The Kingdom Seminar
As Jesus makes his final approach toward Jerusalem, Luke has turned our attention to matters of the kingdom. First, he noted that the kingdom is not coming with pomp and circumstance, but quietly, in the submission of his disciples to the reign of God. In other words, in this age, the kingdom of God will be more of a reign than a realm. Men will forsake their other gods, such as money and ease, and bow the knee to Christ, renouncing all that they have (Luke 14:33), taking up their cross and following Jesus (Luke 9:23). That’s what it means to enter the kingdom, viz. to submit to the rule of God over every aspect of your life. And that’s why Jesus explains that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom. It is impossible, but God is not bound by our weakness and idolatry. The impossible can come to pass, as we see Zacchaeus, surely one of the three or four richest men in the country, bowing the knee, giving up his great idol, money, and following Jesus. The impossible can come to pass because it is Jesus that seeks and saves. Left to our own resources and desires, it would indeed be impossible. But nothing is impossible with God.
But as Jesus brings this little kingdom seminar to a close, he points to a time when the king will come in glory to his realm. And when he does, there will be an accounting. Judgment will begin with the people of God, but it will extend also to those who were opposed to His reign (1 Peter 4:17).
Return on Investment
That is what the parable found in Luke 19:11-27 is all about. It is about what the servant of God does in this interim period between the cross and the crown. What we do in the temporal ‘mean time’ has eternal repercussions. And what sort of return on investment is in view?
A few key details help us unlock the meaning. First, notice that the ten men entrusted each with a mina are ‘servants’ or ‘slaves’. All that they have is their master’s, and they have no cause to expect gratitude, let alone a great reward for their service. It is their duty to obey (Luke 17:7-10). And second, notice that each of the ten are given the very same amount of money to put to work. It is this last detail that makes me doubt this is a parable about financial stewardship. Undoubtedly, that is a legitimate application. All that we have is God’s, and we are to use it for his glory, not our own comfort. But in this parable, each man is given the same amount to put to work.
[dropshadowbox align=”left” effect=”lifted-both” width=”250px” height=”” background_color=”#ffffff” border_width=”1″ border_color=”#dddddd” ]There is no place in God’s vineyard for unfruitful trees (Luke 13:6-9). And there is no place for those who put their hand to the plough and look back (Luke 9:62). And there is no place for one who would hide his mina in his hanky and wait for the King’s return.[/dropshadowbox]Some make a profit. Some don’t. And some make a bigger profit than others. Looking at the faithful ones, we can see that the king’s reward for faithful service is, on the one hand, proportionate to their faithfulness, but on the other completely out of proportion. It is proportionate in the sense that the reward is keyed to their faithfulness, but it is disproportionate because the reward is 1) entirely gracious: no reward is necessary, and 2) vastly greater than the return the servant brought to his master. Gaining ten minas with one is a great return on investment, but ten cities is incomparably greater than ten minas. What we see here is that the King is generous.
It is that generosity that is missed by the ‘other’ servant. He was lazy and unproductive, but rather than confessing his own failure to obey, he besmirches the character of the king. “His demands are to great, and there’s nothing in it for me.” “Why should I carry my cross? I get no glory from it. That all goes to Him. Why should I renounce all that I have? Then He gets everything, and I get nothing.” It’s a satanic twisting of the facts.
The Eternal Second Person of the Trinity, the Son of God, humbled himself. He stooped to take on human flesh. He lived a life of humble obedience on our behalf. He also suffered the reproach of men on our behalf, and ultimately the wrath of God. And He did that to give us a royal inheritance in heaven. Christ came to save sinners, worthless rebels, mutineers, and to give them riches and glory that do not fade.
Given the great sacrifice of the gospel, is it any wonder that those who would slander the character of the king should lose everything? There is no place in God’s vineyard for unfruitful trees (Luke 13:6-9). And there is no place for those who put their hand to the plough and look back (Luke 9:62). And there is no place for one who would hide his mina in his hanky and wait for the King’s return. Discipleship is not a passive endeavor. We have been given a task to do while we wait for Christ’s return. Our acceptance isn’t based on our performance, but anyone who would dare to live a life of apathetic disobedience has probably never known the King, has probably never been given new life in the first place.
[dropshadowbox align=”right” effect=”lifted-both” width=”250px” height=”” background_color=”#ffffff” border_width=”1″ border_color=”#dddddd” ]let us remember that the Son of God was crushed. He died a gruesome death and bore the wrath of God. He was innocent. The slaughter of wicked rebels will be right and appropriate, and everyone will know it.[/dropshadowbox]So we have a picture here of three sorts of people: Servants, those who claim to be servants but are not, and those who reject the king’s authority openly. As was the case with the parable of the soils, only one response will do, viz., the fruitful one. The others, those who reject so gracious a King, those who worship their bellies or their bank accounts instead are to be brought before the King and slaughtered. This image will surely disturb some. But let us remember that the Son of God was crushed. He died a gruesome death and bore the wrath of God. He was innocent. The slaughter of wicked rebels will be right and appropriate, and everyone will know it.
The parable isn’t primarily about money because each servant has been given the same amount, and there is only one thing that every person who names Christ as their king has, whether they be wheat or tare (Matt. 13:24-30), viz. the gospel, the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ. And that is what we are to put to work in the mean time, while we wait for our King. Christ will return. The reign will become a realm. Let us not fear the judgment, putting our mina in a handkerchief and hiding it away. God has promised a great return for his Word.
So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. (Is 55:11 ESV)
Share the gospel. Season your speech with the words of Scripture. And watch the returns come in. Be faithful while we wait for Christ’s return. And at His coming you will enter into a great and disproportionate reward.