Our parable today is situated between two beloved and famous moments. The first is the story of Zacchaeus in Jericho. The wee little man who climbed a sycamore tree to see Jesus. I have told that story many times at bedtime. Maybe kids can relate to being wee little people. His eventual repentance from a life of greed and materialism elicits from Jesus, “For the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost.” (Luke 19:10 ESV)
Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem, which provides the other side of this parable, the triumphal entry into the city of David. Between Zacchaeus and Palm Sunday is the Parable of the Minas.
“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.” (Luke 19:11)
This is insightful and important to understanding the purpose of the parable. Notice the repetition of the word because. Luke helps explain the parable by telling why Jesus told it in the first place. He was near to the capital city Jerusalem. There was a growing excitement that Jesus may reveal his true identity. They supposed that the kingdom of God would appear immediately.
Why is that a problem? What do people do when they think the world is about to end? People get crazy about these things, but what they don’t do is get busy. They go to a mountaintop and wait. The temptation is to do nothing. Jesus tells this parable to correct our understanding of the future and what we are to do as we wait for his return.
“He said therefore, ‘A nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and then return.’” (Luke 19:12)
This would have resonated in Jericho because it was well known that their most famous resident did exactly that. Herod the Great, who tried to kill Jesus when he was born, had a son Archelaus, who in 4 AD went to Rome to hopefully receive the title of king, really a vice-king, over the Jews. Archelaus had a large vacation home in Jericho. Everybody knew the story.
Jesus draws on some local culture and legend to make his point. This nobleman left hoping for a promotion from nobleman to king of the land. It was a long trip; matters and business had to be handled in his absence.
“Calling ten of his servants, he gave them ten minas, and said to them, ‘Engage in business until I come.’” (Luke 19:13)
A mina was a monetary unit equal to about three month’s wages for a common worker. It is far less valuable than the talent in the sister Parable of the Talents. A talent was worth 20 years’ salary. Perhaps there is a lesson right there. Stewarding includes the big and small things God gives to us. The minas and the talents.
So the nobleman gives each servant one mina and a command, Use this mina to engage in business until I come back. Everyone had the same mina, the same opportunity, the same command.
“But his citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to reign over us.’” (Luke 19:14)
This also echoes the legend of Archelaus. He was such a tyrant that a delegation from the Jews went to Rome to protest him being made king over them. Archelaus was not made full king but the nobleman in Jesus’ story was.
“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.” (Luke 19:15)
He returns, not as nobleman, but as king and orders each servant to give an account for the mina he had given them.
“The first came before him, saying, ‘Lord, your mina has made ten minas more.’ 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.’ And the second came, saying, ‘Lord, your mina has made five minas.’ And he said to him, ‘And you are to be over five cities.’” (Luke 19:16-19)
Here we see a dramatic turn of events and fortunes. The first servant had turned the one mina into 10 minas. That is a 1000% return on investment. How many of you would like this guy managing your retirement account? 1000%. It doesn’t say how he did it or what line of business he engaged in. It simply gives the return on investment and the king’s response. “Well done, good servant!” What was good about what he did? He used the interim time between the king’s departure and his return as a time for working hard, investing wisely, and increasing value for the king.
Look at the generosity of the king. You made me ten minas, I give you ten cities to rule and govern. How much is a city worth? Worth much more than a mina. He got 10 cities.
The second follows the same pattern, only this guy made him 500% return. He got five cities. Again, what he made and what he got seem way out of proportion, but such is the generosity of the king.
So we come to the third guy. He must have been excited. The king is in a generous mood. I’m going to come out of this pretty good.
“Then another came, saying, ‘Lord, here is your mina, which I kept laid away in a handkerchief; 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.’ 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? Why then did you not put my money in the bank, and at my coming I might have collected it with interest?’” (Luke 19:20-23)
Here is the power of the parable. The king has real expectations for his servants. Strong and severe expectations. This final servant discovers this as he very unwisely took the mina and hid it in a handkerchief. This servant thought, I’ll play it safe. Doing nothing seems safe. The do-nothing approach never risks anything.
Doing nothing is a terrible idea when your king expects productivity. The king expects results. He points out even a no-brain approach would at least get interest value added at the bank. The Jews were not allowed to charge interest to a fellow Jew by Old Testament law, but they could do it to a Gentile. Why not at least do that?
So right now the man is thinking, well at least I get one city. He thought wrong.
“And he said to those who stood by, ‘Take the mina from him, and give it to the one who has the ten minas.’ And they said to him, ‘Lord, he has ten minas!’ 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. But as for these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slaughter them before me.’” (Luke 19:24-27)
The parable takes a dark turn at the end. The servant who did nothing not only loses the reward of a city, he loses the mina as well. Why? He has shown himself to be unfaithful and unreliable. The king is about results. If you had three month’s wages and could give it to any of these three servants, having seen their results, which one would you invest with? Yeah, the 1000% guy. Jesus explains that servants that have, as a result of faithfulness, will be given more responsibility. But those who do not have, because of unfaithfulness, even what they have will be taken away.
The main point of the parable is that while Jesus is gone, each disciple is responsible to steward everything God gives. Everything means everything. The easy application is money, but it is so much more. Steward your natural gifts. Steward your time. Steward your body that God gave you. Steward your relationships. Steward doors of opportunity God opens. Steward your education. Steward your life as a gift given by a king with real expectations.
- “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights.” (James 1:17)
- “What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it” (1 Corinthians 4:7)
- “Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful.” (1 Corinthians 4:2)
Steward. Manage. Multiply…everything for the King.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
© 2017 by Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.
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