UNLOCKING THE PARABLE OF THE TALENTS
In Luke 19:11 Jesus tells the story of a wealthy man who is going off to a distant land to claim the throne for his region. The man gives his servants some cash telling them to invest and trade in his absence in his name. Some of the servants don’t do anything with the cash while others really work hard to double and triple the money.
Often we read this story through our capitalist eyes. We think this story is about the money and how we invest and make more with what we have. But rather there is a much more subtle story happening in Jesus’ tail.
Years before Jesus, Herod the Great had gone to Rome (40BC) to lay claim to the throne of Jerusalem. Herod had left his servants in charge of his money and possessions telling them to invest and trade in his name while he was away. But the Jewish people hated Herod and sent a group ahead of him to Rome to argue against his kingship.
While Herod was away it was hard for his servants to trade in Herod’s name as the people hated him and didn’t want to invest or trade with a military tyrant and didn’t want to trade with someone who shouldn’t be a Jewish king. Herod was an Edomite, ie. Someone who came from the line of Esau and not form the line of Jacob.
On Herod’s return he found that some of his servants had done nothing believing he most probably wouldn’t return from the trip alive. Some had traded well and others maintained the property well. Herod was pleased with those who had kept things going in his name and angered by those who had done little. Herod was so angry the history books tell us he killed over a third of his servants for conspiring against him and failing to trade while he was away.
A similar story played out 4BC with Herod’s sons who went to Rome to lay claim to their father’s kingdom.
With this story in the Jewish consciousness Jesus tells of another leader who is hated by the people. The story is of a righteous man who has gone off to become the King leaving his servants in the same way with money to trade in his name, but the people of the land also hate this man. This made it hard for the servants to trade; some worked hard while others in fear did nothing.
In v17 when the King returns and finds some have worked hard he calls them his ‘good and faithful servants’. He doesn’t call them ‘good and successful’. This parable isn’t about success but is about how will you work while the king is out of town. Will you sit back and do little or will you partner with him in his work in his business even when he’s out of town.
These servants are the entrepreneurs, wheelers and dealers, the innovators. Not afraid of making mistakes.
Jesus’ parable is about a King looking for his servants to partner in a world, which hate him.
The question asked of us in this parable isn’t how will do you use what you have been given, its not about success but about how will you choose to partner with the Divine in a world that don’t just disbelieve but hate the idea of him?
Are you going to partner or are you going to sit back and blend in?