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Opinion | Jan 19, 2013

THE REWARDS OF FAITHFUL SERVICE TO CHRIST

THE REWARDS OF FAITHFUL SERVICE TO CHRIST

LUKE 19:11-27

While they were listening to these things, Jesus went on to tell a parable, because He was near Jerusalem, and they supposed that the kingdom of God was going to appear immediately.

So He said, 'A nobleman went to a distant country to receive a kingdom for himself, and then return.' And he called ten of his slaves, and gave them ten minas and said to them, 'Do business with this until I come back.' But his citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, 'We do not want this man to reign over us.' When he returned after receiving the kingdom, he ordered these slaves to whom he had given the money, be called to him so that he might know what business they have done.'

The first appeared, saying, 'Master, your mina has made ten minas more.' And he said to him, 'Well done, good slave, because you have been faithful in a very little thing, you are to be authority over ten cities.' The second came, saying, 'Your mina, master, has made five minas.' And he said to him also, 'And you are to be over five cities.' Another came, saying, 'Master, here is your mina, which I kept put away in a handkerchief; for I was afraid of you, because you an exacting man; you take up what you did not lay down and reap where you did not sow. 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? Then why did you not put my money in the bank, and having come, I would have collected it with interest?' Then he said to the bystanders, 'Take the mina away from him and give it to the one who has the ten minas already.'

"I tell you that everyone who has, more shall be given, but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away. But these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slay them in my presence" (NASB).


INTRODUCTION
The story is told of an eleventh-century German king, King Henry III, who, having grown tired of court life and the pressures of being a monarch, applied to a monastery to be accepted for a life of contemplation. The religious superior of the monastery, Prior Richard, is reported to have said, “Your Majesty, do you understand that the pledge here is one of obedience? That will be hard because you have been a king.”

Henry replied, “I understand. The rest of my life I will be obedient to you as Christ leads you.” “Then I will tell you what to do,” said Prior Richard. “Go back to your throne and serve faithfully in the place where God has placed you.”

When King Henry III died, a statement was written: “The King learned to rule by being obedient.” Like King Henry III, we too often are tired of our role and responsibility. Like King Henry, we too need to be reminded that God has placed each of us in a particular place to be faithful there. Be it as a plumber, accountant, mother, father, or whatever, God expects us to be faithful where He has placed us.

Fortunate was the Cleveland Heights woman who lost her purse in a shopping center: An honest lad found it and returned it to her. “That's funny,” commented the woman, “before I lost my bag, there was a twenty dollar bill in it. Now I find two fives and ten dollar bills.”

That's right lady,” agreed the honest lad. “The last time I found a lady's purse, she didn't have any change for a reward.”

I would like to share with you on the subject: “The Rewards of Faithful Service to Christ.”

Historical Background
When Jesus was coming to the city of Jerusalem, the people believed that the kingdom of God was about to appear. During His healing and teaching ministry, Jesus had healed the blind, cleansed the lepers, and raised the dead, besides preaching the good news. Accompanying Jesus to Jerusalem, the people expected the kingdom of God to become a reality.

Jesus knew that the crowd failed to understand the coming of the kingdom in spiritual terms. They failed to see that He would not and could not be an earthly king in God's kingdom. However, in order to help them understand the implication of the kingdom, Jesus told the parable of the minas or pounds. He did this by indirectly referring to events that had taken place more than thirty years earlier and that were engraved in their memories.

The people of Israel vividly remembered the sudden calamities inflicted on the Jews during the Passover feast of 4 B.C. in the temple area of Jerusalem. Herod the Great had died not long before the Passover feast, and in his will, he had stipulated that Archelaus was to be king. However, Archelaus's kingship was not to become effective until Caesar had approved it. Before the new appointee could travel to Rome to be officially crowned king—even though officers and soldiers acclaimed him as their king—a minor disturbance in the temple area degenerated into bloodbath in which three thousand Jews were killed by Archelaus's soldiers. Thereupon Archelaus ordered the rest of the Jews to return home; they abandoned the celebrations of the Passover feast and departed.

While Archelaus went to Rome, his officers were in change. In view of the turmoil and turbulence in the land, Archelaus was hard pressed before Caesar to defend himself. Fifty Jewish deputies appeared before the Roman Emperor to plead for the autonomy of Israel and to accuse Archelaus of murdering three thousand of their countrymen in the temple area of Jerusalem. Eight thousand Jews in Rome supported these fifty deputies. They asked Caesar to entrust their country to governors instead of Archelaus.

