Some people have it all. They’re smart, good looking and personable. They have interesting jobs where they make a lot of money. They have talents that bring them notoriety and fame. Publicly praised, they also have happy home-lives. They have found the perfect spouse and the two of them have bright well-behaved children. The envious wish them some secret fault or failure and burn when virtue is discovered instead. It’s not fair. Why should one person enjoy so many blessings, while the rest struggle with just a few?
Our gospel parable this weekend presents us with a rich man who, going on a journey, entrusts money (called talents) to his servants. These are sizable amounts. One talent would pay an average worker for fifteen years. This rich man entrusts one servant with five talents (equivalent to the wages of two lifetimes), while another gets two, and the third is given one. Again, these are all significant sums, but there is also quite a difference between them. We might easily imagine the servant with one eyeing the servant with five and thinking, “some guys have all the luck.” But, he’d be missing the point.
Consider the wealth of this master. He refers to those eight talents, quite a lot of money, as “small matters.” For him, the difference between five talents and one talent is negligible. Notice too, that regardless of the amount each receives, the same reward lies in store: “Come, share your master’s joy.” Now, if this master considers eight talents a small matter, imagine the wealth of his joy. We so often focus on the wealth and gifts of those around us, measuring the differences, forgetting that the riches of heaven dwarf and render all those differences meaningless. It is silly to be envious of such small matters — who has one talent and who has five — when, by a simple fidelity with what we do have, we stand to inherit unimaginable riches.
Many times we witness the multi-talented, the rich and famous, make a shipwreck of their lives. They deserve our sympathies (why think we would do any better?). With that in mind, we might thank God for the simpler life we have been given. It may be an aspect of his mercy that we have not been entrusted with more. Instead, focusing on the one or two talents we have (they are still sizable amounts), we may more easily prove ourselves faithful servants. On the other hand, if we become envious of others, we lose sight of our own talents, effectively burying them. When that happens, we find ourselves cast into the darkness. When we are envious, even what we have is taken away from us.