When I was little, I enjoyed getting report cards. What?! Yeah, I enjoyed getting report cards. The reason is that my grandma would give me a dollar for every “A” I earned. And since I was a whiz in school, I would usually receive a nice handful of cash for my work. Unfortuantely, by the time I reached Jr. High and High School, the cash flow stopped since grandma expected us to get good marks without incentive.
Our Lord was a master at using something as simple as receiving an amount of money and expounding some heavy heavenly truth. In Luke 19.11-27, the Lord does this very thing in the parable of the ten minas. A mina was a unit of money during Jesus’ time on earth which was worth about three month’s wages. It was not a coin but was rather an amount of silver that was a certain weight. Nelson’s New Bible Dictionary says it was equal to about 50 common shekels in the Old Testament, but when Luke was writing it was probably closer to a pound of money (silver). Wuest says this would have only been about $16-18 apiece. Hmm….
It must be noted that we must not confuse this account with Matt 25.14-30 and the parable of the talents. Why the subject of the parables is clearly not the same (minas v. talents). These are different accounts of different events and while some similarity may be present, we must keep each of these accounts in propercontext and perspective. First, in Luke, Jesus is “near to Jerusalem” (v.11, ESV). He is yet to make his triumphal entry. Also, this follows immediately on the heels of Zacchaeus and the great news Jesus has announced on his house (v.9-10). Jesus tells this parable to them (those present, see comments on v.1-10) “as they heard these things” (v.11). Further, Jesus tells them this parable “because they supposed the kingdom of God was to appear immediately.” In other words, they thought at any moment the kingdom would show up. “Therefore, ” he told them the parable of the ten minas.
The Assignment of the Servants
We are introduced to a nobleman (lit. some man of noble birth) was going on a trip to a far away country to receive a kingdom and return. So, before he leaves, he calls together ten servants and gives them ten minas (one mina each, so it would seem). But this isn’t free money for good grades – he has a specific assignment: “Engage in business until I come.” Simple enough.
Now the amount of money should not surpirse us. As mentioned above, this is a completely different parable from the parable of the talents (which a talent was a very large sum of money). But this should not detract from the message: the master is testing the faithfulness of his servants. Hence, a mina in each hand of his ten servants will do nicely.
The Animosity of the Citizens
Not all is well in this scene though. Some citizens (lit. his people) hate this nobleman. For whatever reason, they can’t stand this man and send a delegation after him, making their hearts known to him: “We do not want this man (i.e. you) to reign over us.” Plain and simple – we hope you don’t come back. Good riddence.
Now do not mistake the “servants” (or bondservants) and the “citizens.” These are not the same people. A servant was a slave who was owned by an individual. Citizens were simply subjects who lived under the reign of an individual. This is a key difference.
The Accounting of the Servants
This man does not stay away. He received his kingdom, came back, and now it reckoning time. He wants to see what all has been going on with the money he gave to his servants. In other words, lets see how much of an increase my investment has made. The first servant shows he has made 10 times as much as he was given. What a great return! The master commends this servant: “Well done, good servant.” He turns around and puts him over ten cities (evidently in his new kingdom) since he has been faithful in small things. Again, the second servant comes and shows his master’s mina has gained him 5 more. Yet another remarkable accomplishment. A similar stewardship is given this servant as was given the first: he will be over 5 cities.
Then “another” came. Do not overlook this designation. He is another (Gk. heteros, you can see our English prefix hetero- in it). This is another servant, but of a different kind. He is not like the other servants, some, maybe most if not all, have gone through the line and revealed their investments. The other servants were marked by faithfulness; this one is marked by his unfaithfulness. This servant explains that he hid in a handkerchief his master’s mina, but here it is with no return. He explains he was fearful of his master because he was a “severe man” (lit. harsh. Our English word “austere” comes from this Greek word). He is strict and exacting and this servant did not want to disappoint him. Further, this servant knew that this man takes what he does not deposit and reaps where he does not sow. It would appear this servant is calling this man unjust and a “grasping profiteer.” He takes from other people what is not his. Quite the indictment.