After a few days of deliberation, Caesar appointed Archelaus as ethnarch (tetrarch) of Idumea, Judea, and Samaria, and promised to make him king if he proved himself capable. In the mind of the Jewish people, Archelaus as well as his brother Antipas (ruling Galilee and Perea as tetrarch) were regarded as kings.

When Archelaus eventually returned to take possession of his ethnarch, he handed out swift punishment. Thus, the high priest Joazar was removed from office because he supported the Jewish rebels. Archelaus treated not only the Jews but also even the Samaritans with cruel brutality. By his actions he made himself, the most hated ruler, who because of complaints against him, was removed from office and banished in A.D. 6. After his reign, governors ruled Idumea, Judea, and Samaria. But the people retained a vivid recollection of the rule of Archelaus.

I. THE LORD'S GRACIOUS INVESTMENT
IN HIS SERVANTS VV. 11-13
Jesus used the reference to contemporary history to set the stage for his teaching about the kingdom of God. “A man of noble birth,” Jesus said, “called ten of his servants together before he left and gave each one a mina.” The amount was an equivalent of one hundred drachmas or about one hundred days of an average working wage. The master invests in these ten servants. The instruction each of the servants is to follow is, “Put this money to work.” The servants are to determine what they can do with these resources until the master returns. The servants represent anyone following Jesus Christ. The mina or pound is Christ's deposit on trust with which we are to invest until He returns. We are to witness to this faith in a world that is hostile to the claims of our King, Jesus Christ. Anybody who has received Christ as Lord and Savior has been given spiritual gifts or a gift to invest in the life of others until Christ returns.

The king expected his servants to be trustworthy in managing a relatively small amount of money and to show an increase at the time of his return. Also, the instruction should be seen and understood against the backdrop of Oriental culture in which daily trading and bargaining are part of life.

II. THE CITIZENS' REACTION AGAINST THE KING V. 14
In addition to the servants are subjects who hate the ruler and do not want him as king. They send a delegation to those making the selection to inform them of their complaint. This pictures Israel that rejected Jesus as the Messiah. Despite their complaint, the nobleman received the kingship.

This portion of the parable reveals the animosity of the Jewish rulers and their determination to kill Christ. But there is a wider application. All are His enemies who willingly reject His claims and refuse to accept His sovereignty. The Jews were Jesus' fellow citizens, for like them, He too was of the seed of Abraham, a Jew (Rom. 9:3; John 4:22). Yet, they hated Jesus with a passion, plotted His death, and continued their hatred of Him by persecuting His servants who witnessed for Him after His ascension. Those Jewish rulers would not recognize anyone except Caesar. However, even in their recognition of Caesar it was a façade. They did not want anybody to rule them. Rather they wanted to rule themselves. That is why many people cannot become Christians today, because to become a Christian means to submit yourself under the Lordship of Christ. The question you need to ask yourself is this: “Who is ruling your life?” You are the very person who knows exactly who rules your life.

Today, individuals, some nations, and governments have rejected Jesus Christ. They do not want Jesus to be the Lord of their lives, countries, and governments. However, Christ is patient in the midst of this animosity in the interim, but a day is coming when He returns to earth to establish His Kingdom, and He will deal drastically with all rebels.

III. THE LORD'S RETURN AND REWARDS VV. 15-27
When the King returns he summons his servants, and is pleased with the faithfulness of the servant who has gained another ten minas. He praises him for his diligence and wisdom; he calls him “good,” and rewards him by putting him in charge of ten cities. I want you to see something here in this parable. Note what the first servant said, “Master, Your mina has made ten minas more.” He did not say, “I have gained ten minas” (pounds). The Pound, the Gospel of the Grace of God, has within itself the power of increase. If you will faithfully share the Word of God with others, the Spirit of God will save them and the Lord will credit this to your eternal account in heaven. The second servant has also done well, earning five minas. His trustworthiness, though not as elaborate as the first servant, earns him five cities. Ladies and gentlemen, all that the Lord requires of you is to invest the spiritual gifts that He has deposited in your life. My challenge to you is that are you going to heaven all by yourself when friends, family members, coworkers, and neighbors are still living in darkness without Christ? I challenge you to take as many people as you can with you to heaven.

Our eternal reward reflects the amount of God's glory that we have allowed to shine through us. It is like chandelier that has many light bulbs, some 25 watts, some 50 watts, and some 100 watts. The light bulbs as a whole give and contribute light to the room. That is the way it will be in heaven, but some of us will be contributing only 25 watts, others 50 and still others full 100 watts. How much of God's light do you want to shine through you?

