Jesus told two parables about servants entrusted with money; the parable of the talents and the parable of the minas.
In both stories a nobleman goes on a journey (okay, so we know it’s Jesus), and before he leaves he entrusts his servants with his wealth. In both stories the man returns and promotes those who have got a good return on their investment. And in both stories there’s one displeasing servant who does nothing and who subsequently loses what he has been given.
|Parable of the Talents||Parable of the Minas|
|Where?||Matthew 25||Luke 19|
|How many servants?||3||10|
|Servants given what?||1, 2 and 5 talents||1 mina each|
The two stories are similar, but different. The parable of the minas differs in that the faithful servants are rewarded in proportion to their gains. The servant who turned one mina into ten is rewarded with ten cities, while the servant who turned one mina into five gets five cities. Here’s the punchline to both parables:
To everyone who has will be given; and from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. (Luke 19:26, see also Matt 25:29)
What does this mean?
“Jesus is saying there are rewards for our hard work,” says the preacher of works. “Serve the Lord faithfully on earth and he will make you a mayor in heaven.”
Needless to say, this works-centric interpretation does not sit well with grace folk. “Everything comes to us by grace, not works. Jesus is our only reward.”
Yet Jesus spoke about storing up treasure in heaven and the apostle of grace said we would be rewarded for our labor (1 Cor 3:8). So which is it? Grace? Works? Grace plus works?
There is such a thing as a heavenly reward but it’s not money, mansions, nor mayoral offices. It’s people. People are the most valuable things on earth and, unlike gold, you can take them with you.
These parables aren’t about investing in money but people. “He who has will be given more” is a reference to spiritual offspring. It is describing the dividends of love.
“Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields – along with persecutions – and in the age to come eternal life.” (Mark 10:29-30)
Jesus is saying, “If you freely give what you have freely received (love and grace), it will come back to you, multiplied exponentially.” Live for Jesus and his gospel and your spiritual family will grow and keep growing after you’ve gone.
When you put grace to work (by investing in the lives of others), grace grows. It produces seed-bearing fruit that later produces fruit of its own. Children have grandchildren and they have great-grandchildren and so on and so on. In this life you may never see the full harvest of your generosity. But one day you will and on that day you will share in your master’s happiness.
What about the cities?
A mina is not a lot of money. The King James translates it as one British pound. Chump change, in other words. So one servant is given a mina but ends up with ten cities:
“Well done, my good servant!” his master replied. “Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.” (Luke 19:17)
Ten cities?! This is a stunning reward. It’s totally over the top and out of all proportion to the effort expended. And the amazing thing is the servant hasn’t actually done anything other than put the gift to work.
Jesus is saying, “Some of you are going to be surprised when you see the impact you have had on others. You have no idea many people your life has touched.”
Paul told the Thessalonian Christians that they were his crown and joy:
For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? (1 Thess 2:19)
Paul was saying, “You guys are my kids, my spiritual offspring. I’m going to know you and enjoy your company for all eternity.”
Yet the Bible also says that the children of one’s children are a crown to the aged (Proverbs 17:6). So Paul’s crown or reward is not just the Thessalonians he personally led to Christ (20 people? 50?), but everyone they led, and so on all the way down the family tree.
How many people do you think have been blessed by Paul’s message of grace over the centuries?
It must be millions, if not hundreds of millions of people. One day people like you and me will line up to thank Paul for putting his grace-mina to work. And what a long line that will be!
The fertile seed of grace
There were times when Paul was afraid to tell people the good news (Acts 18:9), and he knew what it was like to have friends desert him. When he walked this earth he had no idea just how much impact his ministry would have. I can’t wait to see the look on Paul’s face!
Do you see how the good seed of the gospel bears much fruit and continues bearing fruit even after we’ve gone? Truly, the word of grace is potent and fruitful.
Imagine if Paul had buried what God had given him. Instead of travelling the Mediterranean preaching the gospel he focused on tent-making. There is nothing wrong with tent-making. If you are a tent-maker, be the best tent-maker you can be. Make tents for Jesus.
But if all you do is make tents and never pass along the grace that you have been given, don’t expect to be greeted by a city full of thankful offspring.
Don’t bury the gift. Put God’s grace to work and see the awesome harvest it will bring!