Jesus tells of a master who had 3 slaves,
who “belonged” to him,
and seemed worthy of trust.
He gave to one slave custody of $5,000¹, to another $2,000, and to the 3rd, $1,000. Then he went away for a long time.
For what happened next, use the DOOR.
Then the master came back home.
The first slave hands his master back 5 thousand + 5 thousand more that he’d from it .
The second hands back 2 thousand + 2 thousand more that he’d earned from it.
The third hands back the 1 thousand that he was given, because he’d hidden it so it wouldn’t be lost.
[This and the following words from the “master” in Jesus’ story come from Mt. 25: 14- 30.]
(1) To Slave #1 the master says, “Well done, good and faithful slave; you were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things, enter into the joy of your master.”
(2) To Slave #2 the master says, “Well done, good and faithful slave; you were faithful with a few things,I will put you in charge of many things, enter into the joy of your master.”
(3) To Slave #3 the master says, “You wicked, lazy slave…you ought to have put my money in the bank, and on my arrival I would have received my money back with interest. Therefore you [those standing around and listening] take away the 1 thousand that was given to him and give it to the one who [now] has 10 thousand….And cast out this worthless slave into the outer darkness; in that place there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Now some parable principles:
First, the story usually has a main point, with other details supporting that point, even if indirectly. Pushing those details, which often merely reflect the culture and the time period, sometimes misses the main point. Jesus, it seems, is trying to use stories so people can “discover” for themselves an important truth. We can observe and discuss what seems to be secondary issues–and we will–so long as we don’t miss the main purpose.
Now some observations here:
1. Exactly what was supposed to be done with the money is not crystal clear. Maybe the master is wanting to see what they will do on their own to see what kind of slaves he has. Will they try to make things better with what they’ve been given? We’re not absolutely sure here at the first part of the story. At the end, however, we learn that he expected them to “increase” what they’ve been given.
2. Note that Slaves #1 and #2 get exactly the same praise, though #2 brings back less than 1/2 of what #1 did. It seems that [perhaps] the master is aware of a difference in ability between #1 and #2 and so he gives them different amounts to deal with. The main point, at least so far, is that the slaves are expected to be faithful with what they’ve been given. And that there will be real differences between the abilities of people.
3. Note that there is a gigantic difference between Slave #3 and the other two. #3 plays it safe, takes not risk, and gains nothing. Further, he doesn’t lose what he’s been given. He returns every dollar.
4. Note that #3’s punishment is severe. He’s not made to stand in a corner, think over his missteps, and try again.
5. Note further that #3’s forfeited 1 thousand goes to Slave #1, not #2 (which is probably not the way we’d do it). [If you line up the 3 slaves’ scores giving each slave two digits you have 110400. A handy code, perhaps?]
6. Banks that allow you to earn interest on your deposits are alive and well in the 1st century!
Such story interpretations can be added to and discussed in the the 21st century. Or how far can can this go, and what does it teach?
¹ For purposes of thinking about this we’ve used dollars instead of talents–which also was 1st century money. But talents today generally refers to abilities and skills. Banks today would hard pressed to reward you for your abilities when you walk through their front doors.