“You will not be expecting us to write about seasons and times, since the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.”
Paul’s Letter to the Thessalonians was written to a community that expected the world to end with the Lord’s Second Coming before their lives were over. They were naturally preoccupied with any sign that might indicate when the end was to come. Throughout the letter Paul had advised this new community to continue their daily lives, but to give the everyday occupation of each moment to the Lord. Such watchfulness would be their preparation for the Lord’s coming, be that coming close or far off.
“It is not as if you live in the dark for that day to overtake you like a thief. No, you are children of the light, so stay wide awake and sober.”
Paul did not want Christians to live their lives in a fearful expectation that the end was about to overtake them. The watchfulness that he counselled was a life lived to the full, a life in which every moment was seen as an opportunity to serve both God and neighbour.
The perfect wife, described for us in the Book of Proverbs, is a perfect example of such watchfulness. It is sad that modern sensitivities tend to reject this passage as an example of a patriarchal condescension to women. Inevitably the passage does reflect the social customs of its time. The point, however, of reading this passage is that it exemplifies the virtuous employment that makes us ready to receive the Lord at his coming. Here is a woman who was tireless in providing for the well-being of her family and household. More than this, she used her many talents to provide for the poor and needy. She is a perfect example of what Paul described as “awake and watching” for the coming of the Lord. The use of her talents was held up as an example for others to follow, whatever their status, whatever their sex.
Matthew’s parable of the talents continues this theme of watchfulness. Jesus was anxious to warn his disciples that time,
as we know it, would not last forever. It ends both at moment of our death and at the coming of Christ at the end of time. The parable demonstrates our preparation for that end in the present moment.
The parable of the talents dwells not so much on the end, but on the manner in which the servants employed the talents entrusted to them. There was no suggestion that one servant was more virtuous than another because he received more talents. All that mattered was that each servant should put his talents, great or small, to good use. At the master’s return those who had used their talents wisely were rewarded with something beyond value.
“Well done, good and faithful servant; you have shown that you can be faithful in small things, I will entrust you with greater; come and join in your master’s happiness.”
Christ, our Risen Lord, invites us to share his happiness, just as the parable invited the prudent servants to share the master’s happiness.
We all have God-given talents for faith, for love and for forgiveness. Let us not bury these talents in the ground. In the parable one servant was condemned for burying mere money in the ground. Let us not neglect the daily opportunities to live the example of Christ’s love in our own lives. These moments of grace, more precious than any talent, might not come again.