The parable of the talents tells the story of a master who had three servants. Before leaving for a period of time, the master gives each servant "talents" (or an amount of money) "according to his ability" the Bible tells us.
The first two servants invest the money and give the complete amount back to the master upon his return. To them he says, "Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master's joy." These servants have a complete and true understanding of their relationship with their master. They are his servants. Their job is to look after the happiness of their master, who will then share that joy with them.
The third servant was given a smaller number of talents. The master knew he was less capable than the first two, and took that into account when he decided how much to entrust to him. Even with this small amount, though, the third servant acted from a completely selfish place of fear for himself and not out of loyalty to his master, and hid the money. "Master," he said, "I knew you were a demanding person, harvesting where you did not plant and gathering where you did not scatter; so out of fear I went off and buried your talent in the ground".
His fear was self-fulfilling and self-feeding. He was afraid of his master, but, more importantly, he was afraid FOR himself. His fear became his entire identity and he never came close to fulfilling his master's trust.
The Master was angry with the third servant and declared, "Take the talent from him and give it to the one with ten. For to everyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And throw this useless servant into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth."
The third servant had no idea what his position was in regards to his master. He saw only the potentially punitive side of his master and had no inkling of the rewards that could come to him if he served his master with all his ability. The master, being ever merciful, did not over burden this servant with more than he could handle. He was only given one talent, and he refused to use it out of fear for himself. As a result, he would never be able to taste and "share in his master's joy."
The Master, of course, is God. We are the servants. We are all servants of someone--either God or ourselves. To be a servant of God is to be truly happy and fulfilled. Being a servant of God is to be a servant of others as we are of ourselves. It is to care for ourselves, so that we can care for others. It is loving in the true sense of the word--wishing the complete Good for another, whether that will be initially painful for them or immediately joyful. Through this true service, we will "share (in our) Master's joy." When we use the talents that God has given us, and use them to step outside our comfort zone, to grow personally and to serve others, we will be truly joyful.
When we live in fear of personal discomfort we will be unable to share our Master's joy because we will live in, and act from, that place of fear. It will color all we do. Fear is paralyzing. Fear is devoid of joy.
Whom do you serve? The Lord, or yourself? Out of what place do you live your life? Out of the place of fear or one of participation in the life that God has entrusted to you? Are you sharing in your Master's Joy, or are you afraid?
God is a merciful God who wants us to use the gifts He has so freely given to grow and serve others. Let us give back to Him what he has entrusted to us after we have used them for the good of our world.