Here’s your bible reading for the day
For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey.
Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents. And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two.But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord’s money.
After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them.And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying,
Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more.
His lord said unto him,
Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.
He also that had received two talents caand said,
Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them.
His lord said unto him,
Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.
Then he which had received the one talent came and said,
Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed:
And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine.
His lord answered and said unto him,
Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed:
Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury.
Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents.
For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.
And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
A talent is worth about 20 years of work, about half a working lifetime. Two talents is a lifetime’s work at average salary and five talents is a rich man’s wage. Even valuing work at minimum wage, the man with a talent is getting around £300,000 while the grant to the top-rated servant is around £1.5m; by the end of the story, the poor man is destitute and top-dog’s got £3.3m! The guy with two talents has £1.2m. You’d expect some kind of social justice (after all it’s easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle than a rich man to get to the kingdom of heaven). But no! The two millionaires get the full “apprentice winning” treatment while the sucker who started and ended with £300,000 gets thrown in jail.
The parable’s a problem whichever way you read it! If the Lord is an absentee landlord and is stealing corn from other people’s labour, isn’t the servant with one talent a whistle blower who won’t join in the trading or take unearned interest – with good reason?
Or are we supposed to think of the servant with one talent as like the trustee who looks at the equities traded by richer trustees as beyond his means and worries about the credit risk of the bond market (at the exchanges)?
Burying the money in cash is clearly a crap strategy but does it merit his banishment to teeth-gnashing territory? Even the Pensions Regulator wouldn’t lock up a trustee for being in cash – or would he?
Whichever way I read this, the traveller (like the kingdom of heaven) sounds brutal, arbitrary and selfish. I don’t get this parable at all.
Question – do you? Interested in your take on the story – please use the comments box.