Criterion of Judgment
John J. Pilch of Georgetown University notes
In first-century Mediterranean culture people believed that all goods already exist and are already distributed. There is no more where this came from, and the only way to get more is to defraud another. Anyone who suddenly acquired something "more" was automatically judged to be a thief.John Kavanaugh of St. Lewis University has written of this passage
Wealthy people were especially under suspicion. How could they honorably increase their wealth? They commissioned slaves to handle their affairs. Everyone knew slaves were shameless, and dishonorable behavior was all one could expect from them.
As the parable immediately following the one about the talents makes clear, the entire judgment of history and of each individual is based upon our service to the least of our brothers and sisters.
In its most fundamental sense, the image of the talent represents the bounty of life itself, as well as the preeminent gift of faith. If we are among those fortunate enough to reach the maturity required for personal responsibility and to have the opportunity to use the talents of life and faith, it is incumbent upon us to invest our gifts, not hide them out of fear or laziness.
The parable is not about the stock market or entrepreneurship, commendable as those activities might be. It is about what we do with our gifts, financial or otherwise...The goods of the world and the wealth derived from our labor must be used for God's glory and human assistance. What is more, if a Christian would defend the benefits of capitalism, it ought to be based on the argument that capitalism is most effective in the service of God and ministry to the poor, homeless, and hungry.
The trustworthiness of the profitable servants ensures their share in the "joy of the Lord." This is not because money is made. It is, rather, because the wealth of life and talent given them had been invested to bear fruit in labors of faith, hope, and charity.
Whether we are millionaires or paupers, it is upon this criterion that we will be judged.