11 While they were listening to these things, Jesus went on to tell a parable, because He was near Jerusalem, and they supposed that the kingdom of God was going to appear immediately. 12 So He said, “A nobleman went to a distant country to receive a kingdom for himself, and then return. 13 “And he called ten of his slaves, and gave them ten minas and said to them, ‘Do business with this until I come back.’ 14 “But his citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to reign over us.’ Luke 19:11–14 (NASB95).Read Luke 19:11-27, Parable of the Ten Minas
This parable on the surface appears to be about the strategic use of money, or the wise investment of it. It comes on the heels of the story of Zaccheus, who was filthy rich in this world, but exponentially richer in the kingdom of God. This newly acquired wealth was not gained by making restitution for ill-gotten gains or freely giving from that which had been shrewdly accumulated, but from his new found faith deposit in the Messiah.
Because Jesus switched over to the use of a parable, some must have been present in his entourage who had ulterior motives, or who had drawn the wrong conclusions about Jesus’ earthly mission. We learn from Luke that the latter was true, some thought Jesus would be setting up his kingdom in Jerusalem when he got there.
I heard a preacher say recently parables are so deep in meaning that it’s like God wrote them! This parable has a lot of moving parts and could be the subject of a graduate-level thesis. Think of this summary as an abstract to that thesis. The heart is willing, but the time necessary for a deep dive is unavailable, and the reader will surely lack the attention span. What is offered here is fearfully suggested knowing that my Master is an exacting man, desirous of the rightful division of his word.
Underlying the actions of the three slaves mentioned were moves calculated to succeed under someone’s thumb. The first was all in, increasing his mina (just over three month’s wages) tenfold. The second achieved a fivefold return. The third in essence placed his mina under his mattress. All were commanded to “do business” with the money. The first received ten cities to reign over, the second five, and the third’s mina was taken from him and given to the first, despite his manifold gain and reward, as witnesses at the reward ceremony pointed out. Since the third had conducted no business with his mina, he was called “worthless.”
If this story foretells of Jesus’ leaving earth to acquire his own kingdom, with the purpose of returning to establish it, it is incumbent upon us to be faithful in the “little things.” What he has given us must be employed with industry for his benefit, not for our own enrichment. In doing so we can expect rewards upon his return. Those who refuse to trust and obey and accept his rule, poverty and scorn await. It’s at this point the Lord will exact his pound of flesh. We should therefore fear the consequences of disobedience and inaction more than a falling stock market. But make no mistake, the third slave hated and distrusted his master. There was spite in his inaction. What business are we doing to further the kingdom of God?
We then learn that citizens potentially subject to his rule did not like the nobleman either. In those days even Herod had to travel to Rome to bargain for his kingdom, so this group set out to oppose him. They too despised the man. They failed to consider if they failed to successfully convince the emperor, they stood to be dealt with harshly at that time, or when they returned. It was an extremely risky and foolish gambit. Certainly it was a case for counting your troops first.
Since we also should be free to equate this aspect of the parable to Jesus, we know first off that the Lord would not be setting up his kingdom forthwith. Luke indicates this. He would be returning to his father to “request permission” to return to earth to set up his kingdom like the nobleman. Certainly Jesus had his detractors who despised him, who wanted nothing to do with him, who opposed him at every turn. The third slave verbalized his feelings quite well, “I was afraid of you, because you are an exacting man; you take up what you did not lay down and reap what you did not sow.” There was apparent cause to make this case, but how can we explain the actions of the two faithful slaves? They saw gain in following his instructions, not just to the letter, but above and beyond. We need to both fear the Lord and love him. We must expect good to come from our industry, if only for him to say “well done, good and faithful servant.”
In the end, the people that opposed the nobleman were slayed in the presence of all on his orders. Jesus warned of the fate of the disobedient and unfaithful, that is, outer darkness where there is only weeping (isolation for God) and gnashing of teeth (non-stop physical pain). The choice is ours. We have been forewarned.