If have worked with any kind of financial planner, investment counselor or insurance agent you have probably been told that you need to do a periodic investment evaluation. In other words you need to keep checking to see if you are on track in your savings and retirement goals. The parable before us in Luke 19:11-27 is designed to get us to a similar evaluation of our spiritual investments.
The scene of this parable is probably somewhere around Jericho. Luke connects the account with the story of Zacchaeus. Jericho was about six hours from Jerusalem on foot. It was nearing Passover so many pilgrims were heading to Jerusalem for the feast.
Jesus had a reputation as a man from God with uncommon wisdom and unique power. He had already healed a blind man, and the people had witnessed one of their most prominent tax-collectors transformed. People were excited about Jesus. It is reasonable to think that they thought he would be made King of Israel at the coming Passover. That’s the setting for the parable.
11 While 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.
12 He said: “A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return. 13 So 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.’
In the Roman world rulers would go away to Rome to receive their appointment. Jesus is trying to prepare the people for the fact that He too is going to have to go away before He will return as King.
Not everyone was happy about the man being appointed King and they sent a delegation to argue against the man being made King. Jesus adds this detail to remind us that not everyone was eager for the Lord to be declared “King of Kings and Lord of Lords”. In the same way, many people (and that number is growing) today are not happy about the message of the gospel of Jesus. They don’t want to admit their sin or their subsequent need of a Redeemer. They turn against Jesus because it threatens their own claim to “control” their own lives.
The Task At Hand
13 So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas. ‘Put this money to work,’ he said, ‘until I come back.’
The real focus on the parable is not on the opponents (although we will hear about them again at the end of the story). The real focus is on the servants of the one who will be King. The fact that the story talks of ten servants rather than twelve shows that Jesus is addressing all believers and not just His disciples.
Each of the people were given the same amount of money and told to conduct the King’s business while he was gone. It was the job of the men to invest the money on behalf of the King. This parable seems to be different than the parable of the talents. In that parable people are given differing amounts of money. We generally view the parable of the talents as referring to the various (and differing) gifts given to us by the Holy Spirit.
In this case everyone is given the same thing. I believe this parable is about the message of the gospel which has been given to each of us. The message is simple: while Jesus is gone and we await His return as King, we are to take the message of Christ and invest it in the lives of the people around us.
In 2 Corinthians 5 we read,
16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. [2 Corinthians 5:16-20]
WE are Christ’s ambassadors! We may debate the wisdom of God in assigning the message to us, but that is what He has done. Our job is to plant seeds of faith and reap a harvest in changed hearts and lives.
Alistair Begg said there are two mistakes many make in their understanding of the gospel in the church.
1. They believe a person can be saved by their works. People believe if they do enough good things, say the right words, push the right buttons and belong to the right groups, they will earn a place in God’s Kingdom. The Bible is clear that “no one is righteous…not even one.” Even on our best days we fall short of God’s standard. You and I are nowhere near the standard of holiness that God requires by our own efforts.
2. The second mistake is that we believe that we can be saved apart from works. That sounds contradictory but it is not. It is actually quite insightful for understanding the true nature of the gospel. Listen to this familiar passage:
8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. [Ephesians 2:8-10]
Paul tells us that we are saved not by our good works but by our trust, surrender and reliance on Christ. In the same breath he points out that when God saves someone He does so to change their lives. The person who truly trusts Christ will live differently. We don’t do so to earn salvation; we live differently because of God’s transforming Spirit is at work within us.
Suppose you knew someone who was out of work. They didn’t have the kind of skills you needed but you cared about the person and gave them a job anyway. In a sense the person was hired by grace and not because of their ability. The follow up question is: for what purpose did you hire them? You hired them not to stand around but to do a job. It is a job they must learn how to do, but you believe with proper training and careful supervision they can do the job.
The point is that though we cannot earn our salvation, we are saved for the purpose of becoming a different person. The person who shows no change in their living (and be careful….this will take time!) is likely not a genuine child of God. This is the gospel!
Our text tells us that each of the people was held accountable for their efforts.
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. 21 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.’ 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? 23 Why 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!’
When the King came back to his kingdom he called the servants in to report on their jobs. We are only told about three of these people because that is all that is needed for us to get the point. The first two people both brought in a significant return on the man’s investment. The first earned 1000% on the investment. The King received 100 times more than he gave the servant! (Would you be pleased with a financial planner who earned that paid that kind of return?)
The second man earned a 500% return. In both cases the men are commended and rewarded for their faithfulness. One was made ruler over ten cities the other over five. They were faithful in their stewardship so they were given more responsibility.
Think about a political campaign. The people who worked the hardest and were most effective in the campaign will often get jobs in the administration. Why? It is because you have learned that you can trust and rely on these people. Consequently you give them more authority. If your financial planner was earning you 500% interest would you give them more of your money to invest? You bet! You would be wise to borrow money just to invest with this guy!
Jesus has told us that those who are faithful in little things will be entrusted with bigger things. We do this very thing with our children. As they prove faithful in lesser tasks we give them more responsibility.
The third man however had a different story. This man still had the original money but had simply buried it. He said he was afraid of the new King. He was afraid he would make a mistake or lose the money.
The Master can’t believe what he is hearing because it makes no sense. He used the man’s perspective on him (right or wrong) to address him. “If indeed you believed I was a hard man who expected to reap a harvest, why didn’t you at least deposit the money in a bank so you could at least draw interest?
