“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us – whatever we ask – we know that we have what we asked of him.”I John 5:14, 15
Risk is woven into the fabric of our finite lives. We cannot avoid risk even if we want to. [Certainty] is a mirage. It doesn’t exist. Every direction you turn there are unknowns and things beyond your control. The tragic hypocrisy is that the enchantment of security lets us take risks every day for ourselves, but paralyzes us from taking risks for others on the Calvary road of love. We are deluded and think that it may jeopardize a security that in fact does not even exist. If our single, all-embracing passion is to make much of Christ in life and death, and if the life that magnifies him most is the life of costly love, then life is risk, and risk is right. To run from it is to waste your life.
– John Piper, Don’t Waste Your Life
11While they were listening to this, he went on to tell them a parable, because he was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once. 12He said: “A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return. 13So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas. ‘Put this money to work,’ he said, ‘until I come back.’
14“But his subjects hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, ‘We don’t want this man to be our king.’
15“He was made king, however, and returned home. Then he sent for the servants to whom he had given the money, in order to find out what they had gained with it.
16“The first one came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has earned ten more.’
17” ‘Well done, my good servant!’ his master replied. ‘Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.’
18“The second came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has earned five more.’
19“His master answered, ‘You take charge of five cities.’
20“Then another servant came and said, ‘Sir, here is your mina; I have kept it laid away in a piece of cloth. 21I was afraid of you, because you are a hard man. You take out what you did not put in and reap what you did not sow.’
22“His master replied, ‘I will judge you by your own words, you wicked servant! You knew, did you, that I am a hard man, taking out what I did not put in, and reaping what I did not sow? 23Why then didn’t you put my money on deposit, so that when I came back, I could have collected it with interest?’
24“Then he said to those standing by, ‘Take his mina away from him and give it to the one who has ten minas.’
25” ‘Sir,’ they said, ‘he already has ten!’
26“He replied, ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what he has will be taken away. 27But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them—bring them here and kill them in front of me.”Luke 19:11-27
Jesus’ teaching here appears to take place in the house of his new follower Zacchaeus (the passage begins with, “While they were listening to this, he went on to tell them a parable . . .”) where he has just said, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”
In this last statement Jesus makes – after declaring that salvation has come to Zacchaeus’ house – he is describing his mission in Jerusalem. While this statement of Jesus is often paraphrased to something like, “Jesus came to seek and save the lost,” his actual words likely refer to the broader scope of his mandate from the Father. In taking on the sin of the world on the cross in Jerusalem, he creates the way for humanity to enter back into intimate relationship with God as fully righteous sons and daughters and heirs to his kingdom.
The passage describes the context and Jesus’ reason for telling the parable as, “because he was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once.” Again, Jesus must reset the expectations of both his followers and those waiting for the arrival of a Messiah to liberate and restore the nation of Israel. While Jesus is indeed the ultimate conquering, liberating king (conquering sin and death and setting all those who believe in him free for all time), his life of humble sacrifice does not mesh the with image of a forceful and dominant ruler likely expected by the Jews. In contrast to expectations, the kingdom of God will not come all “at once,” as noted. It will grow and spread over time by Spirit’s work through followers of Jesus.
The parable begins with the description of a nobleman about to leave on a journey to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then return to rule over the land. Before leaving, he calls ten of his servants together and gives them each an equal amount of money to invest and earn a return until he comes back.
The passage notes that his subjects hated him and sent a delegation after him to inform him that they did not want him to be their king. It is interesting that they waited to confront him with this until he was already underway on his journey to be crowned. Perhaps they were hoping he would never return and choose to stay in the distant country. But the man is made king and does indeed return. Each of the servants is now called before him to give account of what they have done with the mina they have individually been entrusted with.
The first servant reports that he has earned ten minas with the one he was given to invest. The king says, “Well done, my good servant! Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.” The second servant, having earned five minas with the one he was given, is similarly commended and given charge over five cities.
The third servant’s report is very different: “’Sir, here is your mina; I have kept it laid away in a piece of cloth. I was afraid of you, because you are a hard man. You take out what you did not put in and reap what you did not sow.” The king says to the man that he will be judged by his own words. If he says that the master is a hard man to be feared, so be it. The one mina is taken from him and given to the servant that earned ten.
