There’s a new article in the Bible Studies section! Do I get an Hallelujah? It’s about the Parable of the Talents and takes a look at money, fossil-fuel investment and the end of the world. No wonder none of the characters in the story look happy.
Click here or use the menu above
2 thoughts on “Talents”
The parable page itself doesn’t allow for comments, so some here. Mostly doubts and questions. So:
The passage you quote begins with, ‘The Kingdom of God is also like a man that went on a journey…’ My question to the Storyteller would be (and is), ‘OK, but – how so?’ In that story alone we get no hints as to the Kingdom is like the master, the long journey, one of the slaves, the casting-out, the industriousness, the coming into the master’s honour, the sudden return…
I gather you took the immediate context into consideration…? Could chapters 24 and 25 be summed up as, ‘Prepare for the End, because it’s coming when you least expect it’? Jesus speaks for instance of the sudden destruction of the Temple (24:2); the ‘abomination that causes desolation’ (24:15ff), which has you run away with no time to collect any personals; the Son of Man coming like lightning (24:27); the End as sudden as Noah’s flood (24:39; NB sudden for most, but known well in advance and prepared for by some – which seems to be Jesus’ point, after all he’s warning his listeners); Jesus coming as unexpectedly as a thief (24:42–44); the boss that arrives at a time when his evil servant least expects it (24:50–51); the wedding party that resumes in the middle of the night, finding half the invited young ladies unprepared (25:6); and the ‘wrong’ preparedness for the Big Reckoning of those that might have done all the good – but not to the right people (25:45). In this context, have you noted the sudden return as a theme? And a pattern in who’s returning? And the need for work to be done?
I’m not sure that the master’s wealth was acquired illegitimately. The Bible describes a few rich people with no negative comments on their wealth acquisition; Abraham, Job, Boaz are considered righteous people. Solomon’s wealth is enumerated for us, apparently as proof of God being on his side and Israel being at its peak power (it does NOT say however that it’s all well and good, and to my eyes David is praised higher than his son). Ecclesiastes specifically encourages us to be hard-working, even raising the possibility of doubling our earnings in a single work season. Could the master be accepting his description of himself sarcastically? ‘All right! So if I’m such a cruel tyrant, why didn’t you obey me? If I’m a man who won’t take “No” for an answer, then why is “No” your answer?’
I’m not sure about identifying with the third slave (or even that he was a slave, there were both slaves and ‘independent’ salaried workers back then). Is there a pattern in the casting-out in Mt 24–25, i.e. is it always the cast-out that’s to blame? Everyone else being cast out here has done wrong, or at least not done right (24:12–13; 24:40–41; 24:51; 25:11–12; 25:46).
So many questions! I do agree though that fossil fuels should be left on the ground, and that is the Way of Jesus.
Thank you for such a thoughtful response. I had forgotten to allow comments on the page – now rectified, so if you want to(!) you could paste your comment into the page – I don’t think I can do that in your name.
You are right – I hadn’t really taken much account of the eschatalogical background to this Jerusalem section of Matthew. I think the motifs of the master’s journey, the weddings, and so on could apply to the crucifixion & resurrection, but not entirely and I take your point, that I mentioned but didn’t develop, that the return of Christ is context for this section & important for us in coping with this rapid cultural change we’re experiencing (at least). I will think more about that…
I stand by my view on the master’s wealth, based on how I read Leviticus 25 etc on ownership of property and especially land. Re Abraham, Solomon etc, the Bible narrators rarely make moral judgement of their characters & I wonder if that is for the reader to say, Hang on a minute, and figure out why they feel outraged or simply some dissonance. I think there’s a debate within the Bible between a view that takes riches & health etc as a sign of blessing, and a view that challenges that, e.g. Job, Psalm 73. Amos, for example, speaks out against economic inequality.
I use the word slave simply because that’s what the NRSV uses
The great thing about the parables is that Jesus rarely explains them, so they can be living words to provoke & inspire & get us talking about how to interpret them for our lives – so it’s great to do that & at least we end up with one conclusion in common!