Because the man was unfaithful and did nothing with what he was given, it was taken away from him and given to another. Like the employee who does nothing, the master has no use for this man.
So what is the message to us? Too many professing believers never talk to other people about the gospel because they say they are afraid. They profess faith but they do nothing to get the gospel out to others. They are afraid they will say the wrong thing; won’t have the right answer to questions; or perhaps won’t live well enough to underscore the change they profess. Jesus would remind us that this is our job. Even if we were genuinely afraid (most of the time it is simply an excuse), we should still do something. We can share our testimony, we can give to missionary work; we can share Christian resources with people; we can helper in a ministry in the church. Lost, confused, and alienated people depend on us. God will hold us accountable. God will not accept our excuses.
I don’t believe the story teaches that people who don’t share their faith can lose their salvation. However, those who do not share their faith will lose out on God’s blessings in this life and the next.
Remember those people who didn’t want the King to be appointed? When the King returned he dealt with those detractors.
27 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.’ ”
Most people scorn the idea of a final judgment. They believe they live, they die and that’s it. But this is wishful thinking. Jesus tells us that death is followed by judgment. In other words there are real and eternal consequences to the choices of our lives. You can try not to think about it but that is just as foolish as trying to ignore the fact that you have cancer. The key to survival is to address the truth.
If you are one of those who figure that you can be reckless now because after all, “you only live once”, please hear this warning! Jesus says you are moving forward with faulty reasoning. We live once and after that is the Judgment. Our life beyond the grave is being determined by how we live right now.
Some Take Home Points
Let me draw three applications. First, the message of the gospel is not entrusted to “professionals” it is entrusted to all of us. It has become common practice for Christian people to come to church, fill their notebooks with theological insights, and conclude they have served the Lord. We tend to think that we hire Pastors to DO the work of ministry while we sit on the sidelines.
The Bible says my role is to train YOU for ministry. A Pastor is to “prepare God’s people for works of service” (Ephesians 4:11-12). In Acts 6 the Apostles appointed men to address the needs of the Greek widows because their job was to devote themselves to “the ministry of the Word”. God did not intend for a small group of people to work until exhaustion while the rest of the faithful cheered them on or criticized what they were doing or not doing. We ALL have a responsibility to tell others about Christ and to advance His Kingdom.
Together we can more greatly and effectively share the gospel with those around us. There are people you see every day that I will never meet. There are people who will listen to you but will dismiss me because “it’s my job”.
Different people respond to different things. One person may respond to an explanation of the truth heard in a church. Another person may respond to an act of love in Jesus name. A child may respond to a person who first gets down on the floor and plays with them on a regular basis. God has given us different gifts so that we can reach different people.
Second, we must be wise in our investment of God’s truth. We have been given a priceless treasure and we must use it wisely. Let’s be very practical:
- Learn how to explain the gospel accurately and concisely. Plan and practice sharing the gospel message. Please remember that the message of the gospel is about more than “accepting Jesus”. Jesus does not ask us to find Him acceptable. He calls us to total trust and dependence and to a radical discipleship. Jesus calls us to rely on Him for forgiveness, eternal life and for daily strength and guidance. He calls us to actually and practically follow Him every day.
- Look for opportunities to share the gospel. To do this we have to pay attention. Rick has a Professor that talks about taking your iPod out of your ears. The point is that you can’t pay attention to those around you when you are listening to music, podcasts or anything else. You can’t pay attention to others if you are talking on the phone or texting. We can’t pay attention to others and be playing video games. We can’t pay attention if we have our head in a newspaper or book. We can’t pay attention if we are only focused on spending time with our friends. People seem to think it shows how important or cool they are to be so engaged. However, you are really demonstrating to others that they are not important to you. If we pay attention to others you will be surprised at the opportunities you will have to care.
- Invite others to Christian gatherings. Jesus told the one man that He could at least have deposited His money in the bank to gain interest. The point is that it is better to do something rather than nothing! Make some effort to share your faith. Invite people to worship, a Christian concert, a Bible Study, a seminar, or some other gathering. Share about a Christian book your read or Biblical themes you found in a movie. You may not feel that you can effectively share your faith. We must remember that the little we can do in the hands of God can make a life-changing difference.
- Finally be aware of your non-verbal testimony. If people know you are part of a church; if they know you are a Christ-follower they will be watching to see if Jesus is making any difference in your life. People don’t expect you to be perfect but they are looking to see if you are different. They want to know if Jesus has impacted your language. If it changes the way you relate to difficult people. If it tempers your anger or deepens your compassion. They want to know if you are less self-absorbed and more willing to help. They want to know if you are going to show more restraint and wisdom in your free time activities and your sense of humor. They want to know if Jesus is real to you.
It may be tempting to look at sharing our faith as one more burden to carry in our life. That’s not the case. It is a great honor to be entrusted with such a great announcement of God’s love and forgiveness. The world needs to hear this message above all others. We have the answer to the question of how to live a meaningful life and how to face death without fear. We have no problem talking to others about sports teams. We will debate who is going to win the game and do so with energy that is often absurd. If we are willing to talk to people about that which makes no lasting difference in our lives why aren’t we willing to talk to them about something that can change them forever? If we will do so, we be astounded at the return on our investment.