Follow by Email

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Parables that comfort? or Subvert?

The habit of preaching from the New Testament without regard to the social context, theological assumptions and the cultural meanings that shape Jesus teaching was on rampant display in the sermon I heard this morning on Matthew 25: 14-30 on the parable of the talents. The parable was treated without regard for context and became an exhortation not to be afraid - in contrast to the third servant in the story.

Ched Myers is I think much closer to a reading of the text that has the bite and challenge of Jesus' teaching generally.

The notorious parable of the talents (pounds) shows how Sabbath perspective as an interpretive key can rescue us from a long tradition of both bad theology and bad economics (Matthew 25:14-30; Luke 19:11-28). This story has, in capitalist religion, been interpreted allegorically from the perspective of the cruel master (= God!), requiring spiritualizing gymnastics to rescue the story from its own depressing conclusion that haves will always triumph over the have-nots (Matthew 25:29). But it reads much more coherently when turned on its head and read as a cautionary tale of realism about the mercenary selfishness of the debt system. This reading understands the servant who refused to play the greedy master's money-market games as the hero who pays a high price for speaking truth to power (Matthew 25:24-30)—just as Jesus himself did. Jesus' "New Economy of Grace The biblical vision of Sabbath economics." by Ched Myers

Jesus did not get executed by the Roman empire because he went around telling stories encouraging us not to be afraid. There is a subversive edge to Myers' account that makes Jesus encounter with the powers that be and his own account of the parable plausible. Tellers of stories that are implicitly critical of exploitative economic practices and ironically endorse the whistleblower who refuses to go along with the game are likely to attract unfavourable attention to themselves.

No comments: