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Episode 152 – How long can you tread water?

Money, money, money… Bobby and Jordan discuss the latest developments in the Ballard scandal including the privacy of tithing records and how this all relates to the parable of the talents and the treasures in the heavens.

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The element of opposition necessary for such a test is provided by the Adversary, who in the beginning openly mocked God’s Plan and set up his own plan in opposition to it. Being cast out of heaven with his followers by main force, he continues upon this earth during the set time allowed him by God’s Plan (for the irony of his situation is that he is Mephistopheles, unwillingly if not unwittingly contributing to the operation of that Plan) attempting to wreck the whole enterprise by drawing off as many spirits and as much material as possible into his own camp. The Devil and his hosts claim the Treasure for their own and attempt to pirate the treasure-ships that cruise between the worlds, and use the loot in the outfitting of their own dark worlds.A neglected Leitmotif of the New Testament is the continuation on earth of the personal feud between the Lord and the Adversary begun at the foundation of the world: from the first each recognizes the other as his old opponent and rival; they are matched at every point—each claims identical gifts, ordinances, signs and wonders, each has his doctrine and his glory and his plan for the future of the race. Above all, each claims to possess the Treasure, the Lord promising Treasures in the heavens while the Adversary offers a clever, glittering earthly imitation: it is the choice between these treasures (for no man can have both) that is a man’s real test here upon the earth, determining his place hereafter. It is the “Poor” who recognize and seek the true treasures, since they who are “rich as to the things of this world” have deliberately chosen the fraudulent imitation.

In coming to earth each man leaves his particular treasure, or his share of the Treasure, behind him in heaven, safely kept in trust (“under God’s throne”) awaiting his return. One has here below the opportunity of enhancing one’s treasure in heaven by meritorious actions, and also the risk of losing it entirely by neglecting it in his search for earthly treasure. Hence the passionate appeals to men to remember their tremendous stake on the other side and “not to defraud themselves of the glory that awaits them” by seeking the things of the world. To make the “treasure” test a fair one, the two treasures are placed before us on an equal footing (the doctrine of the Two Ways), their two natures being mingled in exactly equal portions in every human being. To neutralize what would otherwise be the overpowering appeal of the heavenly treasure, the memory of its former glories has been erased from the mind of man, which is thus in a state of equilibrium, enjoying by “the ancient law of liberty” complete freedom to choose whatever it will. In this state, whatever choice is made represents the true heart and mind of the one who makes it. What conditions the Elect to make the right choice is no unfair advantage of instruction—for all men are aware of the issues involved—but a besetting nostalgia, a constant vague yearning for one’s distant Treasure and happy heavenly home. This theme, akin to the Platonic doctrine of anamnesis, runs through all the Apocrypha and Scriptures; it is beautifully expressed in the Hymn of the Pearl from the Acts of Thomas.

Hugh Nibley – Treasures in the Heavens

Also Referenced in the Podcast


  1. TBM
    TBM November 7, 2023

    “Best of the Best” at Ensign Peak? To get the best of the best you have to pay the best…which seems unlikely. But why would an inspired corporation need The Best when they have inspiration?
    Great book BTW.

  2. Rebe
    Rebe November 9, 2023

    Rebe…pronounced Ree-bee.
    The Church used to teach that the parable of the Talents was not about money. I have gone back and looked at past conference talks and manuals and they used to say the parable isn’t about gifts the Lord blesses you with. I was taught in Seminary, one hundred years ago, that it was about spiritual gifts we are each given.
    Well, that has changed since the Church has been caught hoarding and hiding money. In 2019, a former employee of the Church’s investment arm filed an IRS complaint against the Church.
    The Church, in their response, used the parable of the Talents as their basis for what they were doing. Here is a quote from the article with the Church’s response:
    “We take seriously the responsibility to care for the tithes and donations received from members. The vast majority of these funds are used immediately to meet the needs of the growing church including more meetinghouses, temples, education, humanitarian work and missionary efforts throughout the world. Over many years, a portion is methodically safeguarded through wise financial management and the building of a prudent reserve for the future. This is a sound doctrinal and financial principle taught by the Savior in the Parable of the Talents and lived by the church and its members. All church funds exist for no other reason than to support the church’s divinely appointed mission.”
    A simple search from before the last 5 or 6 years you will find talks, articles, lessons, etc…from the Church about this parable and each one says it’s about gifts the Lord gives you.
    It’s a parable for heavens sake. It’s going to have a symbolic meaning. But I guess now this one parable is literal, according to the powers that be.

    You can read the article from the Deseret News here:

  3. Rebe
    Rebe November 9, 2023

    ***oops…I made an error. The second sentence should say, “I have gone back and looked at past conference talks and manuals, and they used to say the parable is about gifts the Lord blesses you with.”

  4. I play the radio
    I play the radio November 9, 2023

    “Oh, so you’re gonna go to the words of dead prophets?”

    “Oh Babylon, oh Babylon, we bid thee hello”

  5. Logonbump
    Logonbump November 27, 2023

    Another interpretation of the parable that came up on our forum this month:

    It is convenient that the unit of money used in this parable gets transliterated as “talent.” So we don’t have to talk about money; we can just talk about our talents and how we should use them and not bury them—because surely we all want to enter into the joy of our master—God.

    Of course, it’s hard to maintain this allegory when we get to that troubling part at the end where the master says, “To whoever already has more will be given and to those who do not have, even what they do have will be taken away.” Also the wailing and gnashing of teeth.

    We get stuck in this story. But the rural peasants that worked with Ernesto Calderon in Nicaragua immediately recognized this as a story of exploitation. This master is not God, he is a wealthy elite—therefore an oppressor–and the first two slaves are his henchmen.

