“It will be as when a man who was going on a journey called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them. To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one—to each according to his ability. Then he went away. Immediately the one who received five talents went and traded with them, and made another five. Likewise, the one who received two made another two. But the man who received one went off and dug a hole in the ground and buried his master’s money. After a long time the master of those servants came back and settled accounts with them. The one who had received five talents came forward bringing the additional five. He said, ‘Master, you gave me five talents. See, I have made five more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy.’ [Then] the one who had received two talents also came forward and said, ‘Master, you gave me two talents. See, I have made two more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy.’ Then the one who had received the one talent came forward and said, ‘Master, I knew you were a demanding person, harvesting where you did not plant and gathering where you did not scatter; so out of fear I went off and buried your talent in the ground. Here it is back.’ His master said to him in reply, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I did not plant and gather where I did not scatter? Should you not then have put my money in the bank so that I could have got it back with interest on my return? Now then! Take the talent from him and give it to the one with ten. For to everyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And throw this useless servant into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’”
When discussing this well-known parable, we often stress the slaves who had the five talents or the two talents. We applaud their industry. But the one who gets my attention is the one with just one measly talent.
In the Bible, the word “talent” does not mean what it means in our world. It does not mean accomplishment or skill, but a large sum of money. Since these talents were given according to ability, it seems cruel to penalize the least talented. I think we can all relate to the problems of the one talented guy. He was afraid of his boss. He was afraid of this scenario: “Hi there, boss! How was your trip? You look wonderful. About that talent you gave me, the funniest thing (cue nervous laughter), I lost it all. It seemed like such a good idea, but it is all gone. So, please don’t hurt me too bad.” But the one talent guy did not realize that if you put yourself out there and do your best, you win.
Perhaps nothing illustrates the situation of the one talented guy better than the movie “Rudy.” This movie depicted the life of Rudy Ruetinger, a high school football player of the 1960’s, who had a dream of playing for Notre Dame. He did not have the talent to make the squad, nor the grades. But he attended a local junior college to get his grades up, and eventually got on Notre Dame’s practice squad. In the movie’s last scene Rudy gets to play the final few downs of a game that Notre Dame is winning. Rudy tackles the Georgia Tech quarter back in the last play of the game, and is taken off the field on the shoulders of his teammates.
Now Rudy could have chosen the way of the one talent guy in the parable; he could have buried his dream of playing at Notre Dame and not pursued it. Instead he cooperated with the grace God gave him. He didn’t half-step.
But let’s say that Rudy never got into a game at Notre Dame. Would he have failed? No. The point of the story is that if you don’t half-step, if you put out an effort, you win. The only way you lose is by not showing up. That’s why the one talent guy was penalized. He was penalized, not for failing, but for not trying.
How do you not show up? In athletics, do you do your best? Or do you make excuses? At school, do you work hard even in the boring classes? Can you honestly say that you give 100 % all of the time? In your job, do you try to meet all the challenges of your job? Or do you half-step?
How about in your family? Do you take it for granted? Do you get frustrated and give up?
How about your relationship with God? Do you give it your all, or do you half-step?
Don’t half-step. Don’t give up. Know that if you show up, and give your all, you win with God. And that winning is all that matters.
—Father Mike Van Cleve
Father Mike is a priest for the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston.
Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.