As they were listening to this, he went on to tell a parable, because he was near Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately. So he said, ‘A nobleman went to a distant country to get royal power for himself and then return. He summoned ten of his slaves, and gave them ten pounds, and said to them, “Do business with these until I come back.” But the citizens of his country hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, “We do not want this man to rule over us.” When he returned, having received royal power, he ordered these slaves, to whom he had given the money, to be summoned so that he might find out what they had gained by trading. The first came forward and said, “Lord, your pound has made ten more pounds.” He said to him, “Well done, good slave! Because you have been trustworthy in a very small thing, take charge of ten cities.” Then the second came, saying, “Lord, your pound has made five pounds.” He said to him, “And you, rule over five cities.” Then the other came, saying, “Lord, here is your pound. I wrapped it up in a piece of cloth, for I was afraid of you, because you are a harsh man; you take what you did not deposit, and reap what you did not sow.” He said to him, “I will judge you by your own words, you wicked slave! You knew, did you, that I was a harsh man, taking what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow? Why then did you not put my money into the bank? Then when I returned, I could have collected it with interest.” He said to the bystanders, “Take the pound from him and give it to the one who has ten pounds.” (And they said to him, “Lord, he has ten pounds!”) “I tell you, to all those who have, more will be given; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. But as for these enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them—bring them here and slaughter them in my presence.”’
When ordaining a new Elder in a local church recently I used this parable as the Gospel reading (the version in Matthew is one of the readings recommended in the URC Worship Book). At first glance, this parable seems to urge us to use our skills, capabilities and experiences to further God’s kingdom on earth. This is a useful and often-cited explanation for this parable. The trite saying, ‘use it or lose’ comes to mind to reinforce the message that we all have God-given gifts and talents the we are duty bound to exploit for God’s purposes.
In preparation for the service of ordination and induction I studied all the recommended readings and was struck by a number of recurring themes, such as, humility, service and sheep-tending. Considering these themes gave me a different slant on the parable. While building up our own ‘wealth of talent’ (for God’s purposes, not ours) is important, what seemed even more important (for those in any form of leadership roles) was building up the wealth of talent in the ‘flock’. Tend my flock we are told. This parable points out to all Elders, old or new, that we are to use our skills and capabilities to develop and encourage those around us. To enable others to become more talented and more fruitful. For Elders (and other leaders), this parable is not just about developing our God-given skills, it is about developing the wealth of talent in the whole Christian community.
Lord, we thank you for the wealth of gifts you have showered on your children, and continue to do so.
We are grateful that we see your servants use these gifts day by day to further your kingdom.
I pray that through your grace you will continue to inspire all in leadership roles to nurture those around them, giving them the skills and confidence to do even more in your name.
Alan Yates is the Immediate Past Moderator of General Assembly and an Elder in Trinity URC, High Wycombe.
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