When I was a fresh faced young curate my training vicar took this parable very literally and every year on a certain day everyone who wanted one came to the front of the service to receive a £1 coin. The idea being that they take that coin, putting it together with other money do something novel with it to make it grow and six months later bring the money that had been made back to church in a special service.
Now I have to admire his pluck and entrepreneurial spirit but actually that is about as far away from the meaning of the parable of the talents as you can get unless you continue to use the money as a metaphor for something else.
It is admittedly a very strange parable and difficult to interpret without prior knowledge of the context and the wider Biblical canon but suffice to say here that the subject of this parable are the Pharisees. In particular the hapless third servant who hid his talent in the ground who had even what he had taken away from him.
The way of the Pharisees had resulted in a spiritual exclusivity that had resulted in the light and goodness of God that had been entrusted to them being hoarded so what had been meant as a gift for the whole of mankind lay withering on the vine.
So you can see how Jesus equated this attitude resulting in God making metaphorically "no interest on his capital". It was tantamount to defrauding God. Through their very zeal for the purity of their religion they had inadvertently sterilized it and kept God’s light from the people.
That may have been the original context but as I noted in my weekly email the gospel only ever comes alive when we ask the question - what does God want me to hear through this passage today?
Well once we understand the original intent it becomes rather obvious. it means that our faith in God is to be shared and not hoarded.
As we sometimes sing “We have a gospel to proclaim” But do we? Do we, when we look honestly at our manner of life and in what we say and do proclaim the gospel to others?
I think that when all of us, myself included, ask ourselves that question and seek to answer it honestly we might be a bit embarrassed by the truth of the matter.
It is at those times that I am glad that when I became a Christian I didn’t become a Saint, I became a forgiven sinner.
We have a gospel for the whole world, not just for people who happen to come to church. God’s salvation is for all people. As St. Paul wrote "As in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive" (1 Corinthians 15: 22). We have a responsibility to share the good news and the spiritual treasure that we have been given to enrich the lives of others.
We have to sow seeds. I seem to remember a parable about that somewhere! Of course not all or even most of what we sow will result in a good crop as that parable informs us but we don’t sow anything at all then we guarantee that nothing will grow.
The parable of the talents is not about money or “talents” as we understand the word in modern English, it is about having an open evangelical heart, unashamed of God and willing to share what we have known and experienced and believed about Him. If we don’t the church of England will certainly die.