Contextual translation attempting to capture the perception of contemporary hearers.
This reading was presented in worship of Rutgers Presbyterian Church on 2011-11-13 by the church youth.
N Or think about it this way.
Some very powerful person went away for a long period of time.
He decided to leave some large amount of money in the hands of three individuals.
Each was assigned a large amount of money according to their professions.
1 The first person was the head of an investment bank called “Golden Socks”;
he was given five hundred million dollars.
2 The second led chemical corporation called “Santa on Moon”;
she was given two hundred million,
3 and the third one chaired organization called “Greens and Peace”;
he was given one hundred million.
1 The first took the capital and in four years he made another half a billion,
not counting the millions he made for himself.
2 The second, likewise, did the same thing with her capital.
Her profit was unbelievable 19% year after year
and a healthy CEO salary above it.
3 The third did not care about profit
and went to save the planet from those two other guys.
N With a subsequent elections the powerful person returned to power
and the professionals came to give him their reports.
1 The first said, With my position and all that money
I hired and trained many mortgage brokers.
They sold mortgages to everyone, even to people who could not afford them.
I pooled those loans, divided them and regrouped them,
insured them and sold them until no one could understand any of it.
I made piles of money.
I even made money by betting on the failure of my own funds!
Now I have a full billion.
N The powerful man said, “Well done. You proved yourself.
I make you my Secretary of Finance.
2 The second officer came, and she said,
In my position and with all that money,
I managed to hire scientists and I bribed lawyers and I bought public opinion.
I genetically manipulated seeds of staple crops and I patented them.
Now almost every farmer on the planet slaves for me, and if not, I sue them.
And people happily eat my junk. And as result I more than doubled the money.
N The very powerful man said,
“Well done. You have proved your worth.
I am making you Secretary of Agriculture.”
3 The third officer came and said.
“I am not sure I can claim any real success.
I tried my best, we protested and stopped dangerous nuclear tests,
we all but stop the commercial killing of whales,
we slowed deforestation and the extinction of some species.
But it was not I who can claim all these successes,
I only recruited, trained and organized volunteers.
And we can hardly claim any miracles, because so much still needs to be done!
Earth is still here but we don’t have any money left.
N And the powerful man gave this officer a dressing down.
“In your own words you were just half successful.
How can I be impressed with your performance.
I expect miracles, do I? Well, I expect that at the very least you made some profit!
Why didn’t you invest at least in green energy! You are fired!
My new Secretary of Treasury and the minister of Agro-business
will run the environmental department.
N And remember, The rich and powerful will get only richer and more powerful,
while the poor, and the naive will lose everything, even their own future.
Now, how does it make you feel? Righteous indignation?
That was exactly, how the original hearers did hear this parable of talents.
Primary targets of this parable were not little Galilean peasants or the powerless and poor people of any time and space. It was not intended to be spiritualized or used to “induce generosity” in middle classes.
This parable belongs to the category of parables called "Return of the rightful owner" (for instance Matthew 21:33-41 Parable of the vineyard, or Matthew 24:45-51 Parable of two servants). Parables in this category criticize misbehaviour of the rich and the powerful, and at the same time they utter a word of warning. These parables were intended for the elites, for the landlords, for the religious hierarchy and for all the privileged, wealthy and powerful. God is not indifferent to injustice. God knows about exploitation of the poor. Justice DOES EXIST and it is coming.
It is a theological disgrace, that this passage used to be interpreted as an apotheosis of venture capitalism and has been abused to “tame and milk” people of faith.
(This translation and interpretation is further supported by the Gospel of Nazoreans as quoted by Eusebius of Caesarea, and by historical events of departures and returns of vassal monarchs as recorded by Josephus Flavius.)