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In the past couple of weeks we’ve looked at the basics of giving. We looked at some examples of giving in Scripture and established some principles of biblical giving and the tithe. Hopefully, things are a bit clearer for you. Psalm 24:1 says, “The earth is the LORD’S, and all it contains, The world, and those who dwell in it.” For the next couple of weeks, we’re going to look at some specific teachings of Jesus that deal with stewardship. In our first example, there’s a dual implication of the teaching.
Check out Luke 19:11-27.
We need to provide some context for this teaching. Luke begins by saying, “While they were listening to these things.” The “things” represent the story of Zaccheus. He was a chief tax collector and he was rich. As Jesus entered Jericho, Zaccheus wanted to see Him, but he was very small. In order to get a better look, he climbed a sycamore tree. Jesus sees him and tells him that He’s going over to stay at his house. Zaccheus recognized that Jesus was, “The way, the truth, and the life.” (John 14:6) Zaccheus gives away half his possessions to the poor as a demonstration of repentance. So often today, we talk about repentance, but don’t really see it demonstrated. We’ll look at Zaccheus again in a couple of weeks.
No other N.T. books are as concerned about possessions as the writings of Luke. Luke writes about selling possessions in 12:33. About giving up everything to be a disciple in 14:33. He writes about the rich young ruler and treasure in heaven in 18:22. He emphasizes generosity and giving. He warned us of the danger of possessions and even said that riches were a primary reason for choking God’s Word in 8:14. The list goes on and on.
So the crowds continued to follow Jesus and they approached Jerusalem. Jesus speaks to them in a parable because the people thought, “The Kingdom of God was going to appear immediately.” Remember a common theme among the early disciples was the timing for this Kingdom stuff. It seems like they thought once they got to Jerusalem, Jesus would overthrow the Roman government and establish His Kingdom. That’s not the case, so Jesus uses this as an opportunity to teach.
Look at the nobleman’s assignment in vs. 12-14. In addition to the nobleman, there are two other groups of people mentioned. The slaves did business for the nobleman. The citizens hated the nobleman and didn’t want him to rule over them. Notice that the citizens said, “We don’t want this man to reign over us,” – present tense. They were adamant about that so they sent a group of people to protest the appointment. Here’s what the nobleman tells the slaves in v. 13, “And he called ten of his slaves, and gave them ten minas and said to them, ‘Do business with this until I come back.” Each slave got a mina – equivalent to about 100 days wages. They are to conduct business with the money, but just until the nobleman returns from the distant country.
Luke goes on to say “When he returned, after receiving the kingdom, he ordered that these slaves, to whom he had given the money, be called to him so that he might know what business they had done.” (v. 15) The nobleman returned and the first thing he wants to know is what happened to the money the slaves were entrusted with. The first slave turned that 1 mina into ten – a 1000% return. The Nobleman tells him , “Well done, good slave, because you have been faithful in a very little thing, you are to be in authority over ten cities.” (v. 17) Sweet deal. The second slave turned that mina into five – 500% return. The Nobleman tells the second slave, “And you are to be over five cities.” Wow. Then we get to the last slave. He had a different plan and got different results. In v. 20 the last slave said, “Master, here is your mina, which I kept put away in a handkerchief.” You’ve got to wonder what this slave was thinking. I don’t know if the slaves talked with each other about what business they were doing with the mina. I don’t know if they checked on each other’s progress. When the nobleman comes back, maybe this is the first opportunity the slaves have to be together. He’s just watched the first two guys and what they did and how they’re rewarded. So the slave goes on to say, “I was afraid of you.” Why is the slave afraid? “Because you are an exacting man,” Exacting means harsh or severe. The slave justified this by saying, “You take up what you did not lay down and reap what you did not sow.” In reality, that slave had a completely contrary view of the nobleman. He just witnessed the nobleman rewarding the other slaves. And the nobleman was quite generous. This sounds an awful lot like justification for his disobedience.
Accountability typically brings judgment, it could be good or bad. In v. 13, the nobleman assigned the slaves the task of doing business and in v. 15, he holds them accountable for what was given them. We’ve seen that the 1st slave got ten cities and the 2nd slave got five cities. The 3rd slave was rebuked in v. 22-23. If the slave really believed the nobleman was so exacting, he could have at least put the mina in the bank and gained some interest. Look at the reward of the 3rd slave in v. 24. What the slave had was taken away and given to the 1st slave. In v. 25, the people protested for the sake of fairness. That guy already has ten minas, why give him more?
A harsh reality is found in v. 26 saying, “I tell you that to everyone who has, more shall be given, but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away.” The slave was disobedient and tried to justify it by saying the nobleman was exacting. It’s the reality of obedience versus disobedience. It is stewardship of what we have been given. We’re not asked to be stewards of what we don’t have. It’s the same thing Luke said in 8:18, “So take care how you listen; for whoever has, to him more shall be given; and whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has shall be taken away from him.” The people who have will have more because they’ll continue doing the things that got them there while the people who have not, will continue doing those things that got them there and even what they have will be taken away.
You probably have not missed the other aspect of this parable. This is clearly a parable of stewardship, but stewardship is required because the nobleman has left to receive a kingdom and then he will return. When Jesus returns, He will reward the faithful servants (vs. 15-19), deal with the unfaithful servants (vv. 20–26), and judge His enemies (v. 27). The unfaithful servant had no excuse; his unjust fear kept him from doing what was right when it should have driven him to serve. At the Judgment Seat of Christ, the Lord will give us exactly what we deserve. Until that time, we must as v. 13 says, do business until He comes back.