Essay:Rich Man and Parable of Talents

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Jesus stated how difficult is for certain men to enter the kingdom of heaven. One passage that appears in all the Synoptic Gospels is typically translated as follows:

... it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."[1]

The "eye of a needle" may have been narrow gate in Jerusalem, or an idiom common in the Jewish culture of the time.[2] Either way, it was something considered to be nearly impossible.

But in the Parable of the Talents, Jesus seemed to say the opposite: the more productive would be rewarded, while the less productive would be punished. The full story is here:[3]

14"Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. 15To one he gave five talents[a] of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. 16The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more. 17So also, the one with the two talents gained two more. 18But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master's money.
19"After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. 20The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. 'Master,' he said, 'you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.'
21"His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!'
22"The man with the two talents also came. 'Master,' he said, 'you entrusted me with two talents; see, I have gained two more.'
23"His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!'
24"Then the man who had received the one talent came. 'Master,' he said, 'I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.'
26"His master replied, 'You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 27Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.
28" 'Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. 29For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. 30And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'

Reconciliation of Passages

If "rich" were the correct translation for the story of the Rich Man above, then in the Parable of the Talents the "rich man" who had 5 talents would have the most difficult time of winning his master's favor. That is false, and "rich" is not the correct translation to describe the person in the story of the Rich Man. Besides, "rich" is a relative term in today's usage and God likely has no interest in relative wealth of individuals.

Instead, the correct translation is "fully supplied," and using that definition all three of the recipients of talents are fully supplied and face a big challenge winning their master's favor. They have to work hard and not be "idle misers." Two act accordingly and do the equivalent of threading the eye of a needle, though much effort and perhaps some providential fortune. The third acts like an idle miser, doing nothing and acting miserly towards what he does have. Though the poorest, he goes to Hell.

This reconciliation makes the most sense from a logical perspective, though socialists surely do not like it. God presumably would care most about one's output relative to one's opportunities. Wasting opportunities would not gain favor with God, and may infuriate Him.

See also

References

  1. Matthew 19:24 [1]. See also Mark 10:25, Luke 18:25.
  2. http://www.biblicalhebrew.com/nt/camelneedle.htm
  3. Matthew 25:14-30 [2]
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