Monday, 17 November 2008

Investing Capital - Using your Talents

Sunday's readings with the parable of the three slaves, each given a different number of "talents" to look after by their absentee master, made for lots of interesting possibilities in the light of the present financial climate. You can read what our Reader, Paul Heatherington, had to say by taking a look at his sermon for the Sunday Eucharist.

I'm not sure how I would have approached the story myself. I think there's a real issue as to what Jesus is doing when he tells stories. I don't think parables are there to be explained. And while Jesus may start off with the words "The kingdom of heaven is as if..." those words "as if" are perhaps the give-away: not "exactly like," but more "compare and contrast." Hear the story(or read it) and then ask what it says to you. There's the whole issue of whether people should have slaves. There's the question of the Master's absenteeism - is God similarly absent as far as most people in today's society are concerned? And doesn't the slave digging the hole for his one talent make a reasonable point? Arguably the Master is pretty mean and avaricious as well as devoted to his long holidays. If he's out of Dragon's Den with a massive portfolio elsewhere, he hasn't ensured that his investment opportunities at home have the support they might well need. And he doesn't seem to trust the slave who gets only one talent - or else he'd have given him more (but see what Paul has to say about this). How would you feel if you were this least-trusted and least-valued slave?

And who knows what to do with their investments these days?

So why does Jesus tell this parable? Presumably because he was touching on live issues. And still he does today... But don't take anything for granted, he seems to be saying. And as for Matthew 25.30 and the designation of the slave as "worthless" before his ejection into the "outer darkness" - don't get me going... Except to ask, isn't Jesus simply provoking us? When we want to write people off, he's there to trip us up as to the implications. The Good News of the Gospel is not "weeping and gnashing of teeth," but the one who comes after the wilful and wayward like the shepherd looking for the lost sheep. No condemnation in that parable. If God has a place for the wanderer who goes straying, why not for the "slave" who has been demeaned, distrusted and trapped into fear of his avaricious Master? The answer - it seems to me - is that he has because God is not the "Master."

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