Luke tells us that Jesus, His disciples and all those following along are nearing Jerusalem. He knows what is in their hearts and what they think the agenda is going to be on this trip. Luke tells us Jesus uses the parable we are going to look at today because they were expecting Him to set up His throne right away. He wanted to set before them the need to work in His absence for His Kingdom. “Not yet fellas, a little longer.”
Matthew shares a similar parable with us involving three servants and differing sizes of talents. If you are interested, you can skip over and check out our discussion on that entry by clicking “Plenty of Talents.”
Today’s story is a little different in the number of ways. First, is the number of servants chosen to receive an investment. In this story there are ten servants chosen by the nobleman. The amount given is also different. Each servant received exactly the same amount. There was no distinction made between them initially. The “punishment” for the unproductive servant is also different. The unfaithful servant in the first story was killed, where this one only had his gifting removed. The final difference that I notice is the backstory that is included in this one. We are told where the nobleman is going, why he is going, and about the people left behind. They actually suffer the fate of the unfaithful servant in the first story. So let’s look at these differences and see where they take us. We will take them in the order they appear in the story.
Jesus starts the story by giving us some background on who the main character is. This person is a “nobleman.” In other words, he is royalty, but he is not the king of the territory where he currently resides. He has some authority in his present position, but he is still under someone else’s authority too. His kingdom is in a far off country and he has to travel there to claim his throne. He will eventually return to his present home and will bring his new authority with him. We will look at a few more of his points as they come up in the story. But for now, let’s establish who Jesus is really talking about.
Jesus is painting a picture of Himself. At the time of His telling this story He is the “Nobleman.” He is the Son of the King of Kings. He was currently residing in a country not His own. His Kingdom was not going to be established there at that time. He had to go to a “foreign country” to take possession of His true Kingdom. He had to establish His claim to it and wrestle it from the hands of Satan. Then He would be back to bring that authority back with Him.
The nobleman in our story, “Calling ten of his servants, he gave them ten minas, and said to them, ‘Engage in business until I come’” (verse 13). We are not told how many servants the nobleman had at his disposal, just that he chose ten of them. We are also told that he gave each of them the exact same amount to work with and exactly the same instructions. He didn’t give one private lessons to help him out a little more. Nor did he single one out and give him a “double portion” because he was better at business than the rest. But what he gave them was substantial. It wasn’t a fortune but one mina was about three month’s wages for a servant. Each servant mina was to invest however they thought best.
Jesus is talking specifically about His disciples here. He is letting them know that they have work to do while He is away and that He has equipped them to do that work. We are also the servants Jesus is talking about. We each start out with the same initial gift; the gift of salvation through belief in Christ Jesus. We all have different stories of how we came to Jesus but we all started out with that same first step. No one comes into God’s family with Billy Graham sized faith.
God’s gift, though the same to each of us is also SUBSTANTIAL! He gives us His salvation, a measure of faith and talents. Make no mistake here; He gives EACH OF US talents. Those talents are not identical but He doesn’t miss a single person when passing them out. We are to employ the gifts He has given each of us in the service of His Kingdom.
Jesus takes a quick side note in His story at this point. He shows us the citizens that were under the nobleman’s authority. They “hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to reign over us’” (verse 14). They were probably happy that he was leaving but they definitely didn’t want him coming back with even more authority. They were even willing to tell him that.
This group of “citizens” were Jesus fellow countrymen; especially the religious leaders. The Jews would be the ones who would call for Jesus’ death. The religious leaders spearheaded it, but the common man added his voice to the crowd that day at Pilot’s palace. The common man also mocked and jeered at Him as He hung on the cross. They were willing to tell Jesus they wanted no part in His authority or Kingdom. I’m SO glad that didn’t include ALL of them and that many changed their minds later.
The nobleman came back, just as he said he would. Now he was a king. It was time to see what his servants had accomplished in his absence. We know Jesus is coming back too, just like He said. And just like the nobleman, He will call for an accounting of His people.
I wonder why there are only three servants mentioned in this story. It is probably for brevity sake. I’m going to call the first servant and EXTRAORDINARY businessman! He earned ten times as much as he was given. He worked diligently with what he was given and sought out opportunities to make what he had even better. As a reward, he was elevated in authority and given more responsibility.
Servant number two also worked hard too. I don’t know if he didn’t see the same opportunities his fellow servant saw, if he didn’t have the same connections, or if he didn’t put as much effort into making more money. Maybe he had more obligations he had to attend to at home and not as much time to work on the investment. But he still reaped a considerable harvest and the nobleman was very pleased with him and rewarded him accordingly.
Our final example was the servant who was too scared to do anything with what he was given. He didn’t want to take any chances and simply held onto what he had. We know how that turned out. He lost it anyway. Because he did nothing with what he had received, he lost it and it was given to someone who would appreciate it and use it wisely.
We will be called to give an account of the gifts God has given each of us too. We can sit back and say, “Whew! At least I’m safe from Hell because I asked Jesus to be my Savior” or we can get busy working. That working includes learning more about Him, deepening our relationship with Him, learning more about His word, and building His Kingdom through whatever means He brings to you. We know from Jesus’ story that those who work WILL be rewarded accordingly, and those who don’t will suffer the consequences of their decision.
Jesus ends His parable by bringing us back to the citizens who said they didn’t want to be ruled by the nobleman. They were put to death. This is what will happen to all who do not choose Jesus as their King. They WILL inherit Hell; spiritual eternal death as their “reward.”
Father God, I don’t know what the end looks like for certain. I don’t know if the “wicked servant” was still part of the nobleman’s household or if he was numbered with those who didn’t want him to rule over them. Jesus doesn’t say he was, but in the other parable the wicked servant suffered death as his “reward.” I also know that in James Your spirit inspired him to share the message about faith being proved out through works. So if this man didn’t “work”, was he “saved?” I don’t have those answers.
Regardless of what that answer is, I DON’T want to be like the last servant. I am probably a far cry from the first servant, but maybe I can come close to the second servant’s productiveness. No bragging, just hoping and trying. Lord, show me the opportunities You would have me engage in to benefit Your Kingdom. Thank You for this opportunity. Remind me always that this is Your work that You are allowing me to take part in. It is not mine and I take no credit for what You share with me. Thank You for the amazing gifts You gave me to use for Your Kingdom. Thank You first of all for my salvation and my Savior. That gift is worth more than ANY other gift to me. Thank You Jesus for Your love!