Presented at Trinity Fellowship on 10/15/1995
Luke 19:11-27 And while they were listening to these things, he went on to tell a parable, because he was near Jerusalem and they supposed that the kingdom of God was going to appear immediately. 12 He said, therefore, “A certain nobleman went to a distant country to receive a kingdom for himself and then return. 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.’ 14 But his citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to reign over us.’ 15 And it came about that when he returned, after receiving the kingdom, he ordered that these slaves to whom he had given the money be called to him in order that he might know what business they had done. 16 And the first appeared, saying, ‘Master, your mina has made ten minas more.’ 17 And he said to him, ‘Well done, good slave; because you have been faithful in a very little thing, be in authority over ten cities.’ 18 And the second came, saying, ‘Your mina, master, has made five minas.’ 19 And he said to him also, ‘And you are to be over five cities.’ 20 And another came, saying, ‘Master, behold your mina, which I kept put away in a handkerchief. 21 For I was afraid of you, because you are an exacting man; you take up what you did not lay down and reap what you did not sow.’ 22 He said to him, ‘By your own words I will judge you, you worthless slave. Did you know that I am an exacting man, taking up what I did not lay down and reaping what I did not sow? 23 Then why did you not put the money in the bank, and having come, I could have collected it with interest?’ 24 And he said to the bystanders, ‘Take the mina away from him and give it to the one who has the ten minas.’ 25 And they said to him, ‘Master, he has ten minas already.’ 26 ‘I tell you, to everyone who has shall more be given, but from the one who does not have, even that which he has shall be taken away. 27 But these enemies of mine who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slay them in my presence.’”
In this age of Yuppies and upward mobility, no topic captures the imagination more than “investment strategy.” Should you be in money market funds, mutual funds, certificates of deposit, or IRA’s? These are not unimportant decisions, because your economic freedom in your last years, with all the opportunities for serving the Lord such freedom would bring, is at stake. But a far more important decision than how you invest your money is how you will invest your life. For unless you are already investing your life in making disciples for Jesus now, any economic freedom you might gain through investing your money will just be wasted in the future. Jesus’ parable here is about both. It is about investing money on the surface, but ultimately it is about how we should be investing our lives.
Jesus told this parable to combat the preconceived notions that the Jews had about the coming of the kingdom of God. They were expecting Jesus to overthrow the Roman Empire and replace it with a glorious and righteous Jewish one, and as he got closer to Jerusalem, they were expecting him to do it then and there. That is the point of the word “immediately” in verse 11. But Jesus gives them an entirely different scenario. He is going away to receive a kingdom that seems to have little to do with the people he is talking to, most of whom appear as rebels against the master rather than as his triumphant supporters in the war with Rome. He will apparently bring this kingdom with him when he returns at an indefinite time. In the meanwhile, their place in that kingdom depends on how faithful they are to Christ while he is gone. They may be great, ruling ten or five cities, or small, losing even the responsibility they started out with, or outside the kingdom altogether and slain in the king’s presence. In hindsight, we can see that the nobleman was Jesus, the trip his Ascension into Heaven, his servants the Christians, his enemies the unbelievers, especially the unbelieving Jews who would refuse his reign as soon as they realized it didn’t fit their preconceived notions.
So there are two lessons here. First, the kingdom is not coming “immediately,” and unless you repent it won’t be coming for you at all. Second, your status in the kingdom when it does come will depend on your faithfulness to Jesus now; your faithfulness will depend on your relationship to him; your relationship will depend on your attitude toward him; and your attitude will depend on your concept of him. We can see how this all plays out by asking two questions.
Do you believe in Jesus enough to take him as your Lord? Most of the people in the crowd did not. They are the ones in the parable who did not wish him to reign over them (verse 14, 27). Since these people are slain in the last verse, it is clear that the Lordship of Christ is the thing that separates the lost from the saved.
To understand why this is so, we have to examine the relationship between the Lordship of Christ and the kingdom. And that relationship is not hard to see once you put the question that way. In the kingdom of God, Jesus is the king. Those then are the citizens of the kingdom who have embraced his kingship. For in Scripture there are only two masters, Christ and the Devil. There are only two kingdoms, the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan. There are only two paths, the path of light and the path of darkness. There are only two gates, the narrow gate that leads to life and the broad one that leads to destruction. There are only two final dwellings, only two homelands, Heaven and Hell. There are only two conditions, saved and lost. And your relationship to Christ determines how you related to each of these binary pairs. To ask which kingdom you belong to is the same question as to ask which king you serve. If you serve Elizabeth I you are an Englishman; if you serve Philip of Spain, you are a Spaniard. It is as simple as that.
