Recall that parables were a teaching method used extensively by Jesus to teach His disciples more about the kingdom of heaven. Recall also that President Obama recently invoked a parable to bolster his argument relative to wealth redistribution via a progressive tax system. He quoted from the parable of the faithful servant.
“…For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required…” Luke 12:48b
He was challenged by many for quoting that passage because that parable had nothing to do with money. That specific parable taught that much more is required of a servant who has knowledge of his master’s will than one without such knowledge. The faithful servant would be a good steward of such knowledge even during his master’s absence. The Master in this parable is Jesus and the faithful servants are His disciples.
There is, however, a great parable in Matthew’s gospel that does compare stewardship of the knowledge of spiritual things with the redistribution of wealth. In fact the wording states that the stewardship of such knowledge is like the stewardship of money. The parable to be examined is known as the Parable of the Talents.
“For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them. And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey.” Matthew 25:14-15
The Greek base for ‘like’ means a comparison, more specifically described as ‘just as’, ‘wholly as’, or ‘exactly as’.
A ‘talent’ is a unit of measure. In this parable a talent refers to a significant amount of money. The parable describes how servants, entrusted with differing amounts of their masters assets, use and grow such assets during his absence, or during the present ‘church’ age. The parable ends with the master’s return and the required accounting of the assets entrusted to each servant.
“Then he who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents. And likewise he who had received two gained two more also. But he who had received one went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord’s money. After a long time the lord of those servants came and settled accounts with them.” Matthew 25:16-19
The first two servants, although originally given different amounts of the master’s assets, both exercised faithful stewardship and doubled that which was entrusted to them.
The master’s response to both of them:
“…Well done, good and faithful servant(s); you were (have been) faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things…” Matthew 25:21, 23
Now the third servant did not invest the assets entrusted to him, in fact he hid those assets. In financial terms, he took them out of circulation. He attempted to justify his actions by even questioning his master’s motives.
Upon the master’s return he confronted that servant about his slothfulness. The master told his servant that even if he questioned his motives and didn’t want to take a risk, he should have entrusted the assets to his banker and at least earn interest.
“So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest.” Matthew 25:27
The major thrust of this parable is that spiritual insights given by Jesus to His servants must be circulated in order to grow in the same manner as capital productivity.
Jesus went on to say:
“So take the talent from him (the unproductive servant), and give it to him who has ten talents.” Matthew 25:28
Perhaps our president who likes to justify his political agenda with scripture will promote his redistribution position by borrowing the following quote from Jesus.
“For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away.” Matthew 25:29
Granted, the above words of Jesus may not reflect President Obama’s position exactly, but at least the parable quoted does address the redistribution of wealth issue.