Today’s reading: Luke 19-20.
As Jesus headed toward Jerusalem for the final time, his disciples and many others wondered if he was getting ready to bring the Kingdom of God to Earth. They were still looking for a worldly kingdom instead of the spiritual kingdom he had been teaching. Once more he used a parable to open their eyes to the truth.
He told them of a nobleman who traveled to a far country to have himself appointed king. Herod the Great’s son, Archelaus, had gone to Rome in order to accomplish this very thing. Jesus was telling them that he would be traveling far in order to receive his kingship, and he would not be returning quickly. They would have to wait for the worldly kingdom that they longed for.
While the nobleman was away he dispersed his wealth among his servants and told them to “put it to work” until he returned. In the story there were ten servants and each received one mina, not a large sum but only a few dollars. Each received the same amount in contrast to the parable of the talents where one servant received more than another. Each received a small amount compared to the thousands of dollars given in the story of the talents.
Jesus said that the nobleman faced much opposition in his quest to be made king. The subjects of his realm hated him and sent messengers after him proclaiming their displeasure with his wish to be made king. Jesus faced this same kind of hatred during his ministry on Earth and it continues to this day. Such was the environment in which the nobleman’s servants lived. Their master commanded them to occupy themselves by doing business with his money while he was gone, but the reality was that they lived in a hostile world that opposed their master. Still, they did what he commanded and made amazing profits with their few dollars. Some increased their sum by ten times, some by five times.
“Then another servant came and said, ‘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.’ 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? Why then didn’t you put my money on deposit, so that when I came back, I could have collected it with interest?’ Then he said to those standing by, ‘Take his mina away from him and give it to the one who has ten minas.’ ‘Sir,’ they said, ‘he already has ten!’ 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.” Luke 19:20-26
What is this small sum of money that takes on such great importance in the story? Again, each servant received the same amount, and though it was small to begin with it possessed the power to grow greatly. When the servants gave an account of their profits, they didn’t say “I earned this amount or that” but “your mina earned this amount or that.” The power was in the gift rather than themselves. Many commentators believe the mina represents the gospel or the word of God. While spiritual gifts and abilities vary from one person to another, as in the parable of the talents, each believer receives the same good news to share with the world. Jesus commands us to get to work with the gospel and make a profit for the kingdom.
Summing up the parable of the minas, Jesus taught his disciples that:
- The kingdom was not coming immediately.
- But he would return one day to reign as king.
- They would face opposition because the world hated him.
- But they were to stay busy in his absence, putting the gospel to work and growing the kingdom of God.
- He would reward them for their faithfulness, and the reward would involve responsibilities and honor proportional to their faithfulness.
Jesus closes the story with a harsh reality. Those who have will get more. Those who don’t have will lose even the little they hold. It’s true in the natural world, where wealth begets wealth, diligence earns its reward, and practice leads to improved performance. It’s also true in the spiritual realm. Whatever we do for God’s kingdom brings multiplied blessings and rewards and leads to greater opportunities. “You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much.” If we think we can sit on the gospel and do nothing with it, we are mistaken. Unless we are pressing forward, we will fall farther and farther behind. As for those who hated the king and opposed him, Jesus says they lost their lives.
Observe that, whatever the triumph of Christ is to be, his faithful servants are to share in it. He is to be the King of the many cities in the rich provinces of his Father’s domain; but he will give to one of his servants ten cities, and to another five cities. But what a vast dominion that must be out of which he can afford to give such rewards as this! Ten Cities, — can any earthly king give in this fashion? There are royal rewards at the last for those who are faithful now. No pitiful pence shall fall to the lot of those who diligently serve the Lord Christ; they shall have a rich reward, not of debt, but of grace; and, therefore, all the larger. – Charles Spurgeon
Image by Mario Rui on Flickr, CC by