Have you ever noticed how often the Bible speaks in financial or monetary terms? I think that’s to hold our attention. The Lord knows how money can be a magnet for our attention, so He often uses language or terms that remind us of money. Thus we find true treasure, when we listen to God’s holy Word, ponder it, and trust in it for ourselves.
One of the points I made in the preaching, but not the writing, of this sermon was about the consequences for the unfaithful servant. In the parable he has the mina taken away from him; this teaches us that “for he who has nothing, even what he has will be taken away.” God will surely take His Word away from those who have it but yet do not pay attention to it, listen to it, or conform their lives to it. And the consequences when God takes His Word away….they’re severe. You lose your salvation. You fall from grace. God keep each of us from sliding off into cold apathy!
However, for those who listen to the Word and do what it says, they will find eternal blessing far out of proportion to the time and attention they put into the Word while they were on earth. God’s Word truly is the power of God for the salvation of all who believe! Hope you’re edified by the sermon — God be with you.
“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. 12 He said: “A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return. 13 So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas.[a] ‘Put this money to work,’ he said, ‘until I come back.’
14 “But his subjects hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, ‘We don’t want this man to be our king.’
15 “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.
16 “The first one came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has earned ten more.’
17 “‘Well done, my good servant!’ his master replied. ‘Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.’
18 “The second came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has earned five more.’
19 “His master answered, ‘You take charge of five cities.’
20 “Then another servant came and said, ‘Sir, here is your mina; I have kept it laid away in a piece of cloth. 21 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.’
22 “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? 23 Why then didn’t you put my money on deposit, so that when I came back, I could have collected it with interest?’
24 “Then he said to those standing by, ‘Take his mina away from him and give it to the one who has ten minas.’
25 “‘Sir,’ they said, ‘he already has ten!’
26 “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. 27 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.’” (luke 19.11-27 niv)
It was called Black Tuesday. October 29, 1929, was the day the stock market officially collapsed. It had been shaky for a few weeks, but on that day, it plummeted, taking the wealth of millions with it. In the span of a day, $14 billion dollars vanished. America was flung headfirst into the Great Depression. Millions of people were left wondering what they would do, now that all the money they thought they could count on in the stock market was gone. All their wealth, all their security, had vanished literally overnight. That same sort of thing happens even today, as the most recent economic downturn reminds us, but there’s an event coming that for many people, will be far worse than an economic downturn. We’re talking about Judgment Day, a day which will strip away every false hope and every worldly support. Only what God has accomplished will be left.
In the Bible the teachings of God’s Word are sometimes referred to as the “good deposit.” This is fitting, because the Word’s teachings are eternally valuable. They never lose their worth. God has given each of us the good deposit of his Word. Now the question is, what are we going to do with it? – especially since the Last Day is coming. Today we’ll see that Jesus wants us to have Eternal Dividends from the Good Deposit.
All the parables of Jesus have one main point of comparison, but some are more detailed than others. This parable is one of the Lord’s more detailed ones. Many of the specifics line up well with the reality of the Last Day. It’s not a good idea to look for a hidden meaning of every detail of every parable, but in this case St. Luke points us in that direction with the way he introduces this parable. Jesus had just been to the house of Zaccheus, where he declared that salvation had come to the house of the midget-like tax collector. Right before that, Jesus had healed a blind man – which was something that the prophets said would be a sign of the Messiah’s coming. The blind man had even called Jesus the Son of David, a Messianically charged term, and Jesus hadn’t told him no. Could this man be the Messiah? Could the teacher from Nazareth be the one we’re waiting for? People were starting to get worked up because they thought that the reign of God was going to start at any moment. The Romans would finally be gone and they would be free. To cool them down and to teach them what the coming of the kingdom of God would really be like, Jesus tells this parable.
Some of the details of the parable we can interpret right away. The king in the parable is Jesus. Nobody has ever had a nobler birth or family than Christ did. He’s true God from all eternity – light from light. The facts of Jesus’ life agree with the parable. He left heaven for the far country of earth, where he suffered, died, and rose again. He ascended into heaven and took his full right and power to reign over all creation when he sat down at the right hand of God. Our king is still coming back, but until he does, he’s given each of us a great gift. In the parable each servant received a mina. A mina was roughly three months’ wages – a not inconsiderable amount. Imagine what you could do with three months’ worth of extra money, just given to you. And what moves the master to give out such great sums? Just his love and grace. He wants to. None of the servants does anything to earn the money. They simply have it put into their hands and they’re told to use it.
Naturally we wonder what the mina is in the parable. When we look at the whole parable and the circumstances when Jesus spoke it, we can tell that the mina is the Word of God. It’s something that’s given to every servant. Each servant gets the same amount. They earn different amounts, but everybody starts out with the same thing. The servants who have something for the master when he returns speak almost as if the mina itself made the profit, which fits with the way the Word of God works. Whenever you use the Word of God, it always accomplishes what God wants. It always glorifies him. It can either draw us closer to God or harden us, according to how we use it or don’t use it, but God’s Word is never ineffective. It is a living and powerful thing, and it alone produces the results. We, the people who use it, don’t produce anything or accomplish anything. The Word does it all.