    If we take a step back from the hyper-capitalism of our culture, we can see that they are right. I mean really, how does one earn 100% interest? If our church treasurer announced that our investments had doubled this year, we should have a lot of questions. Like which horses did we bet on? Or what kind of drugs are we selling? Or how old are the children working the off-shore factory? Because there is really no secure and ethical way to make that kind of a profit.

    Likewise in the first century. The peasants listening to Jesus knew how those first two servants made such impressive returns. They loaned money to subsistence farmers at exorbitant interest rates. This practice was the mechanism that made the rich richer and the poor poorer.

    This type of economic exploitation assured that those who already had a lot would get more and those who had next to nothing would loose even what they had—to the point of having to sell themselves and their family members into slavery.

    These first two slaves can only be seen in a positive light if we view the master as good—a stand-in for God. That is, of course, the conclusion we jump to, but all we really know about this master is that he reaps where he has not sown and gathers where he has not scattered seed. The third slave accuses him of this, and he doesn’t deny it.

    To a good capitalist, this description can be read as a commendation. He is efficient, industrious, a good businessman. But to rural peasants, he is just a thief. He is taking the crops that they have planted and tended. He is selling those crops to buy unnecessary luxury items for himself while the ones who grow the food live on the brink of starvation.

    In reality, it is the third slave who is to be commended. We know this slave had been a trusted member of the master’s household because the master gives him a talent—estimated by some to be the equivalent of fifteen year’s wages. But this time, for some reason, the slave decided not to participate in the oppressive economic system that had supported him all these years.

    I wonder why. I wonder why, this time, he followed Jewish teaching and buried the money rather than doing what he knew was expected of him. I wonder why, this time, he chose to stand up to the oppressive master?

    We don’t know because that’s not part of the story. We only know the consequence of his action. He was thrown into the darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. He is completely cut off from his community and from any means of supporting himself. He is, essentially, given a death sentence.

    While we Westerners fumble about with our discussions of talents and responsibility, our Christian siblings living as subsistence farmers in Nicaragua and other parts of the world know that Jesus is simply talking about harsh economic reality. He’s talking about the judgments of this world. About how strong the pressure is to live out the values of the wealthy and powerful, even when those values are counter to the ways of peace and justice demanded by God. And Jesus is talking about the consequences of not living up to those worldly expectations.

    It’s not a pleasant story. And it’s no wonder we like to read it as if it is about singing in church instead of about money and power.

    When we look at it from the perspective of the peasants, we have to wonder why Jesus even told this parable. How is this possibly good news? To find the good news, we have to keep reading. And preferably in Greek, because the English translations leave out the word “but” in verse 31.

    The earthly master throws out the justice-conscious slave, but “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.”

    And we know this part, right. We like this part. Jesus welcomes into God’s kingdom all those who have fed the hungry, clothed the naked, cared for the sick, welcomed the stranger. When the Son of Man judges people, it is the third servant who will be welcomed by God and will receive his inheritance—greater riches than those taken from him by his earthly master. While the master and his henchmen will be cast out of God’s presence.

    Taken together, these stories contrast the judgment of God with the judgment of the world. I realize that judgment doesn’t sound like good news. The judgment of the master surely isn’t. But, says Jesus, the judgment of God is not like the judgments of the world. God’s judgment is not based on a dollar figure or a ranking of your effectiveness and productivity.

    The judgments of God are based on relationships. Did you feed me? Did you visit me? When you finally figured it out, did you refuse to participate in the exploitation of the poor? God’s judgment is about the condition of our relationship to others in the world.

    This is good news for our immortal souls. And this is good news for our earthly lives.

    By looking further in the biblical text, we see the good news of God’s judgment. If we look further in the parable itself, maybe we will see more good news–another ending. The third slave is thrown into the darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth; at least that’s what the master imagines. But maybe the master is wrong.

    Maybe that third slave has fed farmers who were hungry and provided clothes for those who needed them and visited them when they were sick. And so maybe, when the third slave is cast out into the darkness, there are people waiting with lamps lit to welcome him into their homes. Maybe instead of weeping and gnashing of teeth there is singing and food and laughter that the master, with all his wealth, will never know.

    This post is adapted from a sermon preached October 28, 2007, at Peace Mennonite Church, Lawrence, KS.

    • nickelaus
      nickelaus December 10, 2023

      That’s an interesting take on the parable. I did some further reading and a comment from this article ( ) opened my eyes a bit: the parable was likely given right before ( as it recorded in Matthew) the one on sheep and goats… was it meant to contrast what criteria an earthly king uses to reward his servants vs what a Heavenly King uses?

      Seems to me that you are spot on. The real context is found in Matthew. The version of the parable in Luke has lost its context, thus distorting the meaning. In Matthew, this parable is connected to the ‘sheep and goats’ story, and in my view these are both part of the same story. The point here is to contrast how an EARTHLY king rewards his servants with money for their earthly striving and scraping, with the way that the HEAVENLY KING rewards His servants with Eternal Life for helping ‘the least of these’. The master who goes away ‘to get royal power for himself’ bears a STRIKING resemblance to one Herod Archelaus.

  6. Logonbump
    Logonbump December 11, 2023

    I heard about your podcast from our forum. A user named Ebenezer mentioned you all twice, in the context of podcasts.

    My bro Nikelaus heard about the show from myself.

    Now that you’ve linked me to the forum in question “on air,” how about reaching out to me and giving me your handle(s), so we’re on level ground?
    Thx Bros Bruno and Flood!

  7. Bobby Fludd
    Bobby Fludd December 12, 2023

    Bobby Fludd is “Ebenezer.”

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