For the Love of God, Volume 2/December 5
From Gospel Translations
2 Chronicles 5:1—6:11; 1 John 4; Nahum 3; Luke 19
BY ITSELF, THE PARABLE OF THE TEN MINAS (Luke 19:11-27) is easy enough to understand. What makes it more challenging is the way it is bracketed—that is, how it is introduced and how it ends.
(1) The story itself depicts a nobleman who travels to a distant country to be appointed king. The picture would not be foreign: the Herods on occasion traveled to Rome to obtain or to secure their standing with Caesar. Before leaving, the nobleman entrusts ten minas, a considerable sum of money, to his servants, apparently one mina to each. On his return (and now king), he discovers that his servants have handled his money with various degrees of success. The parable does not recount each servant’s rate of return, but reports representative cases. One has earned ten minas, an increase of 1,000 percent; another, five minas, an increase of 500 percent. Each is rewarded extravagantly, but in proportion to the increase. One servant merely returns to his master the mina he has been given. His excuse is that he is afraid of the master, knowing him to be a hard man. The rest of the story plays out. Probably we contemporary readers need to be reminded that the servants were not employees who could quit if they wanted to or withhold their services under union rules. They were slaves who owed their master their best effort. Hence the punishment for the irresponsible slave.
(2) But the story ends with a lengthy saying: “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. But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them—bring them here and kill them in front of me” (19:26-27). The last servant has nothing by way of increase; all he “has” is the gift entrusted to him for the benefit of another. The king’s servants are responsible to labor for their master’s profit, and if they do not, they show themselves to be rebellious servants, no true servants at all. They are scarcely better than the enemies who defy the master’s kingship altogether.
(3) All of this must be nestled into the framework of expectation created by the opening verse (19:11). Jesus tells this parable to respond to those who thought “that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once.” Not so, the parable insists: the master goes away to receive a kingdom; some of the people hate the notion; even his servants vary in their faithfulness and fruitfulness, and some prove to be false servants. Those who are truly devoted slaves of King Jesus will busy themselves trying to improve their Master’s assets, eagerly awaiting his return.