Luke 19_11-27 A king’s treasury
I had to go to the dentist the other day. I hate going to the dentist for a number of reasons, but one reason sticks out more than any others. All your hidden sins of eating sugary foods when no one was looking, and then not cleaning your teeth, are all revealed in the moment when the dentist opens you moth and takes a look! There I am, sitting in the waiting room, waiting. Waiting for my time of reckoning when the dentist will see what I have been hiding from the world. And while I’m waiting, I see a plaque on the wall (no pun intended) that caught my attention; it read “You don’t have to clean every tooth, just the ones you want to keep!” As if I wasn’t feeling guilty enough! These dentists sure know how to lay it on.
You don’t have to clean every tooth, just the ones you want to keep! How true is that! No one can force you to stop eating bad foods, no one can stop you from being lazy and make you clean your teeth, its just that if you don’t, well, you will lose what was given to you.
Jesus intends to give a similar message in telling the parable of the minas; a parable about a great noble man who has many subjects and who is going away to become king. Before he leaves however, he entrusts 10 slaves, each with a mina, to do business until he returns. The time of reckoning comes, when the noble man returns now as king. He demands an accounting of each salve’s mina, asking what they have done to increase the gift they were given by him. Like a dentist asking you to open your mouth, and demanding a look, the slaves had to open their wallets so the king could take a look.
To those who had used the mina given to them to make more, the king entrusts them with even more, doubling their use of the kingdom’s wealth, but to the one who did nothing, even the gift was taken away and given to those who had been given more. As Jesus says “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.” Like the plaque on the wall of the dentist waiting room that read ‘You don’t have to clean every tooth, just the ones you want to keep!’ You don’t have to use every gift of the king, just the ones you want to keep!
There are two themes to the parable that are running consecutively. The first and primarily theme is, that the noble man goes away and becomes king, and secondly, that he gives gifts to be used and returns to call for an account from his servants. Jesus tells the parable as he is entering Jerusalem to be betrayed by Judas, crucified, and buried. He tells the parable to all who had gathered, because he can see that they were planning to make him king now, through an insurrection. Yes, Jesus fitted the criteria, he was of noble birth, in the family linage of King David, but as Jesus said to Pilate just days later “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.”
In the parable, Jesus is picturing himself as a noble man who is to be crowned king, and his kingdom which is heaven, is the faraway place that he must go to and then return. St Paul, in Philippians chapter 2 speaks of Jesus’ kingdom and how it is not of this world ‘For [God] has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves,’ and how Jesus is king above all other kings, ‘God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,’
This is the context from which we can begin to understand and apply the parable to our life. We need to know that Jesus has been crowned with glory and all authority has been given over to him. He has been crowned king through his going away; his travel to the far away land; through his birth as a man, his death for our sins, and his resurrection for our justification. And now his kingdom reigns in grace and forgiveness. We gladly hear and believe this, not so we can lord it over others, demanding submission and surrender to Jesus, demanding that Jesus rules as king in our hearts through new laws and commands, as though Moses didn’t quite get the 10 commandments right.
No, we need to know that Jesus’ kingship is good news, the gospel, because as King, Jesus now gives us his kingdom, so we can rule together with him in grace and forgiveness, love and servant hood, as St Paul in Romans 14:17 says “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” We need to know this so that we are not disciples of Jesus like the third slave who said “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.”
What the final slave said was true, God is to be feared, as the prophet Nahum declares “The mountains quake before him and the hills melt away. The earth trembles at his presence, the world and all who live in it. Who can withstand his indignation? Who can endure his fierce anger? His wrath is poured out like fire; the rocks are shattered before him.” His wrath and anger against our sins has already been poured out upon his Son Jesus; the prophet Nahum calls out “who can endure God’s fierce anger”…Jesus did. His death was a result of God’s anger; the sun was blacked because of his anger; the earth quaked and the Temple stones shattered before him, because of his anger. But what shattered the devil and shook hell was the final word of good news from the cross “it is finished.”
God’s anger has been dished out. The kingdom of his Son now reigns in peace, as Jesus said after his resurrection ‘peace be with you.’ Jesus now bespeaks to us the gifts of his kingdom, which is his righteousness. We are declared righteous, spoken righteous, or given righteousness as a gift through the proclamation of the gospel and through the receiving of baptism and Holy Communion, and we take hold of this by faith, trusting God at his word. God’s word and sacraments, our righteousness and even faith, are the gifts of Jesus’ kingdom, or the mina given to each servant, as Jesus alluded to in the parable. St Paul says this very thing in 2 Corinthians 5:21 21 “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
In Australian’s iconic movie ‘The Castle”, Darryl Kerrigan, played by Michael Caton, is a proud dad. Every time he is given a gift by his children, he says… “This is going straight to the pool room.” In other words, the gift is too good to be used, it might get damaged, or lost; its best left only for display. The gifts of Jesus are not to be treated in the same way, as Jesus explains in the parable; “he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas. ‘Put this money to work,’ he said, ‘until I come back.”
The gifts of the kingdom, God’s word, the sacraments, forgiveness, mercy and peace are to be put to work. They are not dust collecting relics to be on display in some archaic Cathedral. Nor is our righteousness in Christ to be hidden away, like a mina in a handkerchief, for fear that God will be angry with us if we mix with the wrong crowd, or dare to do what Jesus did ‘eat and drink with sinners.
God is reckless with his gifts. “As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked.” And in the parable of the vineyard workers, the owner replies to complaints about his generosity by saying “Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?” We are called to be salt and light of the earth; gift givers, slaves to righteousness, as Paul encourages us “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.” This is what Jesus means in the parable by asking his slaves to put the gift of the mina to work. The gift is God’s to give, and the gift is what does the work, we are simply asked to put it to work. So when Christ returns, we too will hear our king say to us “Well done, my good servant!‘