All the subjects and servants in the parable can be divided into groups based on their attitudes and what they do with the mina, the Word. The first group hopefully doesn’t apply to us. These are the subjects of the king who hate him and refuse to acknowledge his authority over them. These rebels receive the fate they deserve at the end of the parable when the king commands that they be brought before him and slaughtered while he watches. Sounds barbaric, doesn’t it? And yet we dare not disregard these words of Jesus as just a picture or something that a loving God wouldn’t possibly do. That’s one of the inescapable facts about the Last Day: those who rebel against God will be judged and condemned. And God won’t be the one to blame, because they hated him first. He only does what is just. The last judgment will spell death for those who never loved God or followed him, and I’d be no pastor and we’d be no Christians if we all tried to pretend otherwise. God tells everyone this so that they don’t fall under his condemnation, but instead turn to him and live. So much for the first group.
The next group in the parable is the servants who make good use of the money the master gave them. They each bring varying amounts, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that they used what they were given as best they could. The master just wanted them to be faithful – to get the most out of his money that they possibly can. Then there’s one other servant. He doesn’t have anything to show for the money his master gave him. He claims he’s afraid of the master, but his actions show that he just doesn’t care. He basically wastes his master’s money. He doesn’t use it all. It just sits there until the master comes and demands an accounting of what he’s done with the money. The answer is – nothing. A big fat goose egg. He’s got nothing to show for all the riches his master gave him.
Now the question we each have to ask ourselves is: which servant are we? Are we the servant who diligently uses the spiritual capital we have at our disposal, God’s Word, and who brings the master the increase? Or are we the lazy, excuse-making servant who doesn’t care enough to do as he’s told? Don’t be so quick to answer and move yourself out of the “other servant” category. Just because you’ve been fairly faithful with God’s Word in the past is no guarantee that you’ll continue to be in the future. We can see part of the answer in our behavior in God’s house. Do we treat the preaching, teaching, and hearing of God’s Word as something that goes on in the sanctuary or in the fellowship hall while we loiter outside? We may be in the same building or even in the same room, but our hearts aren’t always in the same place. They can be far away from God’s Word even when our bodies are right there. And that’s just on Sunday morning! What about the rest of the week? Do we treat God’s Word as just one other option on our list of things to do, along with work, going to the cabin or going fishing, school activities, or children’s sporting events? All those things are right and good, in their place and in their time, but note this: when God’s Word is just one more option on the menu, we all know where God’s Word ends up – on the bottom of the heap. Our Bibles gather dust while we go on without a care in the world, figuring just like the wicked servant did that our indifference won’t matter in the end. Only it does matter, because the Last Day is still coming. God will still judge those who despise his Word. None of us here – and I mean none of us — can look God in the eye and tell him truthfully that we have treated his holy Word as it deserves to be treated all the time.
I have good news for us today, because it’s not the Last Day yet. God has not yet called us to account fully and finally for the way we’ve treated his Word. He still intends to be merciful to us. We still have time to cry out to him in repentant anguish and beg for his forgiveness. We can humble ourselves and plead with him to be merciful, because he has promised us that when we do, we find mercy in our time of need. He has promised to hear and forgive, as long as it is called Today. Today is the day to be forgiven. So long as it is still called Today, his promises of remission of sins, life, and peace still hold good. For the sinner who trusts in God’s promises, who does not work to save himself but instead trusts God who justifies the wicked, that faith is counted as righteousness. Your sins against God’s holy Word are forgiven when you trust that because Jesus suffered and died for you, in your place, you truly are forgiven. You are absolved and forgiven of all your guilt when you trust in Jesus. Christ’s forgiveness lifts off your guilt, banishes your fear, and makes you glad and happy to joyfully serve the God who saved you. You are an active, glad servant of God, freed, forgiven, and secure in what the future holds for you on the Last Day, because of what Christ did for you.
That alone would be enough, to know that you’re safe on the Last Day. But Jesus adds another promise on top of that: “To everyone who has, more will be given.” Jesus promises that when you use his Word, whenever you think about it, talk about it with your children or your spouse, read it, ponder it, hear it in church, share it with someone you know, you will benefit. You’ll gain added insight, wisdom, peace, joy, and a stronger faith. The fuller benefits come on the Last Day. In the parable the faithful servants are given charge over whole cities. The reward the master gives them is far out of proportion to what they returned to him. The master gives them far, far more than they give him. What does that mean for us on the Last Day? I don’t know exactly what form our rewards for being faithful with God’s Word will take. I do know this: they will be huge, amazingly rich, all out of proportion to what we put in in this life. No ear has heard, no eye has seen, no mind has conceived what God has in store for those who love him. So be faithful with God’s Word. Use it, learn it, hear it, love it, teach it to your children and your grandchildren. Share it with your neighbors and your coworkers. Have it on your lips and in your hearts. Don’t be ashamed of it, but proudly speak it and hear it whenever you get the chance.
If you’re like me, you’ve been eating a lot of Halloween candy lately. Too much Halloween candy sours the stomach, but the more of God’s Word you take in, the better it tastes – and you never get full.
Nothing else gives us life. Nothing else guarantees our safety on the Last Day. Nothing else pays eternal dividends except the good deposit. Amen.