The people watching this unfold think the master’s actions are unjust – why is he taking away the little the one servant has to give to the one with so much more? The king’s reply: “I tell you that everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what he has will be taken away.” There is a reinforcing momentum here. The one who is faithful is entrusted with much more. The other side of positive momentum is compounding scarcity. The one who is unfaithful will be stripped of the little which he has.
This is not “kick back and enjoy” prosperity gospel in any way conceivable. We note that the reward the faithful servant is given is hugely increased responsibilities, now overseeing ten cities rather than ten minas. The king does not simply commend the steward, give him a personal payoff and send him on his way to indulge himself with the reward. The praise of the king, his expression of trust and massively expanded responsibility over his resources is the reward.
The king has not overlooked the delegation that was sent after him on his journey to reject his kingship. He now says: “But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them – bring them here and kill them in front of me.”
There are many dimensions to this parable and of course a parallel with Jesus’ own life. An obvious conclusion is that we, as servants to our Master, Jesus, have been entrusted with a portfolio of resources – not only money, but talents, relationships, experiences, time, ideas, platforms, etc. – that are to be used to “earn a return” for our returning King. Just as the ten minas the servants were given still belonged to the master, so it is with every resource and gift we have been entrusted with. As with the servants, our mandate is to “put them to work” in order to earn a return for our Master until he returns.
If we look at all of Jesus’ teaching thus far, we have a lens to understand the type of return we are to seek. If we imitate Jesus’ own life and follow his teaching, this goal will be the healing, freedom and restoration of those he has put in our path. We are participants in his redeeming work. This is accomplished in partnership with the work of the Spirit as we live lives of love, mercy, compassion, sacrifice, graciousness and humility.
It is clear here that we will be held to account and those who are faithful stewards will be rewarded in a way that far exceeds the return earned on the original assignment. The math of the kingdom is multiples. This leads to an expansive life of vibrancy and faith as opposed to a small world of fear and obsessive self-protection.
We must be clear on this mandate, however. Neither the magnitude of any return nor the level of risk we take determines our righteousness before God. This is accomplished through God’s grace alone, expressed in our justification through Jesus’ coming death and resurrection in Jerusalem. Nor are the “returns” we earn by investing the resources we’ve been entrusted with on behalf of the kingdom always visible. The kingdom does not come all “at once,” but rather as seed that grows into a large tree or a small amount of yeast working its way through a large amount of dough. Many times the greatest fruitfulness requires time and God’s interacting work through others. We cannot always connect the dots. All Jesus’ teaching suggests that our “time horizon” should stretch to eternity; this teaching is therefore likely not advocating the singular pursuit of big-bang, short-term payoffs (which perhaps bring more glory to the “investor” than the ultimate owner of the resources).
We cannot overlook the brutal implications of what Jesus says about the fearful servant or those who sent the delegation to reject the king. As for the fearful servant, Jesus’ description of the king’s response implies that the servant’s view of the master will be the measure used to judge him. He says that he believed the master was a hard man and that the fear over punishment if his investment effort failed led him to hide the mina rather than invest it.
We see a parallel here in Jesus’ interactions with the Pharisees and teachers of the law. Their view of God is as a one-dimensional judge watching their every word and action to catch them in a violation of the law. This leads them to a paranoid self-righteousness largely based on what they do not do, and devoid of love or mercy. They take on the attributes of their image of God by becoming judgmental and unmerciful towards those they view as less observant or righteous. Jesus teaches that those who do not embrace God’s grace and live mercifully towards others will be judged by their own standards.
With respect to the enemies who reject the future king (recall that they reject him by sending the delegation before he is named king), the consequences are ultimate. The returning king demands their lives. So it will be for those who reject Jesus as they face judgment unshielded by God’s grace. Jesus is on his journey to fulfill his Kingship, but will appear to be vanquished by his enemies through his coming crucifixion in Jerusalem. Yet he will rise and indeed return in glory as ruler of heaven and earth. His mission to “seek and to save what was lost” is about to be fulfilled in Jerusalem. As a result, those who believe and trust in Christ alone for their righteousness enter with joy into full communion with God.
All praise and honor to our loving King!!!
“He who loves a pure heart and whose speech is gracious will have the king for a friend.
Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will serve before kings; he will not serve before obscure men.”Proverbs 22:11, 29
“Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the earth. Sing to the Lord, praise his name; proclaim his salvation day after day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples.
Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it; let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them. The all the trees of the forest will sing for joy; they will sing before the Lord, for he comes, he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples in his truth.”Psalm 96:1-3, 11-13