Homily on the parable of the talents
Matthew 25:14â€“30 (â‰ˆ Luke 19:12â€“27)
I walk down High Street and I see a sign: â€˜Good news! Your debts paid â€“ free of charge.â€™ If I see it in a bank window, I might well think of alerting the Financial Services Authority and the Advertising Standards Authority. But if it says â€˜Jesus pays for my debt, and yours too! Come in for the Good News!â€™ in a church window like ours, I might not think twice. Well, maybe it is time to think twice! Maybe such statements need to be considered not just metaphorically, but literally.
What about todayâ€™s reading? If I wanted bad news, it is not difficult to find them in the newspapers. When I want good news, I find it from Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. But where is the good news in todayâ€™s parable? The weeping and gnashing of teeth do not sound like it. I struggle to look for the good news, whilst reading the bad news from the newspapers â€“ banks are not lending to each other, and to people who need loans. Then the masterâ€™s suggestion to the third slave of investing in â€“ or lending to â€“ the banks almost sound like the macroeconomic prescriptions from the ilk of the Governor of the Bank of England, Mervin King and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Alistair Darling: â€˜We gave you all these billions of pounds, now go get it moving out there!â€™
Maybe the good news lies in this suggestion: Money is not at all useful if buried in the ground, but â€“ in the idea of John Maynard Keynes and many others â€“ the worst thing you can do with money is accumulate it and not spend it, not to give it away or get it moving somehow. Remember that dishonest manager in the other parable? He earned his masterâ€™s praise by cancelling debts … and he made lots of friends in the process!
Now back to High Street. This Thursday at Church Meeting, we were asked to consider an interest-free loan of five thousand pounds to the Oxford Credit Union. It was indeed a difficult decision to make, and I am sorry that I was not here with the Church Meeting in your deliberations. Well, since it is interest-free, we might not do as well financially as the first and second slaves in the parable, who got twice the money they started with. But with the support we are already giving to the Oxford Credit Union … plus our future support, in whatever form … we hope the Body of Christ is literally helping some people in Oxford manage their money and their debts in a better way. So maybe the message of the Cross, the message of this bread and this wine, is worth sticking up in a church window after all. Maybe it can withstand the scrutiny of the Advertising Standards Authority after all. â€˜Jesus pays for my debt, and yours too! Come in for the Good News!â€™
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