Luke 19: 11 – 27 The parable of the ten minas
While they were listening to this, he went on to tell them a parable, because he was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once. He said: ‘A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return. So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas. [A mina was about three months’ wages] “Put this money to work,” he said, “until I come back.”
‘But his subjects hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, “We don’t want this man to be our king.”
‘He was made king, however, and returned home. Then he sent for the servants to whom he had given the money, in order to find out what they had gained with it.
‘The first one came and said, “Sir, your mina has earned ten more.”
‘”Well done, my good servant!” his master replied. “Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.”
‘The second came and said, “Sir, your mina has earned five more.”
‘His master answered, “You take charge of five cities.”
‘Then another servant came and said, “Sir, here is your mina; I have kept it laid away in a piece of cloth. 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.”
‘His master replied, “I will judge you by your own words, you wicked servant! You knew, did you, that I am a hard man, taking out what I did not put in, and reaping what I did not sow? Why then didn’t you put my money on deposit, so that when I came back, I could have collected it with interest?”
‘Then he said to those standing by, “Take his mina away from him and give it to the one who has ten minas.”
‘“Sir,” they said, “he already has ten!”
‘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. 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.”’
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What a passage! God as a harsh, exploitative ruler, ruthlessly having his opponents slaughtered.
What on earth do I make of that?
God created the universe and he has a plan. The plan involves humans, who are conscious and self-aware. We can make decisions about how we live our lives – we have free will. We can appreciate and enjoy the world in which we live. We can work with God to further his plan; or we can oppose him. At all times during our mortal lives God offers forgiveness and the chance of aligning ourselves with his plan.
But the plan is as it is, and it will eventually come to fruition. When it does, it will not accommodate sin. Those who have opposed God will lose their lives – permanently.
“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.”
What this emphatically does not say is that the ruler will rejoice in the killing.
As I wrote at the top of this piece, I find this slaughter very, very difficult to accept. If I, who am evil, feel compassion for those who are condemned, how much more compassion must God feel? He is undoubtedly much more just, much more merciful and much more loving than I am.
He offers us every opportunity to repent and be forgiven. In the person of Jesus, God went so far as to experience human death in its most dreadful form. He raised Jesus from the dead as a guarantee that his plan will ultimately prevail, and that it is worth our while to live righteously whatever the cost.
Beyond that, we can have little knowledge of God’s plan. Sometimes he shares details with us, when he has a particular task for us, or a particular blessing, but the plan overall? No. We lack the capacity to comprehend it.
In creating the universe as it is, God has responsibility for the existence of suffering. Some people find that an insuperable objection. But we don’t know how the plan turns out. We don’t have a clue beyond this mortal life, which is tiny (but not insignificant). It may be that the existence of suffering, and the existence of those who oppose God’s plan actually enable the accomplishment of something far more wonderful, that will exceed without limit any mortal suffering. We just don’t know.
The other storyline in this parable relates more directly to mortal human life.
The ruler gives his slaves modest sums of money to trade with and make a profit for him. One of them makes a large profit. He is commended, and given much greater responsibilities. Another makes a good profit. Again, he is commended, and given greater opportunities. But the third hides the money away, and makes zero profit. The ruler takes back the money and gives it to the slave who proved most productive. The real fault of the slave who hid the money is disobedience. He was told to put the money to work, and he didn’t do so.
God has given each of us different gifts. Some have many gifts; some just a few. But when we think about the gifts we have been given, we should remember that they come with an instruction: “Put this to work, until I come back.”
You are great, and I cannot understand your plan. I believe you love me, because of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. I believe you love me because I see love active in the people close to me.
Please forgive my doubts, and help me to live a life of love in obedience to you.
In Jesus name, Amen