Luke 19:11–27 (ESV)
11 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. 12 He said therefore, “A nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and then return. 13 Calling ten of his servants, he gave them ten minas, and said to them, ‘Engage in business until I come.’ 14 But his citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to reign over us.’ 15 When he returned, having received the kingdom, he ordered these servants to whom he had given the money to be called to him, that he might know what they had gained by doing business. 16 The first came before him, saying, ‘Lord, your mina has made ten minas more.’ 17 And he said to him, ‘Well done, good servant! Because you have been faithful in a very little, you shall have authority over ten cities.’ 18 And the second came, saying, ‘Lord, your mina has made five minas.’ 19 And he said to him, ‘And you are to be over five cities.’ 20 Then another came, saying, ‘Lord, here is your mina, which I kept laid away in a handkerchief; 21 for I was afraid of you, because you are a severe man. You take what you did not deposit, and reap what you did not sow.’ 22 He said to him, ‘I will condemn you with your own words, you wicked servant! You knew that I was a severe man, taking what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow? 23 Why then did you not put my money in the bank, and at my coming I might have collected it with interest?’ 24 And he said to those who stood by, ‘Take the mina from him, and give it to the one who has the ten minas.’ 25 And they said to him, ‘Lord, he has ten minas!’ 26 ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 27 But as for these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slaughter them before me.’ ”
“That’s so judgmental.” That’s often the response of my non-Christian friends who point to passages like this as their excuse for forgoing any serious exploration of faith in Christ.
And I get it. If we just read this one parable, it would seem to reinforce their conclusions. A nobleman goes to a distant land to inherit a kingdom and some of his own citizens oppose him.
Before he goes, he entrusts an equal sum of money to ten servants; not an exorbitant amount of money (unlike the parable in Matthew’s Gospel), but a mina each, something equivalent to a hundred days wages. Upon his return, he rewards each according to their use of the money entrusted to them. For the two who used their money faithfully, they are richly blessed. The one who did nothing with the money is relieved of his gift, but not punished.
And don’t forget those rebel citizens who represent the enemies of Jesus; they opposed the rule of the king and are slain before him.
Not easy stuff to hear.
At first blush, this parable would seem to reinforce the conclusions of those who feel that faith in Christ is all about judgment. In fact, and unfortunately, the parable is often regarded as a warning to do good things in this life and store them up for the day when we finally meet Jesus face to face. The conclusion that many jump to is that those who have done well will be blessed but those who haven’t done well will be in deep trouble. Feels judgmental.
The problem with jumping to that conclusion is that it doesn’t take into account the big picture of Jesus’ whole ministry that we’ve been exploring in Luke’s Gospel or the big picture that we see in the other Gospels as well. We must keep in mind the bigger picture of the Jesus who came to seek and save the lost, the Jesus who sat with sinners, tax collectors, the Jesus who touched the untouchable and welcomed those that were rejected. We must remember the Jesus who said that those on the liminal edges would be the ones to step into the kingdom of God while those religious leaders at the center were the ones in danger of missing out on everything.
So we have to keep the bigger picture in mind as we read and reflect on this passage. In keeping the context of what we’ve been reading and who Jesus is speaking to as He sits with Zacchaeus, then we have to understand that this parable is about Jesus and Israel…, and about simply being faithful.
In particular, it’s about the religious leaders who have been given everything; the Law of Moses, the Temple which is the sign of God’s presence among the people, the incredible upper story promises of how God would work and move through His people to bless them and through them, bless the entire world.
But what have they done with their great gifts? Like the third servant, they have buried their gifts in the ground. They’ve failed to use God’s gifts for God’s glory and in the process, they are missing the Messiah who is literally standing in their midst.
Who then are the other two servants? They are the ones who are responding to God’s love and grace revealed in Jesus and just simply acting in faith. They are responding by being missional disciples and sharing the Good News about God’s kingdom with everyone around them. They are the ones who are listening to and following Jesus as best they can; growing in their relationship with Him, taking risks, and constantly stepping out in faith as they’ve entrusted their lives to Jesus’ care.
The parable mentions nothing of their talents and abilities, just simply that they use their gifts faithfully. They could not anticipate the outcome of their actions done in faith, but they are astonished by the result and richly, lavishly, blessed.
The reward for faithful discipleship is not greater privilege for the disciple—a palace in paradise with servants and a harem, for instance. [Nor does it mean a heavier work load, rather they are] endowed with greater participation and responsibility in the Master’s reign. James Edwards
So here’s the thing we need to remember this morning; God lavishes His love and grace upon you each and every day and it is overflowing in your life. He has blessed you and given you gifts that He longs for you to use to be a blessing to others.
If we can understand that bigger picture of God’s love and grace then we can understand the longing, desire and expectation that the Lord has of us to respond in faith as His missional disciples.
God bless you and know that you are constantly in my prayers!
Luke 19:11–27 (ESV)