In today’s Lunchtime with Micael we will look at the parable of the talents, and why it doesn’t prove that Jesus supported inequality or capitalism. Five years ago I was sitting on the train to a Christian youth festival in central Sweden, when a representative from the Christian Democratic Party, who were going to the same festival, sat down next to me. We started to chat, and it was soon revealed that we thought a bit differently when it comes to poverty and wealth.
He thought that capitalism was amazing and had no problem with “income disparity”, or inequality. When I pointed out that Jesus wants equality and criticizes the rich, he said “Nope, in the parable of the talents he clearly praises economic investment and banking, and has nor problem with some people being richer than other.”
The parable he was referring to is found in Matthew 25 and Luke 19. It’s a long parable and you can read it yourself here (it’s verses 14-30), but the main message is that a man hands over some talents, i.e. ancient money, to his servants. Two of them invest their money and dubble their capital, which makes the man really happy when he comes back. However, one servant (who only got one talent in contrast to the other’s three and five) didn’t invest his money but put them in the ground. – something that makes his master furious so that his talent is taken away from him and he is deported from the household.
The thing with parables is that they use images to symbolize something else. The parable Jesus shares right before, the parable of the ten virgins, is about how fice foolish virgins didn’t have oil for their lamps when the bridegroom arrived, and are then excluded from the wedding party. I’ve never heard anyone claim that this means that Christians must use burning lamps at weddings. Both of these parables are about Jesus’ return, and cannot be taken literally.
In fact, if you take the parable literally it gets quite devestating. Then it’s not just about financial investments being nice, then it’s absolutely necessary for one’s salvation. You literally go to hell then if you keep your money in the matress instead of putting them in a bank.
No, the talents represent talents; abilities and Spiritual gifts that God has given us and that we must use to keep our faith alive, as James writes (Jam 2:14). We should spread the Kingdom and use our abilities to glorify God, we should not dig that into the sand. That’s what Jesus is talking about. He’s not defending capitalism or inequality.
For more reasons why Christians shouldn’t be rich but promote equality, check out my God vs Wealth resource page.