By Nicholas Soellner
Connecting Faith and Life
Growing up, I must have heard the Parable of the Talents a dozen times. A demanding master gives enormous sums of money to three men and asks them to grow his investment. It wasn’t until my senior year of high school that I really understood fiscal risk. In our Economics class, we played the annual Indiana statewide “Stock Market Game.” In the early weeks of the fall semester, my team was crushing it – sitting in the top 10% of all statewide participants. Then, the Great Recession of 2008 hit. Overnight, our assets became massive losses. We never recovered, and I quickly began to understand why the man with just one talent decided to bury it in the dirt!
We never hear how the other two servants in the parable of the talents managed to multiply their talents. Only that they “went and traded with them” (Mt. 25:14). Yet, they came back with double their original portions. How are we supposed to grow the talents we have been entrusted with? Jesus never says. All we know is that the first two servants acted as faithful stewards of the talents their master gave them. God is the rightful owner of all that is, and everything we have is given to us as gifts: of which God calls us to be faithful stewards. God gives us all good things as gifts; we are called to multiply them and give them back to God. Ultimately, this task is the same one we find in the Great Commandment, where Jesus asks us to “love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, all your mind, all your soul, and all your strength,” and “to love your neighbor as yourself” (Mt. 22: 37, 39).
When I was a high school football coach, about half of our games would be on the road; time on the bus was spent in mental preparation for the upcoming task at hand. Regardless of the outcome of the game, our rides home would sometimes end with the discovery of a mess throughout the back of the bus. It burned me up that some of my players would have the nerve to leave their litter (sometimes even their food!) lying all around and trash a bus that wasn’t theirs. Away games were already stressful on their own; after two or three occurrences, I’d had enough. My solution was a stern-but-simple demand: “Leave this place better than you found it, or else.” This rule of stewardship would eventually expand from the buses to include locker rooms and other parts of opposing team facilities – and our own weight room. One can see how this principle can naturally expand into everyday life. Through the rule of stewardship, every interaction of every day can put the Great Commandment into action: leave this place, this person, this situation better than you found it. We don’t have to be the savior. Jesus already has that covered! You only have to “do whatever he tells you” (Jn. 2:5).
Our progress won’t always be so clean and straightforward though. In the Old Testament, Job was unwaveringly faithful to God, but he still lost his whole family; underwent financial ruin; and suffered greatly. However, at the end of the story, Job ends up with twice as much as he began with (Cf. Job 42:10). God has the power to work through our weaknesses and blindspots to bring about the good he desires. St. Paul writes, “Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us exercise them” (Rom. 12:6); and the “Spirit produces all of these, distributing them individually to each person as he wishes” (1 Cor. 12:11). Because life is complicated, we often feel as though we have limited control over our time, talents and treasures. But remember: God gives us these things based upon his divine wisdom, only asking that we faithfully try to put them to use in accordance with his will. Then, when the Lord returns, we too can hope to hear the master call us good and faithful servants.