The Action against the Servant and Citizens
The man’s reply is interesting. He uses the servant’s words against him to condemn him. In addition, he labels this servant (who’s actions seem prudent) as “wicked.” He interrogates his servant with a question: “You knew that I was servere man” and do the things you say I do? You should have been even more faithful! At least put the money in the bank so I could collect the interest!
The master demands his mina be striped from him and given to the one who has ten. Why? “Everyone who has, more will be given.” While there is objection, it makes sense; he made the most of the man’s money – he will be faithful with even this extra mina. Good business? Sure. The man concludes that “from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” What’s left to take? Remember, this servant is a servant. His position as a servant will be removed.
There is still one loose end to tie up: the citizens. These who did not want nor acknowledged the rule of this man are finally dealt with. The man with the authority, the reign calls them forward and they are slaughtered. The man gives full vent of his wrath, exercising his authority over these people.
The Application to the Christian
Great story! So what? Keep in mind that a parable is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. Further, keep in mind that not of all parts necessarily have a physical counterpart (otherwise it would be an alegory). What is Jesus trying to get across to his people?
First, it would seem that the “ten servants” are representative of all Christ’s servants. “So does that mean the ‘nobleman’ is Christ?” Perhaps. He could represent God. Nevertheless, each servant is given a “mina.” I think this means every servant of Christ is given a spiritual gift. But there is assignment that goes along with that gift: use it! Use that spiritual gift until Christ comes. We know Christ has gifted every Christian (Eph 4.7-11) and we know he expects us to use that gift for the maturation of ourselves and other Christians (Eph 4.12-16). We also know that one day Christ will deliver his kingdom to the Father (1 Cor 15.24) and everyone will be judged for their deeds (John 5.28-29). So here is Christ teaching us in parable the necessity of putting our gift to work for the body before it everlasting to late.
Second, who are these citizens? Clearly, they have a hatred for the “nobleman” who receives his kingdom and also they despise his rule over them. It should be noted that although they hate this man and his rule over them, they are inescapably under his sovereign rule since they are his citizens. They could be representative of the Jews of Jesus’ time who rebelled against God and His Messiah. They refused the kingship of Christ and proclaimed, “We have no king bu Caesar!” Another option are the unbelievers who will one day stand in judgment before Christ and God but currently stand in open rebellion of God and His Word. They despise God and his Church and his Christ. One final option my be that these represent the member of the church who will not submit to Christ’s rule for their life, work, or service. However, this view would seem remote to the context of the parable. Either the Jews or the pagan of the world are both acceptable options as to whom the citizens represent. Sadly, we see the fate of remaining in stubborn rebellion to the “nobleman;” once the kingdom is received and he takes account of his kingdom, there is severe price to pay for continued defiance to the king. The frightening reality this parable confronts us with is that Christ and God demand a choice be made and that choice is between life and death.
Perhaps the most significant point of application of this parable is the contrast between faithfulness and unfaithfulness that is seen in the servants and the word spoken of them by the nobleman. Should a Christian choose to discover and use their giftedness in the apporiate manner, God will bless their efforts and bless them on the final day with the sweet words of “Well done, good servant.” However, should a Christian choose to neglect their gift(s) and bury them in a handkerchief, the consequences are dire. I don’t think we get this message in the church today. Too many are sitting on their gifts. Too many make excuses why they can’t use their gift. I believe the outcome for the Christian who does not use their gift is just as severe as those in open rebellion. I say this because “even what he has will be taken away.” Our identity and position as a servant will be stripped from us with our “mina” if we are unfaithful. If we are not servants, we become like the citizens. We are no better than the world because of our refusal to use the grace given us to produce fruit for our God. If this is the case, should we not be even more faithful.