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Thought for the Day

If they aren't preaching the Parable of the Talents* from pulpits across Canberra this Sunday, then they are, quite literally, missing out on a golden opportunity.

Let's take a moment to consider its relevance.

A master (the Bible doesn't give any of these guys names, but let's call him John, because that's a good biblical name) has three servants. To the first (let's call him Brendan, because what story doesn't work better with at least a hint of an Irishman in it?) the master gives five talents,** or gold coins, which the servant proceeds to fritter away. As the Hebrew version of the tale has it, he wastes them on harlots and flute-girls, but in the modern context he might as well have wasted them on a revolving series of unpopular pursuits, and for this he was banished to the darkness, or, again in a modern context, consigned to a museum.

The master's second servant (let's call him Anthony, just for fun) is given two talents, which he invests, presumably in some form of profitable local business - the parable is annoyingly vague in this regard, but it must have been something with capitalist merit, because he eventually returns the master's money with a modest amount of interest.

The third servant (let's call him Malcolm, because that's a nice name after all), not wishing to fall foul of his master (as did the first servant), yet not wishing to risk his stake (as did the second), buries his talent like coal in the ground, and refuses to put it to any use. When the master demands it back, he hands it over, but without profit or gain to either of them.

Now, let's replace the word 'talent' (because, let's be honest, there's entirely too much of it going around to make this a believable story in a modern political context, isn't there?) with the phrase 'popular support', and run through a quick summary, just to be sure we're all on the same page ...

John, who was and is a master at this game, passes a considerable amount of popular support to Brendan, who wastes it. John then gives a significantly lessened amount of public support to Anthony, who focuses it on buisiness, with some small success. Finally, John gives what public support he has left to Malcolm, who is so afraid of losing it that he refuses to do anything with it.

Does any of this sound familiar? You'd have to think it could to Canberra congregations this Sunday.

Of course, a week is a long time in politics. Come Sunday, it may be more appropriate to look at the Parable of the Prodigal Son, if you're Anthony at least, and you think you're likely to be welcomed back with open arms, all sins forgiven, and a banquet laid out before you.

Or, if you're Malcolm, and you've made it that far, you might be more comfortable contemplating the resurrection of Lazarus, and reflecting that not all dead men walking find their way into a ready dug grave.

And if you're a newcomer to this tale (we're running out of names here, but ok, if you're a newcomer, let's call you Peter), you might benefit from a brief meditation on the tableau of Christ nailed on the cross between two sinners. Heaven knows, even if you thought you were the Second Coming itself, there seems little chance of avoiding a messy and very public crucifixion in the weeks and months ahead, after all.

But what if you're John, the old Church Father and master. Don't you think you'd be tempted to spend your Sunday morning contemplating a piece of Old Testament wisdom from the Book of Micah, where it states that a man's enemies are most often members of his own household? There may have been truer words written, but as the old man looks down on the biblical mess that is the modern Liberal Party this weekend, I doubt he will find any more that are more appropriate, or more telling.


* There are effectively three versions of the Parable of the Talents. For no better reason than the fact that it involves harlots and flute-girls, both of which are sadly lacking in the other two versions, let's settle on the one that's told in the Gospel of the Hebrews. The gist is the same in all three, as are the substantive outcomes.

** If you thought Imperial measurements were bad, welcome to the Bible, where you'll find 60 shekels in a mina, and 60 mina in a talent, which itself could be made of either gold or silver. A gold talent weighed approximately 33kg, which, with gold valued at roughly US$ 39,000 per kilo today, would equate to US$ 1,287,000 per talent - a decent pay day, in other words.

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