Dear friends in Christ, gradually we come to the end of the liturgical year and the civil year. To guide us as we journey on, the Church today through the liturgical readings, speaks to us on the need to be watchful stewards. This team accrues from the gospel reading according to Matthew 25:14-30 and it tells of the parable of the talents which is another extract from Matthew’s eschatological sermon which begins from Matthew 24. Going through the wordings of the entire pericope, we see that Matthew’s point of view was to address the second coming of Jesus Christ, and the establishment of God’s empire or reign (cf. Matthew 24:1-13).
His community had waited, and they had come to accept that the Parousia will be delayed. Based on this, and from the uncertainty of Jesus’ eschatological return, Matthew stresses the necessity of being watchful but also as stewards whose master will reward for their diligence, enterprise, faithfulness and fidelity. A steward is a servant is in charge of a house or an estate. The steward was often given considerable authority over the household and served as a manager (see Gen 39:4; Luke 16:1- 8; 1 Cor. 4:1-2). Stewardship on the other hand, is the responsibility to manage all the resources of life for the glory of God, acknowledging God as provider.
This highlights a task; the responsibility granted to an individual and scripturally stems from the creation account and God’s bestowal of stewardship on Adam and Eve. For Matthew, this bestowal, within the framework of God’s reign, is like a master who commits tasks/talents to his servants and entrusted to them his property. This act was not strange during the time of Jesus as it was common place to have educated and skilled servants functioning as business managers. Our gospel reading tells us that the property that was entrusted to the servants as stewards was money or as translated, wealth depicted as talents, which was given to the servants individually depending on their abilities.
A talent was a unit of weight or value among various ancient peoples, including the Hebrews, the Romans and the Greeks. There was never any coin or other form of currency called talent but a talent was valued at so many coins or other form of currency from one country to another. In sum, it was a large amount of money, consisting of 6,000 denarii, around 3,000 shekels among the Hebrews. A shekel is 0.30 of $1 and a talent will be equivalent to $900 which is also equivalent to N343,080.00 in our local currency.
It is surely a lot of money. Thus, the first man got N1,715,400 and doubled it, the second got N686,160 and he also doubled it, while the last got N343,080 and did nothing with it. Consequently, the first two were rewarded for their enterprise and fidelity, getting the same reward albeit different accomplishment since what matters was not their accomplishments but their wholehearted commitment which was lacking in the third who received blames and condemnation for doing nothing. In this parable, what is at play is man’s response to God’s gift; it is about how well of a steward we have been.
Hence, have we been watchful and diligent with what has been bequeathed to us? Or have we been lazy, selfish and idle with what has been given to us? God has given each of us material and spiritual gifts, talents, treasures, possessions, offices, positions in life depending on our abilities so as to use them to serve him by serving our brothers and sisters. There is a purpose behind what we have received; they are to be used as expressions of love and concern.
To drive this home, it is needful to state that events and records have shown that whereas man has been gifted and blessed by God, he has failed to render service with these he has received. We have witnessed a rise in man’s inhumanity to man; people being wicked and hateful of others. We have government officials who have been gifted with offices and positions of authority who have failed in their primary responsibilities; many have looted the coffers of the nation, exploited the poor, offered them cheap dividends of democracy which are degrading and undermining of human dignity.
They have failed to be responsible to/for their constituencies, leaving the people in abject poverty while they and their folks live in affluence on tax payers’ money. We have also witnessed ministers of the gospel who have failed to be true stewards to the people under their care. They seem to have forgotten that their vocation is that of love and service. Instead, they have become lords and masters, exploiting the faithful with unholy doctrines and imposing unscriptural maxims on them.
There are fathers and mothers who have failed as stewards in their homes; they have proved futile in seeing their families as their vocations. Rather, they have given in careerism and consumerist ideologies, abandoning their spouses and children to the whims of the society. There are youths who have thrown in the towel of faith, choosing to use their talents and gift in service of the world rather than God. In all, we are guilty in one way or the other and the clarion call is for everyone to get up and be watchful stewards by using our God-given abilities, gifts, possessions, and offices for true service.
Without any gainsaying, our Lord Jesus Christ is surely coming back again (at the end of the world, and at Christmas). This is certified by the second reading and its occurrence is without the knowledge of man. We shall also give accounts of how well we have functioned as stewards, if we have been watchful or lax. Therefore, as is alluded to in the first reading, we all must be industrious and virtuous as we await the coming of the Master, who gave us these responsibilities as stewards and expects us to be watchful and fruitful. May God bless his words in our hearts through Christ our Lord. Amen.