Tuesday, August 9, 2016


"To whoever hath, to him shall be given; and whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he seemeth to have" (Luke 8:18).  Recall the parable of the talents: the servant to whom his master had entrusted one talent buries it in the ground, so that when the master returns from his journey, he hands over intact the one talent he had been given.  And so, the master is wroth.  The servant might, after all, had at least deposited the money in the bank, in order to gain a bit of interest.  But apparently he was just too lazy and didn't care that much.  And so, the master takes that one talent and hands it over to the servant who had converted the five talents he had been given into ten.  Meanwhile, the hapless servant who had been entrusted with the single talent is seized and thrust into that place of outer darkness, where there shall be weeping and  gnashing of teeth!

To the modern, secularized, egalitarian mind, perhaps this turn of events just doesn't seem fair.  Is it just that he who has the least should hand over what little he has to he who has the most?  Yet one might consider that he who had received the five talents no doubt worked hard to make such a profit, while it takes no initiative at all to bury one's treasure in the ground (or to hide one's light under a bushel, where it cannot be seen).  In order to "get ahead" in this fallen world, it is necessary first of all to take risks, while applying whatever natural intelligence we have been given to the task at hand.  It is true that the saying "God helps those who help themselves" is found nowhere in the Scriptures...but it is a true saying nevertheless.

Of course, on a personal level, he who has been blessed by God with abundance is obliged to show compassion on those less fortunate.  Almsgiving is a cardinal virtue of the Christian faith, being a natural expression of that unconditional love God has vouchsafed to all who strive to fulfill his commandments.  In fact, he who gives is more blessed than he who receives: a beggar may be given a gold coin, while the benefactor receives treasure in heaven.  Nevertheless, the passage under consideration should be understood above all in spiritual sense. 

For if a Christian possesses even a grain of faith and trust in God and strives however feebly to do His will, then surely God's grace will strengthen him, fulfilling within him whatever may be lacking.  If, on the other hand, our hearts are hardened and turned away from God, we shall in the end discover that whatever shred of goodness and virtue we may think we possess shall slip through our fingers as dust and ashes. God can indeed transform even sinners such as you and I into his sons and daughters: but only if he has the material at hand.  And the material required is nothing less than heartfelt humility, a desire to repent,  and a contrite heart that is open at least a crack to the grace of God. 

If, on the contrary, we are found to be full of pride and self-love, believing ourselves to be "good enough" already, and if we lack a genuine desire to live a life of sacrificial love centered on Christ, then whatever good we think we have shall surely be taken  away, and we shall find ourselves cast into that place of outer darkness--where there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 

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