Matthew 25:14-30 | 33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A
Exposure: the Power in Relationship
I came across many interpretations of The Parable of the Talents as well as a number of apt connections with other scripture passages (including several references to the hardworking woman of Proverbs 31). But every time I read through the parable myself, I kept returning to the phrase out of fear. The servant operated out of fear. Finally, I circled the words in the text and just stared at them.
I thought about Eric Liddell.
Recently, we rewatched one of my favorite movies, Chariots of Fire. Scotsman Eric Liddell’s faith was such that he chose not to run a trial in the 1924 Olympics in Paris because it was scheduled on a Sunday. Taken before a panel of power, including the Prince of Wales, Liddell didn’t waver: the Sabbath was the Lord’s Day. Yet, earlier, to convince his sister he should train for the Olympics, he told her, “I believe God made me for a purpose…but He also made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure.”
Unlike the third servant in the parable who buried his talent, Eric Liddell didn’t fear the Lord. He held Him in the deepest of respect. Liddell’s relationship with God meant he wasn’t afraid of God’s wrath should he run on Sunday, but doing so would betray the trust inherent to their relationship. His gift, speed, was to be honored, but it wasn’t to be used as an excuse to disrespect God.
The servant’s relationship with the master, however, isn’t based on respect. Instead, he operates out of fear and cannot even recognize the blessings the Master has already bestowed on him. A talent he was given was an enormous sum of money—many years of his salary. While it may not have been as much as that given to the other servants, it still demonstrated the master’s significant trust in him.
By ignoring this trust, the servant prioritized his own comfort. Baselessly frightened of the master, the servant squanders the opportunity to grow the money and expand his own abilities, abilities the master has already recognized. He prioritizes his fear of potential exposure. In contrast, Liddell believed that running on Sunday would prioritize his own gain from the gift over the relationship he shared with God.
Fear paralyzes. Respect motivates. The “fear of the Lord” from the Old Testament more accurately translates as “deep respect.” If we believe God made us for a purpose and truly knows “every hair on our heads” (Luke 12:7), we have to trust in His gifts. Squandering them either for personal gain or to avoid “putting ourselves out there” denies the reality of the relationship. All true relationships require exposure. The one God covets—the one with each of us as individuals—is no different. Only by trusting that He intends our gifts for good will we be able to “feel His pleasure” in doing His will.