Christianity and the Problem of Human ViolenceChristianity and the Problem of Human Violence: Part 137. Parable of the Ten Talents
from Guide to Kingdom Living

True Christian living requires us to live according to Kingdom standards which bring Heaven to earth.

Christianity and the Problem of Human Violence: Part 137. Parable of the Ten Talents

By Stephen R. Kaufman, M.D.

Many people find the parable of the ten talents (Matthew 25:14-30; Luke 19:11-26) among the most paradoxical. The master castigates the servant who buried the one talent with which he was entrusted, rather than risk losing it in an investment. Then, Jesus explains, "For to every one who has will more be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away" (Matthew 25:29).

Some people have claimed that the master represents God, and consequently the parable shows the importance of hard work and pursuit of capital gain. One argument against this is that this parable, unlike many others, does not begin, "The kingdom of heaven is like . . ." James Alison has argued that the servant's error was not the lack of yield, but rather how he expected his master to treat him.(1) The servant explains, "Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not winnow; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground" (Matthew 25:24-25). Luke makes things more clear, writing that the master says, "I will condemn you out of your own mouth, you wicked servant!" (Luke 19:22). According to this interpretation, the servant's expectation is like the person who believes God is harsh and judgmental. Such a person readily engages in scapegoating, because such a person believes that God wants to punish evildoers. On the other hand, those who believe in a gracious, loving God will find that their loving actions reap bounteous rewards. To those who have this faith, more will be given. Those who do not have this faith will lose what little they have.

Many people try to hoard resources in an effort to protect themselves against the vicissitudes of life. In doing so, they increase the very scarcities that promote mimetic rivalries and conflicts. They are acting like the servant who fears a wrathful God and takes preventive measures, which ultimately proves to be self-destructive. Those who have faith in God's abundant love live modestly, share with those in need, and try to ensure that there is enough for everyone. The Bible teaches that such people are already well-endowed with faith and will prosper spiritually, (Matthew 6:19-21, 24-34; Luke 16:10-13), though they will not necessarily prosper financially.

1. Alison, James. Raising Abel: The Recovery of the Eschatological Imagination. New York: Crossroad Publishing Co, 1996.

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