Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Inclusivity and the Church [4]: Once More with Feeling—Yet Another Parable of the Talents

My last couple of posts—rewritings of the parable of the talents—have reminded me that I have done such a thing before. The below-posted story was originally posted on my first blog, The Aardvark Conundrum, on 26 October 2009, and reposted on Providence, Divine Action, and the Church (9 December 2011). As it was arguably my first attempt to look at inclusivity and the Church, I thought I’d repost it here, too—strike while the iron’s hot, and all that. Enjoy!

‘Phone . . . home.’
There was once a wealthy man who had thirty talents, which he wanted to invest while he travelled around the Mediterranean for a few years. He divided the thirty talents equally among his three children and appointed a man, a close friend of the family who knew the children well, to act as a financial advisor.
After many years, the wealthy man returned and eventually asked his children about the money he had wanted them to invest. The first child, a son, the eldest, came to him, looking pleased with himself.
‘Father,’ he said, ‘our friend, whom you appointed as a financial advisor, offered me excellent advice, and I am pleased—nay, very pleased—to say that I have quadrupled the ten talents that you gave me!’
‘Oh, that’s good news, son!’ cried the wealthy man, visibly proud of his son’s achievement. ‘As a reward, I shall let you have eighty per cent of your profit, for you have shown me that you are indeed a wise and dutiful son. Spend it however you wish!’
The second child, the wealthy man’s only daughter, came hesitantly to him.
‘Father,’ the daughter said, ‘our friend, whom you appointed as a financial advisor, told me that although you loved me very, very much—indeed, as much as your sons, my brothers, and that I was equal to them in your eyes; nonetheless, our friend said that I should not do anything to invest the talents you gave me, but merely to use them to fund other endeavours. He said that these endeavours would be just as important, even though, strictly speaking, I would not have been doing what you had asked me to do. So I am afraid that all I have been able to do is to spend seven of the talents you gave me. The remaining three are here, completely untouched.’
The wealthy man studied his only daughter, nodding slowly and stroking his beard. ‘I understand,’ he comforted. And his daughter stood and left the room.
The third child, another son, the youngest, entered. He had a wild look in his eye, and, when he came to sit, moved the chair slightly away from his father.
‘Father,’ the son said, ‘our friend, whom you appointed as a financial advisor, told me that my behaviour—my mood swings, my fondness for beer, my sometimes colourful language, my eye for the ladies—our friend told me that all these things meant that I would poorly represent you in business meetings, and that it would be better off if I didn’t invest or spend any of it. Of the ten talents you gave me, I have ten talents—and I’ve done sod all with them!’
Immediately, the wealthy man called for his friend, whom he had appointed a financial director.
‘My friend, we have known each other for some time, and you know my children well,’ he began. ‘But I am disturbed by what I have heard today. I asked you to offer advice to my children on how they should invest the money I gave to them. And I understand that you did this for my son, my eldest son. I am pleased.
‘But what is this I hear about my daughter, my only daughter whom I love dearly, and my youngest son?’ the wealthy man continued. ‘I wanted you to advise them about how they should invest my money, not what else they could do—or not do!—with it.
‘My daughter is intelligent, and excels her eldest brother in many things. He quadrupled my money; but I have every reason to believe that she, too, would have quadrupled the money I had given her, and perhaps added even to that. I am displeased that you denied to her the opportunity to invest what I had given to her to invest as she saw fit.
‘And what about my son, my youngest son? I know he has his problems. He has always been fiery; he has always had addictions of some sort; he has never adhered to social conventions; but I love him. Moreover, I gave him ten talents to invest; if he did not invest wisely, I would have demanded an explanation from him. But the fact is, he never had an opportunity to invest anything, not even a single talent, so that he might not damage my reputation. But I can defend my reputation myself.
‘You are my friend, and I appointed you as a financial advisor for my children because I believed that you would offer good advice on the basis that you have known them for quite some time. But you have taken what knowledge you have of them and used it to diminish my only daughter and my youngest son.
‘Why did you not allow my daughter, whom I love as much as my sons, to invest the talents I have given her? And why, in the case of my youngest son; why did you prevent him from investing at all?
‘I wanted my children to invest, to be fruitful; but you have ravaged my daughter and destroyed my youngest son.’


  1. Terry - these are very good! are you preaching with them? They seem ideal for it.
    I think I no longer have your address - could you email it to me for the Churchman article? Thanks.B

  2. No worries, B. I've dropped you an email. And no, I have preached with them. Not sure when I'll next be preaching, but if I do and get a parable to preach on, I might well rewrite it!