Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Occupy the Bible League [Part 2]

This is the continuation of the story started in part 1.

I encourage you to read part 1 if you have not done so already before jumping into the story in this post.

“Catch!”, Holmes yelled as he tossed a Bible in my direction. “Turn to Luke 19 and start reading in verse 11 if you would be so kind.”

I almost remarked about the Bible not being a KJV but thought better of it. The Bible I now held was an ESV and it read as follows:

As they heard these things, he proceeded to tell a parable, because he was near to Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately. He said therefore, “a nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and then return. Calling ten of his servants, he gave them ten minas, and said to them, ‘Engage in business until I come.'”

“Stop!” cried Holmes, which shocked me for I had barely started. “Why was Jesus telling this parable?”

I re-read the text to myself, then blurted that the crowds were expecting Jesus to bring about the long awaited Kingdom of God.

“Yes, and do you know when this event purports to take place?” asked Holmes. The headings surrounding the passage gave me all the clues I needed and even I was able to deduce that it was just prior to the “triumphal entry” when Jesus rode in Jerusalem on a donkey prior to being crucified.

“Right you are”, encouraged Holmes, “and what do we know of this event and those that follow”.

“Well, from what we know of the accounts of Jesus, his miracles and proclamation that the kingdom is at hand has raised Messianic expectations among the people. Now that Jesus is going into Jerusalem it is at a fever pitch. Yet 5 days later he will be crucified. 3 days after that He will rise from then dead and 40 days later He will ascend into heaven.” I shared. “We also know that Jesus has promised His disciples that He would return.”

“Well done”, Holmes remarked. “Now, you know my methods, dear Watson. Apply them here.”

Beaming, I continued “So examining these facts we can overlay them on the parable and note that Jesus and the nobleman both seem to follow the same pattern. They each charge their servants with tasks, leave them to carry them out, and promise to return. It would seem logical to further deduce that the nobleman likely represents Jesus, but that can not be. The article before us clearly lays out the charges of usury and mistreating the poor against the nobleman. Jesus would never be complicit in such crimes. ”

“We would seem to have found some holes in the story that calls the nobleman the villain” Holmes remarked “but let’s not draw conclusions to hastily. Let us examine how these charges against the nobleman withstand the facts before us  shall we my dear friend. Can you tell me what the nobleman has asked his servants to do?”

“Certainly”, I replied. “He charges his servants to do business.”

“And the goal of any business is what?”

“Why that is easy, to earn more than one has invested.”

“Now, Watson, is there anything wrong in this”?

“As a man who earns his living as a doctor I would venture not. For without a profit there is no ability to pay wages, put food on the table, or have anything to share with others”, I gushed.

“Right, but can a business earn that gain through any means”?

“Of course not”, I explained going into details about various laws and the need to pursue one’s living with integrity.

Hurrying me along, Holmes than pushed me to examine the facts before us asking how the first two servants  did in business. I explained that the first two did very well and earned the praise of the nobleman having turned their single mina into 10 and 5 minas apiece.

Holmes like a blood hound on the scent kept going, “and how did these servants earn such gains”?

“Loaning the money and charging unreasonably high interest rates, particularly taking advantage of the poor.”

“Where do we find that?” charged Holmes.

“According to Thistlethwaite … “, I started.

“No, where in our facts?” urged Holmes. “How did these servants earn their gains”?

I returned to the text and saw that my friend’s keen observation, which had picked up on so many things in our past cases had not failed him in this instance. I was stunned. After looking back over the parable it was evident that it did not tell us anything about how the servants made their gains. There was no mention of loans, interest rates, or even what business they engaged in.

Holmes pressed harder, “Now in what way has the nobleman or his servants defrauded the poor”?

The parable of course did not mention the way the nobleman or the servants treated the poor. No accounts of abuse. No fraud. No usury. Why the poor were not even a character in the parable.

“Given the facts such as they are”, laughed Holmes, “are we not equally able to assume that the nobleman and the servants invested their money well in a business that provided excellent products, and in turn shared much of their profits with the most needy while still having much to give to the nobleman when he returned. Certainly that charge has as much probability as those made by Thistlethwaite that they are greedy, covetous, and abusive to the poor”.

I had to agree that each were probable.

Holmes concluded, “Watson we have seen the charges against our nobleman crumble before the facts such that no jury could convict him, but let’s not finish before exploring this a bit further. Now let’s turn to Matthew 24 and …”

Interrupting Holmes, which I rarely do, I explained that he must be mistaken, which he rarely is. We had already established that the parable of the talents was in Matthew 25.

Barely containing himself, Holmes chuckled out loud “My dear Watson, don’t you know that the most important thing in solving a puzzle whether a crime or an interpretation of the Scriptures is the same”. He paused, waiting for me to answer.

“Attention to details”

“Yes. You’ve got it. The answer always lies in carefully observing the details and we have only looked at half the facts before us. Now we must turn to the context in which we find the parable of the talents for it is there that we will understand it best.”

