Prv 31:10-31; 1Thes 5:1-6; Mt 25:14-30
How can a truly gifted servant become a worthless servant?
This is the question on my mind as I reflect on Mt 25:14-30. The servants were all blessed by their master. He took the initiative, called them to himself, and gave them his property, “He entrusted his possessions to them.” He knew them and their ability and all the good that they could do with his possessions, “He gave to each according to his ability.” However, one of them became a worthless servant, good for nothing but to be thrown outside the kingdom, “And throw this useless servant into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.”
We can glean from the unworthy servant in this passage at least five ways in which we gifted servants can become worthless servants cast out of God’s loving presence.
Firstly, he had a very bad and negative image of the master. He said, “Master, I knew you were a demanding person, harvesting where you did not plant and gathering where you did not scatter.” He saw nothing good in the master. He saw him as only a mean, stingy, unfair, scheming, and demanding person who only sought his personal gain at all costs.
No matter how gifted we are, we will become worthless servants when we act out of a negative image of God. We have such a negative image when we doubt God’s loving presence with us. We think that His laws and commandments are impossible for us to fulfill now even with His grace. We see Him as a tyrant who loves to punish us for our sins while withholding His graces. We think of Him as a God who delights when we are hurting and broken. We doubt that He has our best interest at heart in all that happens in our lives.
Secondly, he was overwhelmed with fear. He said, “So, out of fear, I went off and buried your talent in the ground.” Maybe he was afraid of making mistakes or failing. Maybe he was afraid of disappointing the master whom he only saw as a demanding person. Whatever his reasons for this fear, he was crippled by his fear, and he did nothing with the talent given to him.
If we are going to avoid becoming worthless servants, we must face our fears squarely and seek to overcome them. We cannot let our hearts to be dominated by fears and still be faithful and valuable servants of God. We must name and face the vague and irrational fears that eat us up on the inside and bring them to the light of truth.
In addition, we must learn to fear the right things. The worthless servants feared so many things, but he did not fear to displease the master. We should cultivate a healthy fear of God and not a fear of human beings. Such a healthy and rightly ordered fear will make us God’s faithful servants, “Blessed are those who fear the Lord, who walk in His ways” (Ps 128).
Thirdly, he had so many excuses for his inaction. His excuses also did not make sense. If he was truly afraid of the master as he claimed, why not simply put the money in the bank, “Should you not then have put my money in the bank so that I could have got it back with interest on my return?” The master could see through his dishonest excuses.
We too must face the many excuses that we have for not making use of the many blessings that God has given to us. We can try to excuse ourselves by claiming that everybody else is unfaithful to God so why should we strive to be faithful to Him. We forget that God knows our abilities very well as well as our conditions and the great good that we can with His gifts.
Today we try to excuse ourselves by claiming we are no longer sure about what the word of God actually means so we must dialogue with each other first so as to discern the meaning of the scriptures. We can become clearly with sin while claiming that God will surely forgive us for our sins because infidelity is inevitable in our times. Such excuses will surely make us worthless servants of God.
Fourthly, love died in his heart. The worthless servant had no good will towards the master or those who would have benefitted from him using the talents well. He is the complete opposite of the worthy wife who uses all that she has to bring good to her husband and others, “She brings her husband good, and not evil, all the days of her life…She reaches out her hands to the poor, and extends her arms to the needy” (Prov 31).
Like the worthless servant, we too give in to idleness when love dies in our hearts. With loveless hearts, we do not make any effort in the service of God and neighbor, but we give in to laziness, procrastination and lukewarmness. If we settle for this loveless heart without sincerely begging God for an outpouring of His love, we will soon become worthless servants despite our giftedness.
Lastly, he had no desire to grow or improve in his service. He simply said to the master, “Here is your talent back.” He was satisfied with simply returning what was given to him. He did not challenge himself to improve in his service and in what he offered to God. He was satisfied with his mediocrity.
We become worthless servants too when we are complacent and become comfortable with the level of service that we are offering to God. We do not strive to do more for God and to do so with greater love. We ignore the fact that we can always serve God more faithfully. We are content with just coasting in our service. We claim that God has no choice but to settle for the little that we offer to Him. This is how we eventually become useless in God’s service.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we are truly gifted by God in Jesus Christ. Imagine the gift of faith we have in believing in His Real Presence in the Holy Eucharist. Imagine the gift we have in approaching His sacrament of confession and confessing our sins to Him through a human and sinful priest. Imagine the teaching, example, and support of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the saints who encourage and show us that holiness and fidelity is indeed possible in our times. Though we are immensely gifted, we can still become worthless servants today who render ourselves unfit for God’s kingdom.
Thus, St. Paul reminds us of our blessing as children of God in His kingdom of light now, “For all of you are children of the light and children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness.” Even in our dark times, we must strive to be faithful and forever useful for God in His kingdom, “Therefore, let us not sleep as the rest do, but let us stay alert and sober” (1Thes 5:1-6). There is no room for useless servants in His kingdom, “Every branch of mine that bears no fruit, my Father takes away” (Jn 15:2).
We must remain alert to receive the many gifts that God is offering to us today in mysterious ways. God never tires of blessing us with His gifts. He never ceases us to offer us divine light, strength, consolations, and new beginnings when we fall short. We must also be sober enough to respond to His generosity and make use all these gifts well.
We always have with us the help of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the gifted one who forever remained valuable to God. Jesus attested to this when He said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and observe it.”(Lk 11:27) She remained valuable to Him, observing God’s words, even in the darkest moments as He hung on the cross. If we have become worthless servants of God in any way despite our giftedness, we can ask her to help us become and remain faithful and valuable to God.
With the prayers and example of the Blessed Virgin ever with us, let us strive to become what God wills for each one of us – His gifted servants valuable to Him now and in the life to come.
Glory to Jesus! Honor to Mary!