The king condemned the third servant who returns only one mina that he received from him. The three servants portray three classes. The first represents those who gain immense profits; the second stands for those whose profit was considerable; and the third for the one who had gained no profit at all. The third servant, therefore, is of entirely different kind. He is the unprofitable one.

The main exchange of the parable takes place between the master and the third servant. The parable's pace slows down at this point because it is the central concern that Jesus wants to raise. The third servant does not utilize the mina for the purpose for which it is given. Instead, he hides it in a handkerchief, and he explains why. He is afraid of the master, knowing him to be hard man, who takes what he does not work for and reaps where he does not sow. The third servant does not have any sense of loyalty to his master. Why should he honor him with his labor? This is important because the third servant to all appearances is associated with the master, but there is nothing in his life that indicates any trust of his master. This servant is a disciple of sorts, but there is no meaningful relationship within that connection. Many Christians are like the third servant. Even though the Lord has gifted them in so many ways, yet they do not invest their lives by bringing others to Christ. Many Christians do not do anything for the Lord. They do not attend Bible study, Sunday school, worship service; they do not share their faith with others, and they do not pay their tithes and offerings. They just live for themselves. In your own life, what are you doing for Jesus Christ with all that He has done for you and invested in you?

The third servant has a wrong concept of his master and he confesses it before him. Having failed to increase his deposit the third servant lost any further opportunity of serving his master. This servant was guilty of the “sin of omission.” What is the sin of omission? The sin of omission is, "knowing what is right to do but failing or refusing to do it." Many of us who call ourselves Christians are guilty of the sin of omission. Our churches are full of those guilty of this sin. They seem to have no desire to serve the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. They have the mina or pound to trade but it is buried in a napkin.

The master's reaction to the servant is strong and clear. This wicked servant will be condemned based on his own testimony. If he did not want to work for the master, at least he could have put the money in a bank, where it would have gained interest. From hindsight we see that the third servant was lazy and a liar, because if the master was wicked he would not have rewarded the two servants generously. Thus, the master orders that the mina should be taken away from him and given to the servant who made ten minas. The crowd protests, noting that the first servant already has enough. The money the master entrusted to the servants was a test. The king wanted to test their loyalty to him and wished to reward them accordingly. The king therefore does not answer the objection of the crowd. Instead, Jesus makes the application. The one who has gets more, but the one who has nothing loses even what he has. Jesus applies a mathematical warning to the third servant. Nothing from nothing leaves nothing. The person, who has no trust in God's goodness, even though he/she claims to have a “connection” to God, has no relationship with God and ends up with nothing from Him at the end. The third person represents those who claim to be Christians who neither trust nor know the goodness of the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus then deals with the subjects who did not want the noble man to be king. They are all killed. This represents the fate of those who reject Jesus outright. The parable has two major themes. The first deals with Jesus' authority and the accountability of all to Him. This makes the parable a call to faithfulness. The second theme is that we are all accountable to God for how we conduct our journey through this world. One day God will render judgment. Your connection or attendance in a church service does not make you a Christian. What makes you a Christian is a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. In other words, when you receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, then you become a Christian. Your faithfulness to Jesus Christ is the proof of your salvation; and that faithfulness will be rewarded when Jesus returns.

In 1946 Akio Morita and another man started a new company called Tokyo Telecommunications Engineering in a bombed-out department store in Tokyo, says writer Kevin Maney.

In 1955, Mr. Morita's company made the world's first transistor portable radio. An American company, Bulova, offered to buy the radios at a handsome profit, but the deal troubled Mr. Morita. Under the deal, Bulova would sell the radios under their own name.

Morita wanted to establish his own company's brand name. Even though the deal would have brought his struggling company a much needed infusion of cash, Morita decided against the deal, telling the executives at Bulova, “I am now taking the first step for the next fifty years of my company.”

Morita's company went on to become one of the greatest success stories in business. Besides the transistor radio, they built the first VCRs and the first Compact disc players.

Incidentally, by the time he turned down the deal with Bulova, Morita had already changed the name of his company to Sony. In business, the choice is often between present and future rewards—with the biggest rewards coming in the years ahead.

To enter the kingdom of God, we must forsake the enticing but small rewards this life offers to gain the reward of life eternal.

NOTE: This is the last segment on our series on the Parables in Luke's Gospel. Next week we begin another series on The Miracles of Jesus in the Gospel of John.

Kennedy Adarkwa
Kennedy Adarkwa, © 2013

This author has authored 259 publications on Modern Ghana.
Author column: KennedyAdarkwa

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