In this story a slave owner was going on a trip and he entrusted each of his slaves with a various amount of money (talents) to watch over. Most of the slaves traded the talents to earn even more talents. However, the slave who received only one talent buried the talent in a hole to keep it safe. He said that he did this because he was afraid of his master. When the slave owner returned, he was furious that the slave had buried the talent instead of using it to earn more money. He called him “worthless,” “wicked,” and “lazy.” Then, he threw him into “the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Even though I realized the story is only a parable, when I was taught this story in Sunday school I could not help but to feel sorry for the slave who with the one talent for reasons beyond the fact that he was a slave.
My Sunday school teacher indicated (as does the story) that this slave deserved his fate because he should have at least put the money in a bank to earn interest. Even though I was a young child, I could not bring myself to agree with my teacher. I believed his punishment was unjust for several reasons. First, there is no indication that the slave owner ever told his slaves that they must earn money on the talents he gave them. However, it’s possible that we are just to assume that this was explicitly stated to them but it is just not written in the narrative. Second, I could not help but to wonder if this slave knew enough about banking to know that he could invest the talent and collect interest. Not only was he a slave who may not have had dealings with banks, but the beginning of the story indicates that even the slave owner had less confidence in this slave’s ability compared to the other two. Therefore, it seems that this slave might have lacked the ability to earn more money. Third, even if the slave had sufficient knowledge of banking, he may have had legitimate reasons for concern over entrusting the talent with a banker. Even with a banker, the money might not have truly been safe. It’s not as if the deposit would have been insured by something similar to the FDIC, as ours now are in the United States.
The fourth reason that I do not feel the slave’s punishment was just was because even if he were wrong to have not earned the slave owner money on the talent that he was given, the wrongdoing seems minor, whereas the punishment seems severe. What I took away from this parable is that the god of the Christian bible doles out unjust, severe punishments for minor offenses that could be beyond a person’s ability to prevent.
What are your thoughts on this story? Do you believe that the slave’s punishment was just?
Matthew 25:14 “For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; 15 to one he gave five talents, [ 188 ] to another two, to another one , to each according to his ability. Then he went away…30 As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
Harper Bibles (2011-11-22). NRSV Bible with the Apocrypha(Kindle Locations 67191-67177). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.
For more information about Skeptic Mom, see the About section at the top of the page.
Be sure to stop by the Skeptic Mom guestbook to say, “Hello” or to let me know what you think of this site.
Find Skeptic Mom on Facebook
Follow Skeptic Mom on Twitter