Jesus as Third Servant

It is time for the parable of the talents again in the lectionary cycle. I have had the pleasure of preaching this a couple of times already and I am looking for a new take. Jason Byasee in Pulpit Resource has provided me with a new take and it is interesting. In Jason’s article he quotes Michael Budde, a political scientist and Roman Catholic at DePaul University in Chicago. Budde flips this well known parable on its head and suggests a different look.

Budde says what if we look at the parable as the master is Satan and Jesus is the third servant. Then we get a truly deep suffering servant and the parable looks quiet different. Instead of a 21st century look at how we are to use what we are given, we see Christ standing up to harsh economic practices. Economically it is very hard to do what the master demands, 100% return on his investments. Plus we are talking huge amounts of money, which is what a talent is, said to equal one year’s income.

What we have is a master given his servants billions or trillions of dollars and asking them to double it. For what purpose? To give it back to the master of course. The first two get 100% in their return but the third servant stands in great contrast. Budde states that the first two probably went out and took out high interest loans in order to get what the master requires. (Hummm…could this have any present day correlation?)This servant goes out and buries the money and returns to the master what he originally gave. Is this Jesus telling us once again that you cannot serve two masters?

If I walked up to the 17 year old that bags the groceries at my local grocery and handed him 10 billion dollars would he know what to do with it? Could he parlay that into another 10 billion in my time frame? We live in a time when massive amounts of money are tossed around in conversations all the time, from the 700 billion bailout plan, to the over 10 trillion dollars in debt, to the 10 million a day spent in Iraq. These are absurd amounts of money to talk about and I know my eyes glaze over because I cannot wrap my head around that type of cash.

Maybe the truth in this parable is once again reminding us who we work for, God not Satan or wealth or capitalism. When Christ sticks the insane amount of money in the ground he is saying he cannot be bought and neither should we. Once again he is fighting off the temptation of Satan. This also fits in a little better with the bookends of the 25th chapter of Matthew, the parable of the 10 Bridesmaids and the Judgement of the Nations. This second coming texts really don’t help make sense when we look at the Parable of the Talents from a modern perspective of wealth and prosperity. Yet with an end of times twist this different view does make sense.

Once again Jesus is going against the stream and being radical. “[This parable] has deeper roots in the Hebrew Scriptures with its assumption that wealth usually represent the sustenance of the poor unjustly taken by the rich. We also get a Jesus who refuses to heap further misery on the poor by participating in such an unjust system.” (Byassee) There are not many servants who would stand up to their master like that, because the results are scary. Yet our suffering servant, our savior, understands the consequences and places himself in a position to stand up for those who cannot stand up. He is sent out into the place where their is weeping and gnashing of teeth, where the poor usually are. The master thinks he can prevail but he thank God he doesn’t.

This is what I am working through but there are questions that come up and maybe Budde does address them but not in the article I read. If we take Christ as the third servant and the master as Satan, why would Christ be afraid? “Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow…so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.” Looking at it this way doesn’t seem to translate well. I guess you can call it a sticking point.

Laboring on…

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One thought on “Jesus as Third Servant

  1. This is certainly a new take on an classic.I share your difficulty reading the idea into the text, though. Not only the “afraid” part, but also the whole context of the parable. Clearly it is placed in a series of eschatalogical parables and teachings about the return of Jesus.It would be an odd shift to suddenly make the parable about Satan.

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