What Does “Burying The Talent” Mean In Rabbinic Law And Why Is It Important For You?

by Holiness, Leadership, Self-Knowledge

Good reason still existed; but it was kept concealed, for fear of the popular reason.” – Manzoni

Fear of change, of responsibility, of failure, always seeks a justification. Just like Father Abbondio before Cardinal Borromeo in the famous Italian novel, The Betrothed, we tell ourselves “If I do not have enough courage, how can I possibly give it to myself?” And, like Don Abbondio, we turn away and think more a more about a reassuring subject.

Surely Fr. Abbondio has often been mocked and insulted for his lack of courage, but I think I have glimpsed his face around me, and every once in a while, even within myself.

It was Cardinal Borromeo that had to remind Fr. Abbondio of the responsibilities he assumed at his ordination and the obligations he has been entrusted with for the good of his flock. Courage is not simply standing ready within us; it is born when we decide truly to start living life.

Just as Fr. Abbondio ought to seek out the reason he is afraid to fight for justice and defend the weak, it is more useful for us to seek in our hearts the reasons for our fear of living.

With the intention of helping us discover what fears lay in the depths of our hearts, the Gospel uses the language of the economy. It speaks of money and of banks, of business and interests. Perhaps our fear comes from the fact that we look at the world in terms of investments and we are terrified of failure. He who looks at the world with economic eyes and thinks of his life as a climb up the ladder of power is feeding the monsters within us: the man who has entrusted us with such incredible wealth (remember that a talent corresponded to the pay for 6,000 days of work) becomes a ruthless taskmaster, other people become competitors we must beat, and the world becomes a tribunal just aching to judge us mercilessly.

The logic of the economy accompanies us from the very beginning because we have been taught from the outset that we have to be the best and that we must bring home the highest grades. Failure is a tragedy. Nourished in this culture, we can’t avoid suspicion towards those that cross our path. Life becomes a constant competition, in which it’s even possible that we fail to qualify for the World Cup.

Many of us can’t bear this culture of competition, and now, as the ultimate service to the parable, we can decide to declare ourselves defeated from the start. According to Rabbinic law, burying the talent meant freeing oneself from the responsibility of the wealth that had been entrusted. Thus, we can declare ourselves not responsible. But in this way we are not only burying our talent, but ourselves with it. Renouncing our responsibilities means no longer living!

In this passage, Jesus invites us to leave the logic of the economy behind, first and foremost because the life that we have been given is not our own: “Should you not then have put my money in the bank?” This wealth is not ours. Rather than waste time comparing who had more, Jesus invites us to look at how each one cared for what they received.

The message of the parable is that God has faith in each and every one of us. Every one of us has been entrusted with something to care for. Life has generously given each person a responsibility. We should focus on our mission, not on comparing our mission with others. Jesus also says that fruit of your efforts are not important either! What matters is that you took care of what was placed in your hands.

Our culture continues to insinuate that you are only valued when you produce or when you win. Jesus tells you that you are always valued; that He trusts in you, and for that reason you must live life truly and cannot bury yourself with your own hands!

To the logic of the economy, Jesus responds with the logic of trust: the only perspective that allows us to see things as they truly are.

Questions for personal reflection:

  • How well are you caring for what has been put in your hands?
  • Have you been seduced by the logic of competition and comparison?

A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew (25:14-30)

Jesus told his disciples this parable: “A man 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.'”

The Gospel of the Lord

Photo by Frank Flores on Unsplash

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