him.  Or perhaps it is a sign that this is not one of my people, but an imposter, a trespasser.”

In the parable we see that the servant is of no importance in the equation.  The only factor of importance is the talent and whether or not it has been used.  God shows His mercy and love to us by giving us the gifts that are meant only for His own children.  He has adopted us as His sons and daughters.  The time to use all of these gifts, the time to make it clear that you are a part of His family is right now because He is coming.  Don’t be distracted away from this truth.  Don’t let the years make you forgetful.  He waits to judge us at the end.  Let’s run to obey the commandments and to serve God in holiness before He comes and asks to see what rightly belongs to Him.

And Glory be to God forever AMEN.

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