Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Prospect
The Rev'd Robert Warren                                                                         
Matthew 25:14-30                                                

In the English language the word “talent” has come to refer to that reservoir of abilities and aptitudes which are innate to each one of us.  

The word began life as a weight-unit of currency.  It resembled a multi-thousand dollar banknote - useful for major transfers of wealth or for storing away safely in vaults.  A Greek Talent (26 kilograms) of silver represented 9 man-years of an artisan’s labour. King Solomon received talents of gold as a tribute from vassal monarchs (1 Kings 10).   The Greek word τάλαντον is translated into Hebrew as kikkar meaning a “cake or loaf” and so we imagine that an equivalent bullion block of silver or gold did, in fact, once exist.  By the time of the New Testament the Common Heavy Talent was more usually divided into 60 one pound silver minas for transfers of wealth.  You can find references in our reading from Matthew’s Gospel this Sunday, to a wealthy landowner leaving to each of the stewards of his various estates a talent of silver so they could show their skills as investors and builders of his wealth.   

Only line drawings of the lowly mina  have survived.  Even these smaller blocks of silver have not outlived the generations of those who once owned them.  They were broken up or melted down and their value distributed across the years to creditors, jewelers, lovers and heirs - a shame, perhaps, if you were the curator of a Museum of Ancient History and wanted one for display.  Apparently it seemed a shame as well to the cowardly and unfaithful steward in the Gospel story who buried all his minas in the ground so that they would remain intact when the landowner returned.  The point of Jesus’ parable is that, by the time the landowner comes home, the much-multiplied talents of the other, more faithful, stewards which are presented to him are made up of smaller coins because the money has been put to use in the community and has generated a return.  Only the hidden, inert and therefore useless talent of silver retains its original form.  The safest bet turns into the greatest failure.

visible lump must be invested and transform itself into the invisible good of labour, education and human energy.  The talent lives on as song, as works of art, as business and employment and produces a wealth of experience, community and energy.  They want to be invested, these talents - of any type - which we hold on to - which we are the stewards of.  They do not outlive us.  They need to be put to use.