Article 33: Parable of the Talents

Where do you stand?

Parable of the Talents   Mt 25: 14 – 30

I suggest that you read this parable for yourself before you continue with his article.

The characters in this parable are a very rich landowner and three of his slaves.  These slaves held very important and powerful positions in the master’s agricultural enterprise.  This story is about one thing only, money, and lots of it.  A “talent” was worth six thousand denarii and one slave was entrusted with five.  A denarius was a labourers daily wage.  Five talents equaled a labourer’s  earnings for a hundred years.

Luke also tells this parable.  His telling of the story is useful in that the rich landowner cannot be confused with God.  He closes with the gruesome scene of the king (landowner) having, “these enemies of mine,” executed, “in his presence.”  Lk 19: 11-27

The three slaves have a good track-record for making money for the master. The one who receives five talents is top of the list.  Everyone understands that they are expected to make more money.  Two of them get going immediately.  The sooner they have earned what the master expects, the sooner they can start trading for their own benefit.  The master is away for a long time so they stand to make a killing.  How do they accumulate this wealth for the master and themselves?  This is done at the expense of the tenants and the poor farmers working their tiny properties.  Guess who sets the price that is paid for the peasants’ produce; the master’s slave.  If a peasant has to borrow money he gets it from the landowner and if he fails to repay the debt his land is taken over by the rich man or the slave who adds it to his growing investments.

On his return the master inspects the books. Note that the first two slaves have earned exactly 100%  profit, not a denarius more.  Both of them are very good at their job of exploiting the poor.  They are praised by the master for doing this.  ““Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things.”  A subtle warning follows, “Enter into the joy of your master.”  Just remember you are a slave and I have complete control over you, be careful.

24Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, “Master, I knew you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed;   25so I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground.  Here, have what is yours.” Mt 25: 24-25

This man is either foolish or very brave.  He starts by telling his master that he is a thief – gathering where you did not scatter.  For good measure he also lets him know that he considers the master’s business ethics ruthless – “harsh.”  This man is challenging the whole economic system.  He takes the master’s money out of the system so that it does not even earn interest.  He ends his speech with, “Here, have what is yours!!!!”

Sparks fly!

“You wicked and lazy slave!”  Why?  He has refused to make the master richer by exploiting the poor.

“You knew that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter?”  How dare you tell me what I should do or not do.  This is about money for me, at any cost.

The master does not hesitate to admit his dishonest and ruthless practices.
“You lazy slave!”  It is not the salve who is lazy.  The master has probably never done an honest day’s work, but this slave is lazy.  No wonder Jesus says elsewhere, “How difficult it is for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”

The master is in full stride.  He is going to put this man in his place.  Here is my philosophy of life.

“29For all those who have, more will be given, and they will have abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.”

Can you believe this?  It describes perfectly the existing economic system in Jesus’ time.  How about ours?

30As for this worthless slave; throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”  Slave number three goes from being moderately prosperous, to being a poverty stricken, homeless beggar, in one sentence.  Why?  Because he challenged an unjust system.

I am not surprised that Jesus used a parable, because he too was throwing out a challenge.  It is much safer to challenge using a story rather by direct confrontation.
Where are you in this parable?  Who do you support, the “Master” or the “Lazy” slave?

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