"Now as they heard these things, He spoke another parable, because He was near Jerusalem and because they thought the kingdom of God would appear immediately. Therefore He said: 'A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and to return. So he called ten of his servants, delivered to them ten minas, and said to them, 'Do business till I come.' But his citizens hated him, and sent a delegation after him, saying, 'We will not have this man to reign over us.' And so it was that when he returned, having received the kingdom, he then commanded these servants, to whom he had given the money, to be called to him, that he might know how much every man had gained by trading. Then came the first, saying, 'Master, your mina has earned ten minas.' And he said to him, 'Well done, good servant; because you were faithful in a very little, have authority over ten cities.' And the second came, saying, 'Master, your mina has earned five minas.' Likewise he said to him, 'You also be over five cities.' Then another came, saying, 'Master, here is your mina, which I have kept put away in a handkerchief. For I feared you, because you are an austere man. You collect what you did not deposit, and reap what you did not sow.' And he said to him, 'Out of your own mouth I will judge you, you wicked servant. You knew that I was an austere man, collecting what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow. Why then did you not put my money in the bank, that at my coming I might collect it with interest.? And he said to those who stood by, 'Take the mina from him, and give it to him who has ten minas (But they said to him, 'Master he has ten minas.')." For I say to you, that to everyone who has will be given; and from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. But bring here these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, and slay them before me.' When He had said this, He went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem." (Luke 19:11-28).
The multitude with Jesus had grand expectations of a physical kingdom that was about to be established in which there would be abundant physical honors and rewards under their "new ruler." Jesus attempts to correct their false hopes through the teaching of this parable, but their thinking at this time seems unaffected (cf. Luke 19:36ff).
"A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and to return" - Jesus is represented by the nobleman in the parable. The "far country" into which He went after His death and resurrection was heaven. The kingdom that He would receive was the church (cf. Dan. 7:13,14). The return represents His second coming, which is yet to take place. Although this parable has many similarities with the parable of the talents (cf. Matt. 25:14-30), they were spoken at different times and places.
Before leaving, the nobleman delivered one mina each to ten of his servants. The servants represent the disciples of Jesus. A mina, also known as "a pound," is approximately $20 in American currency. "Do business till I come" - This instruction demands two things: (1) Faithful use of the mina on the part of each servant (i.e., working faithfully as a follower of Jesus) and (2) The continuation of such until the nobleman returned (i.e., working patiently and not growing weary over time). There would be a day of reckoning (i.e., judgment). We must not allow our motivation for faithfulness to dwindle, even if our present incentives may seem small (e.g., a $20 entrustment is small and would not automatically motivate faithfulness).
"But his citizens hated him, and sent a delegation after him, saying, 'We will not have this man to reign over us'" - The citizens should have been respectful toward the nobleman before he received his kingdom, and they should have shown obedience toward him afterward. Such should have been the case with all of the Jews toward Jesus, but many hated Him. Their hatred resulted in His crucifixion, but it could not prevent His resurrection and reception of His spiritual kingdom. Many today also hate Jesus in that they do not want Him to be reigning as King in their lives (i.e., they do not want to acknowledge His authority over them, and they do not want to obey Him). God allows rebelliousness of this sort (for a while), but there is a price to be paid (cf. Luke 19:27). These background details may have been taken from a historical situation the listeners would have been acquainted with. After Herod the Great died, his son Archelaus had to go to Rome before he could be confirmed as king by Caesar. The Jews sent an embassy to Rome arguing that they did not want Archelaus as their king. Despite their petition, Caesar confirmed him as such (cf. Matt. 2:22).
It is important to emphasize that the nobleman received his kingdom while in the far country, not when he returned (cf. Luke 19:12). Likewise, Jesus received His kingdom while in heaven, not while on Earth. This eliminates the possibility that His kingdom was established during His earthly ministry, and it also refutes the notion that Jesus will set up His kingdom on earth after He returns. Those who were present with Jesus were expecting Jesus to be crowned at Jerusalem, but He informs them otherwise. The calling of the servants to give account represents the final judgment (cf. II Cor. 5:10; Rom. 14:10-12).
"Master, your mina has earned ten minas" (Luke 19:16). Notice that the servant modestly attributes the increase to his master's money and not to his own work (cf. I Cor. 15:10).
"Well done, good servant; because you were faithful in a very little, have authority over ten cities" - Some, such as this servant, will be found faithful in spite of the general rebellion of the majority (cf. Luke 19:14). It is through faithfulness in small matters that one is proven worthy of great trust. The nobleman, after becoming king, now has much more wealth and power. Before he left he entrusted each servant with a small amount, but now generously puts his faithful ones in positions of great responsibility (i.e., having authority over cities). The duties God has charged us with in this life are exceedingly small in comparison with the eternal reward of glory that the faithful will enjoy!
