This is the third passage in a row about the return of the master. In order for the master to return, the master must leave. It is no coincidence that immediately following his most clear reproach of the religious elite, Jesus is talking about leaving and returning. He knows his time coming. He knows that he will soon, with the power of the Spirit, have to leave this mission into the hands of the disciples. This mission is important, and, not before too long, Jesus will have to let it go.
By itself this passage sounds like a pretty harsh one about making your life worth something. It feels as though we have a mean boss who demands that we make something of ourselves or we will be cast out. Quite honestly, it’s hard to say that that isn’t there. But, again, let’s look at it in context with the Jesus we see throughout the Gospel. This is a Jesus that battles for the outsider, the outcast; this is a Jesus that demands good fruit, that is, he demands a life that doesn’t leave a sour taste in one’s mouth. This passage, I believe, is about grabbing onto the severity and immediacy of Jesus’ mission, more than it is about pleasing your boss. God does not want for us to blindly obey God’s commands. God wants us to grab on to the passion, heart and energy behind God’s mission. This is a passage about helping us see that we are to be stewards of that mission. Justo Gonzalez says it beautifully in Three Months With Matthew. He points out the absence of the master in the parable, and then says, “What we do not always see is that God’s apparent absence turns us into stewards of what God has given us”. This is not a passage about proving your worth. It is a passage about grabbing onto the mission of God and then using whatever it is God has given you to move that mission forward. God believes in us. God entrusts the work of the kingdom to us. Let us get out there and build it, knowing that we have nothing to lose, because the grace of God works with us, picking us up when we fail and covering us when we make mistakes. The question is, “what has God given you to help build God’s Kingdom?”