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The other day I was re-reading the parable of the talents, a story that has always troubled me. You know the tale Jesus tells, of three people given five, two and one talent respectively by their master. The first and the second individuals invest well, doubling the master's money and are duly rewarded. The third man however, fearing risk of loss, hides the one talent and returns it, wherein he is punished for not earning any return on investment.


Here is where I'm perturbed. Obviously first century Jesus was living in a time of a bull market. You invest, the Dow rises, and you make money hand over fist. Suppose the market collapsed however. So in the parable the two men tell their master, "The market fell and your initial investment has been wiped out."  Somehow I doubt they reap any reward. The third man, who hid the talent in a napkin, thereby preserving his master's wealth, now looks like a hero.


Surely, the moral of the story can't be that salvation is dependent on the whims of the free market economy. If so, I imagine Herbert Hoover is roasting in the fires of hell as I write this. More to the point, all those smug MBA people are probably already counting on their heavenly reward. This latter point is sad, not only because most of us do not have MBA's, but also because it's bad enough when the arrogant inherit the earth--but heaven too?  Come on!


So where does that leave us?  I just re-read the parable a third time. It could be the moral is that Jesus knows what's in our hearts. So acting positively and wisely is rewarded, whereas sloth is not. That's good news if it means purity of intent will be the determining factor when we meet St. Peter at the pearly gates. In that case, then there's hope for us all.


But just to be on the safe side, I'm going to the library later, to take out "Investing for Dummies."


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