Stella Pope Duarte

If you can be trusted in little things

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“There was a man who was going on a journey and he called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them.” This is the beginning of the “Parable of the Talents,” a famous story recounted by Christ in the Gospel of Matthew. First of all, what on earth is a talent? In the ancient Jewish world, it was a unit of coinage with varying degrees of value depending on the metal it was made of—gold, silver or copper, and its place of origin. A talent was used as we use currency today to transact business, for buying property and goods, and for saving and investing. 

The talents in this story take on a new “value,” as the master of the servants entrusts five talents to one servant, two to another and only one to a third. Immediately, the one who received five talents goes off and trades with them and makes another five. The second servant makes another two; however, the third servant digs a hole in the ground and buries his one talent and does not increase its value. On his return, the master compliments the first two servants telling them, “Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy.” However, the master is fiercely angry with the third servant, calling him wicked and lazy for not making a profit on the money. The servant explains that he was afraid of him and decided to bury the talent and give it back to him upon his return. Then the master commands that the servant’s one talent be taken away from him, and given to the one with ten talents, because “to everyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich, but for the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” The master goes on to say that the “useless servant” must be thrown out into the darkness “where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.” 

Over the years, and certainly as we face a new year, I have thought of this parable, wondering of its meaning. Knowing our own strengths and God-given talents is something that will keep us out of the darkness. Defining a talent as a natural or exceptional ability, we are commanded to understand our talents and increase them. One of our tasks on earth is to uncover our talents, identify them, build on them and share them with others. The more talents we possess, the greater our responsibilities. This goes along with the saying, “If you want something done, ask the busiest person you know.” Why? Because the busiest person is the one who accepts responsibility and is not afraid to act on things that are important and have meaning. 

In the parable, the foolish servant says he realizes his master is a demanding person, so “out of fear, I went off and buried your talent in the ground. Here it is, back to you.” And he is brutally reprimanded. Fear is the basis of failure. It is the reason so many fall back and do not live out who they are—their beauty and strength, their abilities and wisdom, all of it is buried in the ground! We are responsible for evolving our talents, for giving freely that which we have freely received. There is no better way, I think, to begin a New Year than to think of ourselves as fearless, willing to take on new tasks, risk the unknowns and increase our talents a hundredfold.

Stella Pope Duarte was born and raised in South Phoenix. She began her award-winning career in 1995 after she had a dream in which her deceased father told her that her destiny was to become a writer. Contact her at

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