Satan loves to encourage this watered down Christianity that surrounds us in which you can have Jesus as your Savior without having him as your Lord. Why? Because it encourages professing believers to avoid the only question that matters and hence allows them to avoid ever becoming real Christians. He has even used an essential Christian doctrine, the doctrine of salvation by grace alone apart from works, in such a way that it seems to support this nonsense, as if insisting on the Lordship of Christ is somehow to reintroduce works into the plan of salvation. Nonsense!
Yes, nonsense it is. I choose the word carefully. And I think I can show you just how nonsensical this pseudo-Gospel is. Let us just imagine two hypothetical “believers.” One of them says, in effect, “OK, I want to take advantage of Jesus’ blood to pay for my sin so I can avoid Hell, but as for running my life, he can go jump in the lake!” The other says, “Yes! Now I see! Jesus died for ME, to pay for MY sins. I deserve Hell but he offers me Heaven as a free gift purely by grace—at the price of his blood! What wondrous love is this? Amazing grace, how sweet the sound! Oh, marvelous grace of our loving Lord! And can it be that I should gain an interest in my Savior’s blood? Died he for me who caused his pain, for me who him to death pursued? Amazing love! How can it be that Christ my God should die for me? OK: How can I then deny him anything who has given everything for me while I was yet a sinner? I will probably fail him a hundred times, but what else can I do? I MUST follow him!”
Now you tell me: which one of these two understands the Cross? Which one of them understands and embraces salvation by grace alone? Which one of them understands and has accepted the Gospel? There is only one, and I don’t even need to tell you which it is. The first statement is not only nonsense, it is blasphemous nonsense, damnable nonsense. You are a citizen of the kingdom—a forgiven and pardoned citizen—if and only if you acknowledge the authority of the King. And so I repeat: In the final analysis, the question on which the forgiveness of sin, eternal life, salvation, belonging to the kingdom of Heaven depends is “Do you believe in Jesus Christ enough to take him as your Lord?” Or, in other words, “Will you have this man to reign over you?”
But there is a second question the passage also raises. The first one deals with whether or not we will be in the kingdom. The second deals with how far in we will be. And it is
The first question, do you believe in Jesus enough to take him as your Lord, differentiates the slaves of the master from his enemies. This second question differentiates the first servant from the third servant. Do you love Jesus enough to live for him? It is this question, and not their relative success in making money, that is the difference between the first and the third servants. Do you see that? Let me try to show you.
The key to the failure of the third servant is his attitude toward the master. What does he say when his turn comes to give an account? “Master, behold your mina, which I kept put away in a handkerchief. For I was afraid of you, because you are an exacting man” (verses 20-21). Contrast that with the excitement in the voice of the first servant: “Master, LOOK! Your mina has made ten minas!” The first servant is happy because he knows the master he loves will be pleased with him. The third is afraid because his master is an exacting man—or, as the King James familiarly put it, “a hard taskmaster.” But where did he get this idea? To whom was the master a hard taskmaster? Not to the first servant, or the second! They received an extravagant reward for their faithfulness, all out of proportion to what they had done. It is very significant that the master says he will judge the third servant by his own words. You call me a hard taskmaster? OK, I’ll show you what one is really like. Take away his mina and give it to servant number one! Perfect love casteth out fear, and the love of this servant for the One he had taken as Lord was not sufficient to do so. His hard words about the master became a self-fulfilling prophecy. So here is the question that will determine the quality of your Christian life: Do you serve Jesus out of love or fear? Recall our two hypothetical believers. The first one was not a believer at all. He was just mouthing words without the slightest understanding of what they mean. The second one was full of love for his Lord, love that casts out all fear. He DIED for us! Do you understand? How is anyone who did that going to turn around and be mean to us? We can trust him. We can cast everything on him. Unfortunately, it is possible to forget that first love, or have it squelched by legalistic teachers who have spent too much time with the third servant. And so we can be in the kingdom but hide our mina in a handkerchief.
We hide our mina out of fear. But the opposite of fear is love! Let us think about the first two servants as they appear in contrast to the third. They show us the nature of loving service.
These then are the two most important questions you will ever ask or answer: Do you believe in Jesus enough to take him as your Lord? Do you love him enough to live for him? A “yes’ to the first question should lead straight to a “yes” to the second. Sometimes it tragically does not. But if we see him for who he is, we will desire nothing but to say to them both, “Yes! Now I see! Jesus died for ME, to pay for MY sins. I deserve Hell but he offers me Heaven as a free gift purely by grace—at the price of his blood! What wondrous love is this? Amazing grace, how sweet the sound! Oh, marvelous grace of our loving Lord! And can it be that I should gain an interest in my Savior’s blood? Died he for me who cause his pain, for me who him to death pursued? Amazing love! How can it be that Christ my God should die for me? OK: How can I then deny him anything who has given everything for me while I was yet a sinner? I will probably fail him a hundred times, but what else can I do? I MUST follow him!”
And follow him I shall. Will you join me?
Here endeth the lesson.
Dr. Donald T. Williams