“Now in Matthew 24, we find that Jesus is explaining to his disciples on the Mt. of Olives all the things that will take place at the end of the age. Why don’t you pick it up in verse 44…

Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.

“Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time?

Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions.

But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed,’ and begins to beat his fellow servants and eats and drinks with drunkards, the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know and will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

“Now as you can see this precedes our parable in question”, explained Holmes. “And who is the one commended”?

“Why, the servant who does what his master told him to do”, I replied.

“And the one condemned”?

“The servant who disobeys and takes advantage of those around him”.

“Now in either parable are the servants who turn a profit obeying their master or disobeying”?

Catching on to where Holmes was going it was clear that the two servants in both sets of parables had obeyed the nobleman. It was the third servant, our hero as it where, who was disobedient.

“Can you tell me more about the third servant’s actions”?

“Sure, like the third servant in Luke’s account he has not invested or used what he was given. Instead he hid it. When he was called to account, he called the nobleman a hard man and returned his money.”

“Does the third servant ever do anything use full with his money? Does he use his money to help the poor?” Holmes asked. The answer was an obvious no. He hid it in the ground where it did nothing for anyone.

Holmes interjected, “Can we not assume that this man is a coward or selfish hoarding his money for his own use rather than cast him as a hero standing up against corporate greed”? I knew the question needed no answer and so Holmes continued to examine the facts.

“And how did the nobleman respond to the third servant’s actions”?

Continuing I replied, “the nobleman rebuked the third servant calling him wicked and lazy. He then took the money from him and gave it to the first servant. Then casts the man into ‘outer darkness’ where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Holmes jumped in. “Notice Watson that the nobleman also suggests that at a minimum the servant should have invested the money in the bank to draw interest. This suggests that the other servants did not make their gains in this manner. Furthermore we can’t avoid the similarities in the fate of the wicked servant who preceded the parable and the third servant. No astute observer could miss it. Conversely one would have to be quite blind to miss the fact that the first two servants were rewarded in the parable with additional possessions and that would match the promise made prior to the parable to those who were faithful and wise. And what hearer given the established scene of either parable would see the third servant as the hero of the story. A parable is to make one think. Certainly being compared to hypocrites (a term Jesus uses to describe those he is most frustrated with) and to have all you own taken away, and then to be thrown out into a place that does not sound like club-med. Well I dare say, only a fool could want to be like that.”

“Well Holmes it seems that two assertions made in the article have fallen before the facts.”, I mused. “But what of both writers  claims that the point of the parables was about economics and ‘free markets’.”

“Let me ask you, Watson, do we see the ‘first shall be last’ anywhere in this passage as the ‘Occupy the Bible’ article claims”? I had to admit that in neither parable was this point being made, however I interjected that this ideas was something that Jesus had taught.

“Yes!”, remarked Holmes, “but we must stick to the facts before us. What is the concluding statement made in the parable where we often fine the main point emphasized”?

I had to admit that the point made in Luke 19:26 and Matthew 25:29 was that the one who has an abundance will be given more and the one who has only a little will have that taken away and given to those with more.

“Hardly the battle cry of the Occupy Wall Street movement”, bellowed Holmes as he got up to stretch and retrieve his violin guitar that sat across the room. “Jesus is not teaching about economics. No, He is just using these well known concepts to make a more important point.”

“Which is”? I asked.

“Come now Watson, even you must be able to put it together now. First there are two parables that are similar. One is the Parable of the Talents which is in Matthew. The other is the Parable of the Minas that appears in Luke. The story lines are similar and the point is generally the same. Both are teaching about the kingdom of God and not economic systems. In Luke it was to dampen the expectation that the kingdom of God was going to be inaugurated when Jesus reached Jerusalem. In Matthew it was to explain what Jesus expected of people while He was away preparing the kingdom that was anticipated. Both describe a time in which the Master has gone and has promised to return. While He is gone the servants are entrusted with resources and responsibilities.”

“Go on!”

“Jesus taught that same point in Luke 8:18 too. Saying in effect that we are given light as opposed to talents or minas. And we are to shine that light, warning us that ‘the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away’. The point is be we are to be alert and ready for the return of Jesus. We are to be found as faithful and wise servants doing what we have been entrusted and told to do. Be the light of the world. Or his ambassadors if you like. If we are lazy and disobedient we are not a hero we are foolish and will lose all we think we do have. Tragic.”

Holmes continued. “Thistlethwaite has certainly tried to occupy the Bible and impose her own demands and ideas onto it. She has done as much violence to the original meaning of these parables as many OWS protesters have done in our streets. Instead of occupying the Bible, and reading your world view into it, it would be far better to let the facts in the Bible occupy you and transform the way you think. Now dear Watson, be a good chap and settle in for a bit. I need to unwind and play a bit before Lestrade from the Yard arrives and collects these facts so that our true hero the nobleman may be released from these trumped up charges.”

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