Some people think that reading the Bible is all about learning ‘spiritual’ lessons. When we use words like spiritual, it’s difficult, because we don’t always share clear definitions. So what you and I are meaning when we say a word like that, may be two rather different concepts.
In any case, some people do look at the Bible in that way, that it is a ‘spiritual’ text, and this often means that it has little or no ‘earthly’ application.
My view of the Bible is not one that directly contradicts this, because I think ‘spiritual’ is an important word, particularly when it comes to books like the Bible. But I also think that ‘political’ is a key idea in Bible reading too. And it rather depends on what you’re looking for, as to what you find. You won’t find raw gem stones in a field, if you’re using a metal detector to look for them.
So depending on how you look, you find different things. And I do have a habit of looking through a political lens: it’s one of my biases. When you look at certain passages in that way, you can make some extraordinary discoveries. And that’s the case with the parable of the talents. The conventional take (Sunday School) is that it’s about not burying your talents, making the most of what God gave you, etc etc. But that’s based on a bit of a weird view of God, actually. And if you are willing to flip the script, and look at the parable through a political lens, all of a sudden it becomes a story about economic oppression and injustice. Surely the poor will always be with you…
Read this comic book version my pal Steve and I wrote years ago for A Pinch Of Salt Magazine, to see what I mean. Click the links to download or open the PDFs Talents Page One Talents Page Two
(For a deeper analysis of this stuff, and generally more of this kind of thing, seek out William Herzog’s “Parables as Subversive Speech.”)
Love the comic strip – it was “Parables as Subversive Speech” by Herzog that opened my eyes to the real meaning of this parable, and I preached about it last year. After all, no-one gets crucified for telling people to make the most of themselves!
That’s not what my Sunday School teachers told me… 😉 I wrote this for A Pinch Of Salt some years ago, but it still seems fresh, even though Herzog’s book was published in 1994!