Read: Luke 19:11-27
Interestingly, just after we read about Zacchaeus’ conversion, Jesus continues with a parable that uses money management to make His point. Much like Matthew’s account (Matthew 24:14-30), Luke presents three servants to depict those who do and those who do not. From the outset, it’s important to appreciate this is not a parable of the haves and have-nots. That seems obvious, but I want to make sure we’re at least on the same page there!
There are several things going on at once in this parable. Honestly, I had to read it a few times to grasp some of the subtleties. There are ten servants, though we only hear about three, and there are the master’s subjects whose fate is horrible in the end.
The parable is about the coming day of judgment, a subject we tend to avoid, and about the ultimate authority of Jesus as Lord and Master. For those who are using Multiply as the resource for discipleship, this concept is discussed in the very first chapter, the third question for those trying to wrap their mind around what it means to be a disciple.
Jesus is pretty clear here. We are each given a mission, a ministry if you will. He will be gone for some indeterminant amount of time, but He will return. And when He does, He anticipates we will have done something positive with that which He provided.
Those who have hardened their hearts and have blatantly rejected Jesus will receive ultimate punishment. Don’t read my words, hear what Jesus said:
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. Luke 19:27
Their fate is sealed by dismissing Jesus with such brash words in verse 14, “We don’t want this man to be our king.” One comfort I take from this is simply that you and I don’t need to be their judge, Jesus will take care of this in the end.
The Good Servants
Those who invested wisely will be rewarded with even more.
“‘Well done, my good servant!’ his master replied. ‘Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.’ Luke 19:17
Jesus greatly rewards those who have been trustworthy in small matters. These words provide great encouragement to all who are diligently following Christ with their whole heart. The reward is more than we can imagine.
The Bad Servant
For those who know the master, who have heard the instructions, but have chosen to go the other way, the words are rather harsh.
I will judge you by your own words, you wicked servant! Luke 19:22
This servant reminds me of many who have the arrogance to stand up against Jesus as if they had greater knowledge or insight. His words make no sense, and his accusation is unfounded, but the master plays along, then uses his own words to condemn him.
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. Luke 19:21
If the master were a hard man that reaped where he did not sow, why would the first two servants be rewarded so graciously? There is no indication of hesitation on the part of the master to reward those who did well. No, I’m afraid this wicked servant is making excuses that will not be tolerated.
The socialists complained that giving more to those who already had much was unfair, but Jesus is the judge and final authority, whether we like it or not.
“He replied, ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what they have will be taken away. Luke 19:26
In Luke’s last parable, Jesus presents a portrait of the end of time. Perhaps I should have named this post, Eschatology Part 2. While I’m looking forward to His return, I hesitate to stop and wonder if I look like the good servants in this parable. Of course, it is my desire to be counted in that group, but my failures seem to take center stage more often than they should. Isn’t this the voice of the deceiver? Genesis 3:1 creeps in uninvited,“Did God really say…”
Lord, may we be the good servants in this parable, those who do what you ask, even when unspecified. Help us to know Your voice and You so well that we naturally do Your will.
This parable has a historical background. Both Herod in 40 B.C. and Archelaus in 4 B.C. went to Rome to receive ruling authority from the emperor. In the case of Archelaus, who was not popular, there was a public outcry not to grant him the position. Rome responded by giving him a less comprehensive mandate— an ethnarchy, not a kingship.2 Part of the captivating interest in this story for Jesus’ original audience was its parallelism to these well-known ancient events.3
Wilkins, Michael J.; Garland , David E.; Bock, Darrell L.; Burge, Gary M.; Fernando, Ajith. NIVAC Bundle 6: Gospels, Acts (The NIV Application Commentary) (Kindle Locations 53677-53682). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
2Josephus, Antiquities 14.14. 1-4, 370-85
3C. Blomberg, Interpreting the Parables, 217-20