(A) Introduction. Read: Luke19v11to27

A good, balanced, brief introduction to this tricky parable is found in Leon Morris' commentary on Luke in the New Testament Commentaries series.

The parable of the Minas is both similar to and different from the parable of the Talents. One of the key differences is that in the parable of the Talents the sums of money allocated to the master's servants varies with their ability. The parable teaches that some Christians have more opportunities for service than others. The important thing is to use what opportunities we have been given. In the parable of the Minas all the servants are given the same amount. So the parable is about using what all Christians are given.

The parable of the Minas poses some difficulties:

(1) It shares one with the parable of the Talents. Some liberal, left leaning scholars object to Jesus being likened to a tough, ruthless capitalist who expects his workforce to speculate on his behalf and earn big profits with his money. For them the hero of the parable is the man who refuses to speculate and tells the nobleman to his face just what he thinks of him.

The problem with this interpretation is that several passages in the New Testament make it very clear that Jesus expects his followers to bear fruit. In Matthew's gospel, for example, the parable of the Talents is followed by the parable of the Sheep and the Goats. (See also exposition on Luke12v35to48.)

(2) Another problem - not shared by the parable of the Talents - is that it appears to teach two lessons rather than one. It is as if two parables have been combined into one - a parable about a king and his subjects and another parable about the attitude of a nobleman's servants. But as Morris says: the parable can be readily interpreted as it stands.

(3) Other aspects of the parable are troublesome. Why mention 10 servants but only deal with how three of them did? Perhaps, the other seven were those standing by who protested when Jesus told them to give the lazy servant's minas to the one who had increased his stake ten fold.

It also seems strange that the king should give money to the successful servant. All the money belonged to the king! It had been earned for him. Also the industrious and trustworthy servant had been more than adequately rewarded by being put in charge of 10 cities. Another 5000 seems neither here nor there. I am much happier with the reward in the parable of the Tenants where the good and faithful servants are told: "Come and share your master's happiness." Mt25v21.

(B) The Purpose of the Parable.

(1) The Delay.

Luke tells us why Jesus told the parable and any interpretation must bear this in mind. Tom Wright's attempt to relate the parable to God's judgment of Israel in the 1st century A.D. does not do justice to the guidance given us by Luke:

While they were listening to this, he went on to tell them a parable, because he was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once. v11.

The crowd marching on Jerusalem with Jesus in the midst thought he was on the way to sieze power from the Romans and rule as a mighty, earthly king. Jerusalem and not Rome would become the power base of the known world. Jews and not Gentiles would dominate. How the people thought Jesus was going to achieve all this with no army is not clear!

Now in one respect God's kingdom had already begun. When Jesus was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come he replied, "The kingdom of God is among you." Lk17v21. (See exposition on Luke17v20to37.) This kingdom exists today - it consists of Jesus the king and all his subjects - all Christians everywhere. Jesus is the living head of his church. The church is God's kingdom.

However, the kingdom is not all it will be. It remains to be perfected. A day will come when the king will return in all his glory. Jesus will come back to earth with power and authority. He will be visibly present among all his subjects from every age. His enemies both great and small will be judged, found wanting and disposed of.

(2) The instruction

During the delay - the time between Jesus' ascension and his second coming - he expects his disciples to actively pursue his interests. "So he called 10 of his servants and gave them 10 minas. 'Put this money to work,' he said, 'until I come back.'" v13.

Christianity is not about waiting passively nor is it just about enjoying the experience but rather it is about serving - working hard for the master. As the hymn puts it:

            There's a work for Jesus
            Ready at your hand,
            'Tis a task the Master
            Just for you has planned.
            Haste to do his bidding,
            Yield him service true;
            There's a work for Jesus
            None but you can do.

(3) The resources.

