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The parable of the talents must be (amongst churchies) one of the most popular of all the parables of Jesus. Churchies are quick to point out that it is a parable about someone investing money and getting more money back. This is right down their alley, and they assume that Jesus must be supporting the concept of working for money by teaching it.

But, of course, a parable is a parable, and not a model for anyone to follow literally. (Isn't it strange how they continually damn us for taking Jesus literally when he was obviously talking literally, and yet they are the first ones to become literal if they think they have found something to support working for money?)

The parable appears in Matthew 25:14-30. It really is a wonderful parable, when we have even a modicum of hunger for the sincere truth of what it is saying. Jesus starts by saying, "The kingdom of heaven is like..." This is the indication that it is a parable. He is not saying that the kingdom of heaven IS a simple matter of making money. Rather, he is saying that there is some kind of a similarity between principles in the kingdom of heaven and the kind of material principles illustrated in the parable.

So what principles are being illustrated in the parable? Basically, people are being asked to look after something, in the absence of the person who has gone "into a far country". Assuming that Jesus is the person who has gone away, and we are the people who have been entrusted with something, the big question becomes, "What has he left us in charge of?" The system answer is "money" (or the means to make money). Both answers (money and the means to make it) are consistent with the word "talent", since it was a word for money in those days, and it is also a word for something that can be used to MAKE money in our modern vocabulary.

But, of course, what God has entrusted us with are "true (spiritual) riches", which are not the money or the jobs (i.e. the means to make money) that so fill the attention of systemites. His true riches are the teachings of Jesus and the promptings of the Holy Spirit. So Jesus is saying, through the parable, that we need to give serious thought to what we are doing with the wonderful blessing of his teachings and his Spirit.

Notice that the other issue of importance in the parable is one of "risk". In the parable, the people who get out there and take a few risks are actually rewarded for it. The villain, on the other hand, is not only rebuked for having failed to take any risks, but he is actually "cast into outer darkness" where there is "weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth"... and all because he tried to play it safe. Where he is sent, by the way, is a description of what we traditionally call hell.

This aspect of the story, in itself, contradicts the churchy teaching that you don't have to do anything to get to heaven, that Jesus has done it all for you. The gospels, of course, are full of stories about people being punished severely and often eternally for NOT doing things. So you have to wonder what Bible the churchies are reading to have concluded that Jesus doesn't require discipline from his followers, and that he would never consign anyone to hell for disobedience.

The parable says that the man who goes into a far country (Jesus) is an "austere" man, exercising strong discipline. Even the bad guy knew that. But his "safe" alternative was to do nothing. And this illustrates a far-ranging and extremely serious flaw in religious thinking, which is that, if you do nothing, you have done nothing wrong. This is the thinking behind the entire anti-cult mentality. Everyone is looking for a safe, lukewarm, risk-free church, where they can be guaranteed salvation entirely on the grounds that they have done nothing so radical as to risk being called a heretic. This obsession with orthodoxy is precisely the sort of thing that Jesus was ATTACKING with his parable about the talents.

Obviously it was risky to follow Jesus. It was physically dangerous, as history has shown. Virtually all of his first followers met early deaths because of the extreme hatred that the system had for what they were saying. (How does THAT compare with your supposedly "safe" churches today?) So that was a physical risk. But there was also the risk of genuinely falling for some religious heresy, and thus displeasing God in the process. Jesus, for example, dared to contradict Moses with regard to divorce, he dared to at least appear to be breaking the law about sabbath observances, he dared to condemn the entire religious establishment (despite the fact that there were probably exceptions), and he dared to associate with (and even commend) people who were notoriously "off" in their religious beliefs. Aren't these exactly the sort of things that the church world lives in fear of doing today?

The anti-cult mentality tries to avoid all contact with any form of extreme religious belief, and to align itself as much as possible with the mainstream of Christianity. An illustration of this is the shock that a so-called cult expert in Australia (David Millikan) showed about The Family encouraging people to masturbate, at the same time that he showed no concern at all about his own denomination (The Uniting Church) supporting homosexuality and adultery. He also condemned (on national television) us Jesus Christians as teaching "self-mutilation" because a number of our members donated kidneys to people to save their lives. The guy is obviously wrong, but the point I am making here is that openly teaching that masturbation is not sinful, or donating a kidney to save someone's life, both constitute things that are not "normally" taught by churches. The non-risk-takers are scared of ANYTHING that is different. Normalcy is their only hope of salvation. And so they are more or less obligated to condemn anything that is different, as Millikan has done.

But where does such conformity and mediocrity get you? It gets you right in line behind the guy who was sent into outer darkness, where there is weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth. Is that really where you want to go? If not, then determine, right now, to stop taking the "safe" way and to start listening to a few alternatives to mediocrity. You may make some mistakes, but overall you will grow spiritually. And far from being damned for doing that, you will be rewarded eternally.

(See also The Reno Principle)

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