The second servant "earned" half as many minas as the first. He too was considered faithful and was rewarded proportionately. This seems to imply that all of the faithful will have various degrees of responsibility in heaven (cf. II Tim. 2:12) and that each one's level of responsibility will be exactly proportional to his fitness for it. Thus, it seems reasonable to conclude that in heaven all will have their "cup" full of eternal bliss and duties, but there will be various sizes of "cups" based upon one's capacity for service. Hence, it is my belief there will be "degrees" in heaven (as there will be in hell; cf. Luke 12:47,48), though there will not be envy over such. The "five-city" servant will not be jealous of the "ten-city" servant, and he won't feel as if he is lacking in any way.
Luke 19:20 records the words of an evil steward - "Master, here is your mina, which I have kept put away in a handkerchief." He kept the mina but did not develop it. He did not "do business" using it (19:13). A handkerchief was often used to wipe off one's sweat from labor. However, this servant didn't need a handkerchief for that purpose, so he used it to store the mina he had been entrusted with. According to Jewish tradition, the minimum requirement for safekeeping an item belonging to someone else was burial (cf. Matt. 25:25). This servant was too lazy to do even that!
"I feared you, because you are an austere [i.e., severe] man" - Had he really feared his master, he would have been afraid of being punished for his slothfulness and would have used the money as instructed! "You collect what you did not deposit, and reap what you did not sow" - This servant represents those who make the labors and difficulties of the Christian life an excuse for doing nothing. He labeled his master as being one who reaped all the gain after others had done all the work. This criticism had already been shown to be false based upon the king's treatment of the preceding faithful servants. The generosity of God clearly refutes any notion of Him being severe or harsh (cf. James 1:17; Rom. 5:8-10).
"Out of your own mouth I will judge you, you wicked servant" - The king does not grant that the perception of this lazy servant was correct, but he uses the servant's own words against him. Had the servant really believed his master to be this way, he should have been that much more motivated to diligently labor for him. The servant's words, even if they had been true, did not excuse his behavior; rather, they more clearly exposed his unfaithfulness. Let it be understood that God may judge according to one's estimate of Him. May those today who hurl charges of "harshness" and "unfairness" against God beware!
The "bank" mentioned in Luke 19:23 is, of course, different than the modern concept of such. The Greek word used here refers to the table of the moneychangers (cf. Matt. 21:12; Mark 11:15; John 2:15). Apparently, moneychangers were willing to borrow and pay some rate of interest. The lesson here seems to be twofold: (1) If you don't have the confidence to "do business" alone, then work with someone else and (2) Even a small act of faithfulness is better than nothing at all. There is no excuse for doing nothing!
"Take the mina from him, and give it to him who has ten minas" (Luke 19:24). This action surprised some, as is evidenced by the following verse. "But they said to him, 'Master, he has ten minas'" - Some believe this is a parenthetical statement spoken by those who were listening to Jesus speak. Others believe this verse was spoken by Jesus as part of the parable. In either case, the lesson is the same: The honor that is placed on faithfulness is in proportion to trust and responsibility.
"For I say to you, that to everyone who has will be given; and from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him" (cf. Luke 8:18). Essentially, use it or lose it! This principle is true physically and spiritually. Those who labor diligently will be known as trustworthy and capable. Hence, they will be entrusted with more responsibilities (since they can adequately handle them). Those who fail to labor as they should will be known as incapable and unreliable. Thus, their current responsibilities will be removed (since they have not adequately handled them). It is undeniable that ability and opportunity create responsibility. It is also true that God knows the limits of our capabilities and whether we are living up to them or only using them in a small way.
"But bring here those enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, and slay them before me" (cf. I Cor. 15:25). The nobleman now turns his attention to those who hated him "without a cause" (John 15:25). He calls them his enemies and commands that they be slain. Those who refuse the reign of Christ by not obeying the gospel and living faithfully are the Lord's enemies (cf. II Thess. 1:7-9). The destruction of Jerusalem as well as the ultimate doom of those who rebel against God are certainly both in view here (cf. Matt. 22:7; 25:41-46). Dear friends, it is a frightening thing to contemplate the physical and spiritual destruction of sinners, but it is more awful to imagine wickedness and rebellion being tolerated indefinitely. May those who are wise take heed!
Thank you for listening, and may the Lord bless you as you strive to do His will.