We “title” this text as the parable of the talents, and we view it as the one worker who squanders his gift. But, I want to highlight a different player in the game: the landowner.
The Gospel text tells us that the landowner was “a harsh man, reaping where [he] did not sow, and gathering where [he] did not scatter seed.” The worker was afraid of the landowner and, in his fear, he buried the gift to prevent his losing it and perhaps suffering even more shame and pain. Ultimately, the worker was cast out…and the text states that the landowner was angry was the talent was squandered. But, we also have to ask: was the worker cast out because he called out the landowner for engaging in unethical behavior?
It seems to me that we need to remember it isn’t our business what someone else is doing in order to justify our own actions. If our neighbor is stealing seasonal yard art or evading taxes or cheating on a spouse, we don’t have an excuse to do the same. Simply because we overhear someone gossip or tell a lie doesn’t give us permission to act in kind. When another engages in racial commentary or gender discrimination or maligns an individual or group for their sexual identity or orientation, we are not given permission to engage similarly.
Amidst the rabble and static noise, we are to keep our minds focused on what is true and kind and noble and praiseworthy.
Amidst the anxiety and irritation, we are to practice a pause before responding with heightened emotion.
Amidst the erratic actions and responses, we are to shift our behavior outside what is common to engagement that is even, measured, loving.