I want to share another story that Jesus thought important enough to share with his disciples, and his disciples thought important enough to share with us.
Oftentimes, people look at Jesus’ life and example and teachings and figure that he meant we should all give up all our money so that government bureaucrats can spend it better than us. I want to share a story that should put to rest, once and for all, that Jesus was a capitalist, and one of the meanest that ever lived. If we were to put his teaching into practice at the government level, it would mean confiscating property from the poor and distributing it to the richest among us, while putting those who are able to produce in charge of the entire nation.
The story is found in Matthew 25:14-30. In summary, the master left town, entrusting one of his servants with 5 talents, another with 2, and another with only 1. Each talent, by the way, is about the same as 3 bars of gold. In today’s money, that’s about $7 million for the first, $3 million for the second, and only $1.5 million for the last.
The first servant works his butt of and makes 5 more talents, totaling 10. The second does the same, and doubles his money as well. The third, however, buries his talent.
When the master returns, he demands a report from his servants. The first and second share their success, and the master blesses them promising to make them rulers over many things, along with the joy of the lord.
The last servant, however, blames the master for being “hard”–taking food he didn’t grow. The master is upset with him, calling him “wicked” and casting him out to “outer darkness”. Then he takes the single talent he had and gives it to the first servant.
The lesson isn’t hard to understand on a personal level. In the end, there will be a reckoning and if we can’t show the Lord that we took what we were given and multiplied it, then he isn’t going to be happy with us.
If you apply the same lesson to government, however, then the lesson takes on an entirely new meaning.
To begin with, we could have a policy where we simply give people things. Thomas Paine, the author of a book that lead to popular support of the revolution (although he was considered an intellectual lightweight by our Founding Fathers because of his proclivity towards socialism) imagined a world where everyone born in our country would receive a plot of land to call their own at the hands of government.
But the next step is the awful part that socialists and liberals won’t like. Then comes the day of reckoning, where we have to show the government whether we improved upon what we were given. If we did, then we are put in charge as a ruler. If not, then we have that which we were given taken away and given to the richest among us.
Of course, no one is seriously proposing any such policy as this. Those who understand enough scripture to know that Jesus was no socialist understand that his teachings simply do not influence much more than how we handle our personal affairs. Those who don’t understand much and insist Jesus was a socialist conveniently skip this particular parable.
Only once do I recall Rush Limbaugh jokingly refer to a similar policy. He called it, “Tax the Poor.” If you tax the poor, he suggested, then no one would be poor. Everyone would move heaven and earth to move out of the poor tax bracket.
But there is a certain wisdom here, at least for our personal lives. If I am put in charge of some of God’s green earth, and I hire people to work for me, you’d better be certain that I will make sure I keep those who prove themselves worthy and kick the rest out. When I kick them out, I give the responsibilities of those who leave to those who have the most responsibility, because they have already shown themselves capable.
Looking at it from that level, doesn’t that teach us what we need to do? Take on responsibilities, make sure that we are profitable in all we do, and above all else, don’t act like the last servant!