Who is Jesus in the parable of the talents? It’s not obvious to me.

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Sermons and audio

a kettle filled with gold coins in a hole in the groundThe parable of the talents, in Matthew’s Gospel, seems to be a blessing and endorsement of our modern economic life. Three slaves are given custody of various fortunes, some of them truly immense. They are told that eventually they will need to return what has been entrusted to them to their master when he returns. We’re told that their master is a hard man, seizing others property and taking the spoils of other people’s work.

When the master returns to settle accounts with his slaves (and the language is really that of slave, not servant) they present him with the fruits of their stewardship. Two of the slaves have used the fortunes to make new fortunes. One of the slaves simply does as instructed and keeps the money safe, but does nothing else with it. The master is incensed at that slave and turns him over to be tortured.

There are pretty standard ways to interpret this parable, and most of them have to do with our duty to return to God a good return on what God has graciously given us. And that’s probably why this parable is generally read during the yearly stewardship campaigns going on in most Episcopal parishes right now. But if you actually read the parable and take the details seriously, I’m not convinced that is how we’re supposed to make sense of what Jesus means to communicate.

In the sermon this week, I suggest some other ways of making sense of the parable, not as a commendation of investment savvy, but rather as an indictment of unjust economic systems. And I add that I think this parable is only sensible if it is seen through the lens of the Crucifixion and the Resurrection of the person who tells it to us.

The direct link to the video is found here.

The Author

Episcopal bishop, dad, astronomer, erstwhile dancer...

1 Comment

  1. galedoubtfulguest says

    this parable does read like it could be from the Ferengi Rules of Acquisition -hysterical and yet true

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