The Hard Parable Revisited

As they were listening to this, he went on to tell a parable, because he was near Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately. So he said, “A nobleman went to a distant country to get royal power for himself and then return. He summoned ten of his slaves, and gave them ten pounds, and said to them, ‘Do business with these until I come back.’ But the citizens of his country hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to rule over us.’ When he returned, having received royal power, he ordered these slaves, to whom he had given the money, to be summoned so that he might find out what they had gained by trading. The first came forward and said, ‘Lord, your pound has made ten more pounds.’ He said to him, ‘Well done, good slave! Because you have been trustworthy in a very small thing, take charge of ten cities.’ Then the second came, saying, ‘Lord, your pound has made five pounds.’ He said to him, ‘And you, rule over five cities.’ Then the other came, saying, ‘Lord, here is your pound. I wrapped it up in a piece of cloth, for I was afraid of you, because you are a harsh man; you take what you did not deposit, and reap what you did not sow.’ He said to him, ‘I will judge you by your own words, you wicked slave! You knew, did you, that I was a harsh man, taking what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow? Why then did you not put my money into the bank? Then when I returned, I could have collected it with interest.’ He said to the bystanders, ‘Take the pound from him and give it to the one who has ten pounds.’ (And they said to him, ‘Lord, he has ten pounds!’) ‘I tell you, to all those who have, more will be given; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. But as for these enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them—bring them here and slaughter them in my presence.’”

Luke 19:11-27

I went back and read what I wrote about the Parable of the Talents in Matthew, and I’m really glad I did. For one thing, I had forgotten basically everything that I wrote, and I thought it was really convicting and really makes me want to live a better life. For another, I think Matthew’s version of the parable is a little easier to understand because it has less erroneous information about how the people hated the king. In addition, I also did a brief internet search to see if I was missing something (I couldn’t quite place my finger on why Luke kept going on about the people hating the king), and between the two I think I understand.

Jesus’s followers thought the Kingdom of God was coming soon, probably as soon as they got to Jerusalem. But Jesus knew this wasn’t the case. So this parable is Him telling them that even though God’s Kingdom isn’t coming now, we still have a lot of work to do. I will come, and on that day we want to have proven ourselves true Christians. From there all the things I wrote in Matthew about Christ completely changing your life really takes off with the message. If you want to read more about that I suggest you go read that post, because it was long and I’m not writing it again.

Instead I would like to talk about a few of the interesting differences between the two versions of the parable. To start with, in Matthew’s version the main character is simply a rich man who has gone traveling, whereas in Luke’s version he is a king, and a hated king for that matter. I don’t think this difference changes the meaning of the parable in any way, it’s just that one is more obvious and the other a little more subtle. Subtlety doesn’t really seem to be part of Luke’s style, does it? Another difference, in Matthew the money is a  talent, a very large sum of money worth more than a slave might earn in a lifetime, as opposed to the pound in Luke, more the equivalent of a few months’ work. Again, this doesn’t effect the overall meaning of the parable, more the scope of what we’ve been trusted with. But the big, whopping difference is how much each man was trusted with. In Luke all three slaves are given the same amount, but in Matthew each is given different amounts according to his ability. What does that mean? I think it’s two different ways of understanding our blessings. Matthew’s point-of-view sees that some people have been “more blessed” with wealth, or gifts, or understanding, or happiness, or something that in turn allows them to do good in a grander, more obvious way. But Luke’s point-of-view is that we have all been equally blessed by the presence of the Holy Spirit, and through that blessing we are all capable of great things. And both are true, I think, although sometimes Luke’s is a little harder to relate to. Which is probably one of the reasons I understood Matthew’s parable better, now that I think about it.

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