The nobleman did not leave his servants without resources to use on his behalf. Each was given a mina. This was not an inconsiderable sum. It was equivalent to 3 months wages for a casual labourer and so amounted to about 5000. This is the sort of sum that the British Government might lend a would-be entrepreneur to set up a small business today. Every servant was given the same amount so the working capital must represent resources that are common to all Christians. So we need to examine what every Christian has been given:

    (a) Knowledge. All Christians have some knowledge of both Jesus and the gospel. Believers are expected to pass this knowledge on. This is what Paul did. In his first letter to the Corinthians he wrote when dealing with the Lord's Supper: For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you. 1Cor11v23. If we are not able communicators then we can at least support financially and prayerfully those that are. On the whole it must be said the church has been very successful in spreading the good news about Jesus and his saving work.

    (b) Virtues. Every disciple of Jesus has at least three great virtues: faith, hope and love. So Christians should strengthen the faith of others. If our faith is strong it will encourage faith in others. When the writer to the Hebrews finished dealing with the heroes of faith he urged his readers: Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, .... let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Heb12v1. We must not underestimate the power of example. For many years Monterey, a California coast town, was a pelican's paradise. As the fishermen cleaned their fish, they flung the offal to the pelicans. The birds grew fat, lazy, and contented. Eventually, however the offal was utilized, and there were no longer snacks for the pelicans. When the change came the pelicans made no effort to fish for themselves. They waited around and grew gaunt and thin. Many starved to death. They had forgotten how to fish for themselves. The problem was solved by importing new pelicans from the south, birds accustomed to foraging for themselves. They were placed among their starving cousins, and the newcomers immediately started catching fish. Before long, the hungry pelicans followed suit, and the famine was ended. (Taken from sermonillustrations.com)

    Christians should also give hope like Paul in the storm. See Acts27v34to36. There are many ways to give hope. Sometimes just a few words will do as this story illustrates: Douglas Maurer, 15, of Creve Coeur, Missouri, had been feeling bad for several days. His temperature was ranging between 103 and 105 degrees, and he was suffering from severe flu-like symptoms. Finally, his mother took him to the hospital in St. Louis. Douglas Maurer was diagnosed as having leukemia. The doctors told him in frank terms about his disease. They said that for the next three years, he would have to undergo chemotherapy. They didn't sugarcoat the side effects. They told Douglas he would go bald and that his body would most likely bloat. Upon learning this, he went into a deep depression. His aunt called a floral shop to send Douglas an arrangement of flowers. She told the clerk that it was for her teenage nephew who has leukemia. When the flowers arrived at the hospital, they were beautiful. Douglas read the card from his aunt. Then he saw a second card. It said: "Douglas--I took your order. I work at Brix florist. I had leukemia when I was 7 years old. I'm 22 years old now. Good luck. My heart goes out to you. Sincerely, Laura Bradley." His face lit up. He said, "Oh!"

    It's funny: Douglas Maurer was in a hospital filled with millions of dollars of the most sophisticated medical equipment. He was being treated by expert doctors and nurses with medical training totalling in the hundreds of years. But it was a salesclerk in a flower shop, a woman making $170 a week, who--by taking the time to care, and by being willing to go with what her heart told her to do--gave Douglas hope and the will to carry on. (Taken from sermonillustrations.com) See also stories on hope.

    The followers of Jesus should show love. Dame Cicely Saunders the founder of the modern hospice movement showed what a practical expression of love for the dying could achieve. Hundreds of hospices in Britain and more than 95 other countries are modelled on St Christopher's Sydenham, the hospice which she established in 1967. Her love has inspired countless numbers of volunteer helpers to show love too. Cicely Saunders worked wonders with the resources Jesus gave her.

    (C) Three responses to the king

    (1) The response of the trustworthy servants.

    Two of the servants did well and made big returns on their working capital. Let us be clear what this involved:

      (a) Hard work.
      (b) Eterprise. None of the servants were told how to put the nobleman's money to work. They were left to devise their own way of making a profit.
      (c) Making contact with others. None of the servants could trade without interacting with other people.
      (d) Taking risks. All successful entrepreneurs take risks. Maybe one of the servants decided to put a new savoury food dip on the market. If it failed to take off the master's stake money would be lost.

              There was a very cautious man
              Who never laughed or played;
              He never risked, he never tried,
              He never sang or prayed.
              And when he one day passed away
              His insurance was denied;
              For since he never really lived,
              They claimed he never died!

