Luke 19:11-27 “Kingdom Investments”
Did any of you notice the big gaping hole in this parable from Jesus? The story goes that a nobleman gave ten servants coins to invest. Yet, in the end of the story we hear only about three of the ten who were granted this money. I like to think that Jesus and the gospel writer Luke knew what they were doing when the story was told with this question mark hanging over it.
Seven of the ten are simply gone from the story. Perhaps that was meant to be the point. If you give a large amount to ten of your servants, perhaps only three will hang around to see you come back for the accounting later. Perhaps the others took the money and lived well for a time at the master’s expense. Perhaps they were too ashamed to face the master again.
What does this mean for us? We can say it this way, perhaps 7 out of 10 lost faith in the master. And, having faith and losing it again is perhaps worse than never having faith at all. Or, as this story is about trust, that may be only twenty percent, that is 2 out of 10, people that we run into will really listen and be trustworthy unto us. That is a rather sad thought that comes from this story.
There is another assumption in this story that I think we take for granted. I am not even sure why we do. What if the first servant actually made a hundred times the amount of money he is reporting back to the nobleman? Maybe he is just cleverly giving back what he thinks would simply be enough to satisfy the nobleman?
We assume that all that is being reported to the nobleman from the servants is in fact the truth. House servants in those days were especially famous for making up stories when it came to house finances. So, should we actually believe what these three servants are saying?
Trust is based on honesty. The very moment you discover that someone has not been honest with you is that same moment when you realize that person may not be trustworthy. We are generally trusting people who will trust a person until we know for sure that we cannot trust that person. This last week we have seen an actual example of this with the aftermath of the Dominion Lawsuit against Fox News, the outcome of which is that we learned that falsehoods had been amplified through that news service. So, we have lost trust in that news service and in television news in general.
Apparently however, each one of us will only trust a stranger to a certain degree. This parable of Jesus mirrors a trust building exercise that is used by corporate team managers. In a group the manager will ask if someone has a dollar. They will take the dollar and hand it over to someone else in the group. Thereafter, they will ask if someone has ten dollars. Now the team or group will have noted that the person did not get his or her dollar back, but eventually someone will cough up a ten dollar bill only to watch it also be handed over to the next person.
Lastly the team leader will ask for fifty dollars. The group becomes visibly upset. Why should anyone give up fifty dollars because this guy in the front wants to take it and give it away? Eventually though, after more cajoling, someone produces fifty dollars and hands it over. It is also simply given to a random person in the group. Everyone is now quite concerned if they should have to find a hundred dollars next.
Nope, the team builder asks for all the money back and pays back the folks who gave it in the first place. Everyone is relieved. What does this say about trust? We trust people only to a certain degree and only with the expectation that the trust is deserved. In other words, you have to build trust. A certain amount of trust is assumed from the start with most people, but after that we have to test and confirm the basis of further trusting.
When the nobleman comes back, he sees whom he can trust. This was all a trust-building exercise. It had nothing to do with the money itself. The nobleman just wanted to know which servant was honest and trustworthy. The analogy is that Jesus is the one who goes to establish his Kingdom and that we are the servants. Our time right now, therefore, may be a trust-building exercise with God.
I am thinking from my own experience in life that when the servants are given the minas, the coin, that they might be thinking to themselves: “Oh master, please do not trust me with so much.” This coin is of great value. An equivalent in gold today would be worth over ten thousand dollars. So, what if someone comes up to you and says, “Here, hold this ten thousand dollars for me!” Or maybe today it would be: “Would you mind holding my platinum credit card for me while I do this other little thing over here?” Our first response would probably be, “I am not holding your credit card for you!” Really, what if I lose it? We would be like the third servant who just wraps up the coin and hides it!
This raises a strange question for me personally: Why do credit card companies trust us? "You see this little piece of plastic? It is worth $20,000. Just keep it your pocket and swipe it as needed.” I think the answer is that they really do not trust us. They hope we will go out and spend money on things until we cannot pay it all back and then get charged the crazy interest rate.
I will share with you that two weeks ago I was at Ace Hardware in Eleele and tried to pay with my credit card. The charge was declined. So, back in February the bank that issued the card sent me a letter saying that they were required by the Patriot Act of the US government to have me prove who I am. I had to copy and send my state ID, Social Security card, and send one actual local bank statement. I called them up to make sure that it was not some kind of a scam. They said it was real. The next day I sent off the information to them. Two months later they shut off my card without warning me. This was of course an embarrassment to me at the store.
When I called to complain, they gave the old run around and said that a manager would call me in one to two days. That never happened. Every time I spoke to another representative they gave me a different story with different dates—and always the promise that a manager would call me—which never happens. I have learned that there is no way to talk to anybody, no way to find the truth of the matter, and that they can make things up and put it on their computer any way they want to. Why should I trust them? They can say I owe them anything they want and start charging interest on it! Why do we trust credit card companies?
Why does our Father in heaven put so much trust in us? You see, this whole story is a metaphor for God trusting us with the most valuable thing on the planet. We are entrusted with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Each individual word that Jesus spoke is worth more and is more trustworthy than any credit card!
So, we have credit ratings that tell us how trustworthy we are with plastic in our wallet. What is our credit rating with God in the heavenly Kingdom? Today when you rent an apartment, they check your credit rating. Want a new job, Human Resources will check your credit rating. I bought a new phone last year. The representative had me wait as he checked my credit. Everybody wants to know if I am trustworthy with a little! God wants to know if I am trustworthy with a lot--with what really matters.
Not trusting someone else is a harsh feeling indeed; however, knowing that someone else does not trust you is harsher. We want always to be trusted by others. How did Jesus handle these issues of trust?
When I look at the gospels, I cannot help but notice that the disciples proved themselves to be less than trustworthy with Jesus. Who can forget the scene in the Garden of Gethsemane? All that Jesus wanted was to have his disciples stay awake with him while he prayed on his last night before his crucifixion. They fell asleep.
Peter, the future leader of the new church, betrayed Jesus’ trust upon his arrest by denying Jesus not once, but three times. Strangely, Jesus foretold of this happening. So, we can see that Jesus trusted Peter to be untrustworthy!
The worst of all this was of course Judas Iscariot who betrayed Jesus with a kiss to the Roman guards. In this, too, Jesus seems to have trusted Judas to betray his trust. Luke 22:48, “. . . .Judas, is it with a kiss that you shall betray the Son of Man?”
All of this, and Jesus still has entrusted us with his Love and Truth and Grace! I want you to consider that carefully: Jesus trusts you with His Word. Does Jesus already know how fallible we are and how we are going to mess this up? I like to think that because he entrusted those twelve disciples of His, and they goofed up, that at least there will be that much grace for us, too.
We have been entrusted by God. If I understand the basic metaphor within this parable of Jesus, the master returns being anointed as the king over all. This is a sure reference to Christ’s death, resurrection, and second coming. The servant who showed the greatest level of trustworthiness already to Christ, is given even greater responsibility upon His return. He is given authority over ten cities.
Would that not be like the Mayor of Kauai coming to you and saying, “Here take care of the Westside for me!”? “I trust you. You have proven to be trustworthy.
This is a sure goal in my life. I hope one day to be standing before Jesus. Maybe he will give me the old chuck on the shoulder and a wink, while saying: “Well done, good and faithful servant!” The trust was not misplaced.