Posted by: mattcolvin | November 25, 2011

Luke 19:11-27: Not a Progressive Parable


Saturday of the 22nd week after Trinity: Luke 19:11-27.

This is actually a modified version of an earlier post:

Progressives and political liberals must hate this proverb of the ten minas. It is anti-democratic and opposed to popular self-determination: The lord goes to a far country to receive a kingdom, and the people send an embassy after him to say that they do not want him to rule over them. (19:14)

It is also arbitrary and regressive in the distribution of the means of production: the lord gives out a total of 16 minas, but rather than giving 5 or 6 to each of his 3 servants, he gives 10 to one servant, 5 to another, and a pitiful 1 to a third.

The two servants who invest the minas reap profit and do not appear to pay any capital gains taxes. The one who had the single mina is blamed for not investing it with the bankers (literally, “on the table”, ἐπὶ τράπεζαν, since the bankers, like the moneychangers in the Temple, operated at tables) so that the lord might have received it back “with interest” (19:23) Amusingly, the word for “interest” (on money) is τόκος, which literally means “offspring”. The medieval objection to usury was that money, unlike livestock or crops, is sterile, unable to reproduce itself. The metaphor behind the Greek word for interest indicates that someone in that culture agreed with Calvin (who said that money is fruitful) over against Aristotle.

The one who had little fails to invest, merely hiding the money in a napkin (σουδαρίον, 19:20). His reward for this failing is that his mina is taken away and given — here the Democrats would be furious — to the one who had 10 minas!

Even the servants whom the master commands to carry out this most regressive of wealth redistributions are taken aback and interject with the obvious objection: “Lord, he has ten minas!” (19:25) What could he need another for?

To crown all, the fat-cat investors who turned 10 minas into 20 and 5 minas into 10 are given charge over cities!

What morals can we draw from the the story? Just as in real life, the financial elites end up ruling the politics of the world. The rich get richer. The poor get poorer. And those who wanted the unfair lord not to rule over them? For wishing for this regime change, they are brought out and slaughtered before him.

Not at all an enlightened, progressive parable. Marx says, “From each according to his ability, to each according to his means.” But Jesus says, “To everyone who has will be given; and from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.”


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