    I recently watched a program on BBC TV about the Bombay railway. One of the characters it featured was a woman who sold cloth for saris in the women's only carriages of the off-peak trains. She exemplified all the characteristics above. I admired that woman. She worked hard in difficult conditions. She had some very nice cloth that she was very adept at showing off. Her people skills were excellent. I found her very likeable! The woman took risks because it was illegal to hawk anything in the carriages of the Bombay railway. Needless to say she was very successful and earned enough to buy an apartment and send her children to school. Jesus expects us to emulate that Indian lady - to show the enterprise she exhibited but to advance his cause.

    There are all sorts of ways of making Jesus known and presenting the gospel. Holiday clubs, beach missions, Christian camps and youth organisations like the Boys Brigade have all been used to introduce young people to Jesus. For 20 years I served with a Christian camp. It was hard work - entertaining the children - mixing with them and befriending them. We certainly took risks! A lot could have gone wrong. However, I am so thankful to have been involved because I saw many conversions at that camp.

    Similarly there are innumerable ways of showing love - but all require some effort, thought, involvement and risk.

    (2) The response of the wicked servant.

    The servant's wickedness did not consist of what the church generally classifies as seriously sinful behaviour: sexual immorality, violence, theft, lying, swearing, cheating, drug taking and the like. No, the servant's wickedness consisted of doing nothing with what he was given. So, if we do not share our knowledge of Jesus, if we don't care whether others are converted or not, if we are totally disinterested in setting an example and disinclined to help others we, too, are wicked in Christ's eyes.

    Reasons for the wicked servant's behaviour:

      (a) Laziness. In the parable of the Talents the servant who wrapped his money up and hid it is accused of laziness. "His master replied, 'You wicked, lazy servant!' ... " Mt25v26.

      I think the British are remarkably tolerant of laziness. The Government pays people to be lazy!! But Jesus isn't! He likens himself in the parable to a tough, hard-nosed investor who wants value for money. He has no time for Christians who suffer from laziness and there are plenty of them. The church is full of drones. Their buzz word is: want, want, want. There is no: give, give, give.

      (b) Fear. The wicked servant's excuse for his inactivity was: "'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.'" v21.

      Fear can make us useless servants; fear of failing so we don't witness, fear that nothing we do is good enough for God so we end up doing nothing, fear of being contaminated by contact with the world and so we hide in monasteries or small exclusive fellowships.

      (c) Misunderstanding. The wicked servant had a mistaken perception of his master. He accuses him of making unjustified demands: "'You take out what you did not put in ...'"

      It is possible to make God a harsh task master; a God of rules and regulations; a God of the negatives; a God who wants to rob us of all pleasure. If we are unaware of the generosity of God and his dear Son it is possible that we shall be resentful and unwilling to work. Love is a great motivator.

      God is generous. He has given us far more than we can ever give to him. Paul wrote in wonder: He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all - how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Rom8v32.

      (d) Self-absorption. I imagine the wicked servant was so preoccupied with himself that he put his own interests before those of his master. This was a short-term view!

      There are people like that today. Their faith, their Christianity is a private thing. Such folk feel no need to go to church. They don't want to get involved with other Christians. The gospel exists for their own edification and private enjoyment. These believers would never share their faith with others. Sadly they have so little love for their fellow Christians that they have no desire to meet with them. They are not trading with their minas, Christ's interests are not being served - they are wicked servants.

    (3) The response of the king's opponents.

    Not everyone in the parable was a servant of the king. But his subjects hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, "We don't want this man to be our king." v14.

    In every age, wherever there are Christ's servants, there are also those who do not want Jesus as king. Many remain implacably opposed to him and so treat his servants with a mixture of contempt and spite.

    (D) The three judgments.

    (1) Of the trustworthy servants.

    The trustworthy servants are rewarded. Three observations about their reward:

      (a) They were commended: "'Well done, my good servant!' his master replied." The praise is similar to that given to the servants who used their talents profitably. See Mt25v21.

