In Mt 13:44-46, as Jesus tells it:
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up, then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys the field.
“Again the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.”
As Fr Percy explains; “The force of the parable hinges on two things. The goodness of the work of merchants in and of itself is the first of these. Christ affirms the work of merchants. Why would He have used the example if He did not? Second, the parable depends on the recognition of this goodness by those who hear the parable. His audience must have had some knowledge of what constituted the work of a merchant and have had an experience of the goodness of this work. Without these two realities, the truth of the parable remains ineffectual.
In the parable of the talents, Jesus lauds the servant who has multiplied talents – “For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Mt 25: 14-30). Christ certainly praised the wise use of the fundamental right of economic initiative and prudence in this parable.
- “There is the emphasis on the ‘talent’, which is a measure of value.
- “The trading activity of the two stewards is important. Christ praises them for the energy, alertness, and perseverance they demonstrate in making a truly significant profit (they have doubled the original sum). There is a reference to accountability which is crucial to any business.
- “Then the nuanced criticism of fear: ‘I was afraid, and I went off and hid your talent in the ground.’ This fear leads the lazy steward to avoid the risks and obstacles that are a key part of entrepreneurial work.
- “There is the clear reference to the financial system. The lazy steward at least could have placed the ‘money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest.’ ”
“We can this affirm unambiguously that Jesus Christ ‘looks with love on upon human work’ and that the work of the merchant – the businessman or the entrepreneur – is one of the ‘different forms’ of work that is affirmed. The parable of the talents makes this clear by its reference to money, trading, risk taking and banking.”
Entrepreneurship in the Catholic Tradition, Fr Anthony G Percy, Lexington Books, 2010, p 48-49].
Free enterprise and entrepreneurship have been lauded first by Christ in the Parables of the Dishonest Steward and The Talents, and by the Fathers of the Church, and by Popes in Centesimus Annus and Caritas in Veritate.