The devil you should know, oh ye faithful, is in the detail

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 04 November, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 04 November, 2010, 12:00am

Quoting from the Bible, [Father Thomas] Law said those who neglected the underprivileged 'will go away to eternal punishment, and the upright to eternal life'.

SCMP, November 3

Yes, it's straight from the Bible - Matthew 25, verse 46, good old fire-and-brimstone stuff and particularly notable here because Father Law is the one who stirred up controversy at Halloween by likening tycoon Li Ka-shing to the devil.

Matthew 25 is, of course, also the chapter of the famous Parable of Ten Talents, just a few verses before the bits Father Law quoted.

In this parable, as you may recall, Jesus tells the story of a master who praised one servant for returning a five talent profit on a five talent investment and another for returning a two talent profit on a two talent investment. But the master scorned a third servant who was given one talent and buried it so that he returned no profit at all.

You could at least have put it in the bank and collected interest, the master tells this third servant and orders the one talent taken away from him and given to the first servant - 'For to everyone who has will be given, and he will have more: but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away.'

Now I have never known quite what to make of this. A 100 per cent return on invested capital for trading assets was Jesus' idea of a target investment benchmark, was it, and not his definition of a gouge? Hmmm ... The rich will get richer and the poor will get poorer and that was alright with Jesus? Hmmm ... puzzling indeed.

One thing is certain, however, and it is that this parable gives no one grounds to find fault with Li Ka-shing. He used his talents to make his investment capital grow enormously. He is the parable's idea of a good and faithful servant.

But a priest who quotes Matthew 25 to cast aspersions on anyone for neglecting the underprivileged would, in charity, do well to ask if that person may not have heeded Jesus' earlier advice in Matthew 6, verse 3, to make donations privately - 'But when you give money, let not your left hand see what your right hand does.'

Actually, I don't think Mr Li heeds this injunction from the Sermon on the Mount. He tends to trumpet his charitable donations. They are many.

Seems to me you owe him an apology, Father Law.

'In the future we will continue to perfect, according to the principles of autonomy, controllability and progressiveness, our floating and regulated exchange rate system to make the laws of supply and demand work better and increase the yuan's flexibility, to maintain a relative stability of our currency at a fair and balanced level.' [President Hu Jintao]

Reuters in Paris,

SCMP November 3

Bottle of Scotch to the first person who can tell me, in any language, what this means.

Hong Kong is in the running to host its biggest ever global sporting event - the 2015 Fina World Aquatics Championships - if the government will help.

SCMP, November 3

Ever hear of a spectator sport event that isn't the world's biggest in some way?

We'll be trumpeting the men's 50-metre cross-country ski 45-calibre pistol shoot next or some variant of synchronised swimming.

But this event will cost the public purse only HK$300 million, which is less than 100th of the estimated cost of hosting the Asian Games, says the secretary of Hong Kong Amateur Swimming Association, Ronnie Wong Man-chiu.

Thank you, Mr Wong, for making plain to us again why we do not wish to host the Asian Games. But here is an idea for you. Could you please slip me HK$3 million? If you think HK$300 million is next to nothing compared to more than HK$30 billion for the Asian Games then surely HK$3 million is absolutely nothing at all compared to next to nothing. Cash, thank you, it's simpler.

Mind you, I think we can be confident that the cost to the public purse would be a good deal more than HK$300 million. The word 'exponential' has its uses in these sporting contexts.

And the biggest loss isn't even the money. It is that yet more of our one remaining green lung in Causeway Bay, Victoria Park, is carved away for concrete sporting venues purpose-built for the professional sports lobby and happily discarded once they have fulfilled their single-use purposes.

Tell them 'No', Donald. Let's have an end to this waste.