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The Parable of the Talents: A New Perspective

This article was hugely inspired, adapted, and built on by a YouTube channel called: Breaking In The Habit. I highly recommended you give it a watch! In the video, Fr. Casey Cole O.F.M. links the parable to the issue of abuse in the Catholic Church, especially that of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. Huge credits to him.

Greetings my brothers and sisters in Christ, in the Gospel of Matthew (25:14-30), Jesus tells his disciples a parable about stewardship. The point that He is making is that God gives us gifts and talents and that it is up to us to use them wisely, to multiply them even for God. The servants are each given a huge sum of money by their Master and furthermore, entrusted his properties to them. They were then commanded to go out and buy and trade goods, to lending money to others with interest. The one who squanders, buries their gift or goes against their master's wishes displeases God, and will not enter the Kingdom of God. Thus, the vast majority of people would automatically assume that this parable is about stewardship and loyalty, giving yourself wholly to God and use the talents that he gives us for building and evangelising the Kingdom of Heaven. This is a great way to remind ourselves that we owe everything to God.

And this is true and correct, to some extent.

You see, we always automatically assume that the Master in each of Jesus' parable is always referred to as God. This is often the case in His parables and reading it in this way makes a lot of sense on the surface, but it never explicitly says so. Of course, we know that some Masters in Jesus' parables refers to God given the fact the Matthew's Gospel continuously portrays earthly kings in contrast to the true kingship of God. Just look at the parable of the workers in the harvest, or the parable of the prodigal son.

But in this particular story, the Master is portrayed as a wealthy man, excessively wealthy, one might say. He goes on a long journey, leaving with his servants 8 talents, a measure of money that might not seem much in the modern world but was an actually enormously amount of money. In the ancient world, a talent was worth roughly fifteen years of day wages. Translating for minimum wage in US dollars today, we're talking about 1.8 million dollars, casually left with his servants today. But as seen in this story, they were not give this wealth with the mere purpose of protecting it, as the king's anger with the third servant shows. He wanted to double his profits. He wanted to make millions of dollars for doing no work at all. As mentioned before, the servants had to lend money with interest and to sell good, by seizing the property of delinquent debts.

The first servant was given 5 talents, the second, 2 talents, and to the third, 1 talent. According to Matthew's Gospels, the one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

When the master had finally returned, both the first and second servants were able to please him, sharing in his joy. However, the master was angered to hear that the third servant buried his talent. As such, the master scolds him harshly and demands that he be thrown out.

​"I knew you were a demanding person, harvesting where you did not plant and gathering where you did not scatter."

Think about that. ​"...harvesting where you did not plant and gathering where you did not scatter." That's called stealing. It's called being so rich and powerful that you cam take from other people's hard labours and they can't do anything about it.

As we can gather from this, the third servant now does not seem to be so repugnant, afraid or scared, but rather heroic. He is fighting for a good cause. He buries the money in the ground because he does not want to partake and share in his master's evil doings. He stands up to him and calls him out for his injustice. He, willing to accept the consequences for opting out, stands out against the rest. And there is indeed consequences, he is called wicked and lazy, has his own money taken away from him, is casted out into the darkness, allowing the other two loyal servants to benefit greater.

​ "For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."

Does this king sound like the God we know? Does this sound like the beatitudes or servant leadership? No. Remember, Jesus once said that we can only have one master; God or money (Matthew 6:24). It was money that caused the rich man to leave Jesus (Matthew 19:23). In the case of this parable, I feel that we have to strive to be more like the third servant, and not like the first two servants.

1 Comment

Michael Snellen
Michael Snellen
Sep 29, 2022

Great article!

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