      (b) It was out of all proportion to the service rendered. "'Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.'" v17. In other words those who have proved themselves reliable in small things will be trusted in greater. The more trustworthy and committed the greater the reward. The servant who made 5 minas was given the rule over 5 cities not 10.

      (c) More was given. The servant who made no use of his resources lost what he had been given. His minas was taken away and given to the man who had made the most. In answer to the protests the king said: "I tell you that everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what he has will be taken away." v26.

    How is this relevant to us?

      (a) To a certain extent hard work has its reward in this life. For example, the person with some skill as a pianist will improve the more he practices and performs. More will be given. The Christian with a knowledge of Jesus who shares that knowledge by teaching in Sunday school will consolidate and increase that knowledge. One of the best ways to learn a subject is to teach it! Jesus said that the merciful will receive mercy. If we perform kind acts we become kinder and others will be kinder to us. (See exposition on Mt5v7.)

      A person who is trustworthy and faithful - someone with integrity - may also be richly rewarded. I was quite surprised to read:

      A study was recently completed on corporate managers. In it they were asked if they voiced positions that 1. focused on the good of the company, rather than personal benefit and 2. jeopardized their own careers. Emerging from this study were the four leader-types which are found in all organizations.

      Type #1 -- courageous. These people expressed ideas to help the company improve, in spite of personal risk or opposition.

      Type #2 -- confronting. These people spoke up, but only because of a personal vendetta against the company.

      Type #3 -- calloused. These people didn't know, or care, whether they could do anything for the company; they felt helpless and hopeless, so they kept quiet.

      Type #4 -- conforming. These people also remained quiet, but only because they loathed confrontation and loved approval.

      The researchers discovered that the courageous managers accomplished the most, reported the highest job satisfaction, and eventually were commended by superiors. Their commitment had certainly improved the quality of their lives.

      Mr ten Boom, the godly Haarlem watch mender, was a man of great personal integrity. He never got rich but he was held in high esteem by the other watch menders of the city. When one of them died Mr ten Boom was invariably asked to conduct the funeral. More will be given.

      I am by no means godly and of no great reputation as a preacher or teacher but year after year I am asked to conduct the funerals of people who attend or once attended our chapel. This is a sacred trust. More will be given.

      (b) But I think it is possible to be a faithful, trustworthy and humble servant of Jesus Christ without receiving much reward in this life. It is a feature of humility to be overlooked and disregarded as was Jesus and his apostle, Paul. (See my exposition on Mt5v3.)

      We can be sure that at Christ's second coming and the ultimate judgment he will richly reward his trustworthy servants. If, and it is a big if, I receive his, "Well done," that will be reward enough for me.

      The rewards received will be out of all proportion to our poor efforts here on earth. Some will be more highly decorated than others. I think we are in for a few surprises when Jesus hands out the medals.

    (2) Of the lazy and untrustworthy servant.

    Such are punished:

      (a) The idle, disinterested servant was condemned as wicked. "'I will judge you by your own words, you wicked servant.'" v22.

      (b) The wicked servant lost what he had been given. "'Take away his mina from him and give it to the one who has 10 minas.'" v24.

      Those who do nothing with what Jesus has given them - who never witness - never pray - never build faith, give hope or show love - will lose the benefits of what they have been given. Faith that is not exercised atrophies and dies just as surely as the pianist's skill declines without practice.

      (c) At the final judgment all those like the wicked servant will not be treated like servants because that is not what they have been! They have never worked in the vineyard, laboured in the harvest field or endured hardship as good soldiers of Jesus Christ.

      In the parable of the talents the master said: "'And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'" Mt25v30.

      Whether that is the fate of the wicked servant in the parable of the Minas is not clear. We can expect to suffer loss if our work for Jesus is unsatisfactory. (See expostion on Christian Builders.)

    (3) Of the opponents of the King

    We are not left in too much doubt about their fate. The king said: "'But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be a king over them - bring them here and kill them in front of me.'"

    There is no hope for those who reject Jesus - for those who say: "We will not have this man to reign over us." All such will experience the Second Death and be destroyed.

    ANY COMMENTS FOR JOHN REED: E-mail jfmreed@talktalk.net