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“Risking Your Mina for the Master”

June 12/16 Baptism/Membership Service - Luke 19:11-27


There have been formal dances or “proms” at high schools in the area this weekend. Some young people were sharing with me the creative “promposals” they came up with by which to invite their friend to go to the dance with them. A “promposal” is sort of a scaled-down “proposal” - it’s a bit risky, putting yourself “out there”, hoping the other person will accept not reject your invitation. It’s going out on a limb to ask for a commitment from the other person. A marriage proposal, by contrast, seeks a much larger commitment – an exclusive covenant for one’s whole remaining life.

      Imagine a man proposing to his sweetheart by saying, "Honey, I love you and I want to marry you.I'll take good care of you.I'll provide.I'll be a good father to our children.All I ask is that you allow me one day a year for the other woman." Is there anyone who would accept such an offer? Of course not. Likewise, it’s wrong for us to act as though Jesus would accept an offer of part-time discipleship.

      On this Sunday when we receive a new member into our church, and celebrate the baptism of a couple of other young believers, we’re reminded that following Jesus involves total commitment: we give ourselves to Him without reserve, without holding back. The parable of the Minas in Luke 19 shows various categories of commitment by people as they respond to Jesus’ claim of kingship. Some are downright hostile; some have the wrong idea about Him and don’t co-operate; but others respond willingly and join themselves in common cause with the Master. Where do you fit in?


The parable as Jesus tells it contains a couple of different layers, or levels. One layer can be seen in verses 12, 14-15a, and 27: “A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return...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...[Later the newly-installed king decrees] ‘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.’”

      This may sound like a strange procedure to us. But John MacArthur comments, “This was precisely what had happened to Archelaus, son of Herod the Great, when he went to Rome to be made tetrarch of Judea. A delegation of Jews traveled to Rome with a protest to Caesar Augustus. He refused their complaint and made Archelaus king anyway. Archelaus subsequently built his palace in Jericho, not far from where Jesus told this parable. Archelaus’ rule was so inept and despotic that Rome quickly replaced him with a succession of procurators, of whom Pontius Pilate was the fifth.” So the general outline of the story Jesus is crafting would have been very familiar to His hearers, with a very local flavour. The Archelaus events happened when Jesus was just a boy returning from Egypt (4BC-6AD).

      Let’s call this layer: ARE YOU BACKING THE RIGHT HORSE? [visual aid option: two horses; which older?]

      In Jesus’ parable, the nobleman went away in a bid to be made king. He had opponents, v14 “subjects [who] HATED him” – strong word; but in Archelaus’ case, probably justified, as even the Romans later conceded he was too unusually cruel and tyrannical and deposed him. They sent a delegation after him to say, “We don’t want him to be our king.” “We’re not going to back this horse.” Like people south of the border between now and November are faced with the decision whether to back Hillary or The Donald.

      Presidential candidates can draw strong reaction: you love ‘em or hate ‘em, it seems (for some people). Jesus likewise draws strong reaction: Christians love Him; others don’t. Having risen from the dead and ascended, He has gone away to be made king, in a way, like the nobleman in the story. Do you want Him to be your king? Are you willing to back this horse, as it were? Are you willing to give Him your commitment?

      When we join the church and become a functioning member, we are declaring to Jesus, “I’m Yours; my eternal destiny depends on You; I’m willing to align my future to Your will and call upon my life.” In our membership promises we ‘back this horse’ by making promises such as: “I commit myself to God and to the other members to...protect the unity of my church; ...share the responsibility of my church; ...serve the ministry of my church; ...[and] support the testimony of my church.” We say “yes” in answer to questions such as: “Have you received Jesus Christ as your Saviour and Lord, and do you now confess him? Do you promise to renounce all ungodliness, to follow Christ, to make diligent use of the means of grace, and sincerely to seek the advancement of the Kingdom of God?” So doing, we’re saying, “I’m going to back THIS horse.I identify with Jesus Christ, and give myself to live as a witness to Him!”

      Not everyone chooses to do this. From a worldly point of view, there are many other horses on the track besides Jesus, and many people don’t trust Him to be the final ‘winner’. Lots of people would say of Jesus, v14 “We don’t want this man to be our king.” Yet the parable Jesus tells has a somber warning for those who refuse to believe in Him. Of course, it’s a parable rather than an allegory in which there’s a strict 1-for-1 correspondence between the story and history; but in v27 the nobleman-become-king orders the execution of the subjects who didn’t want him to be their king.

      Other Bible passages warn of severe consequences for those who reject Jesus when He returns. In the account of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25, in v41 the king orders those on his left, “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” And the Apostle Paul predicts in 2Thess 1:8-9,

“He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power...” Unbelievers will find out too late they have backed the wrong horse.

      God offers us a choice, an invitation, to throw in our lot with His Son. In the last book of the Bible, the last chapter, the exalted Lord Jesus says: (Rev.22:12-14) “Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done.I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city.” John adds (v17), “Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.”


We said this parable in Luke 19 operates on 2 layers, 2 levels. One layer deals with the rebellious subjects, as we’ve already seen. The second layer pertains to the servants to whom the nobleman entrusts a mina each. A mina was a unit of money equal to about 100 days’ wages or about 3 months’ worth. In today’s terms, perhaps $5-6,000. Now, if someone gave you $5-6,000 and told you to go invest it, how would you use it? At this point your investment banker would probably have you complete what’s called your “risk profile”. Some people are very “risk-averse”, they want to play it safe, putting their savings in something that’s very predictable and stable, like GICs. Other people are more “risk-tolerant”, they’re not going to lose sleep at night if their stocks or mutual funds dip and dive considerably more, as long as over time they average out higher than GICs would have done. Investment people plot different funds on a “risk/return” graph: they look for investments that offer higher return but hopefully with moderate risk.

      In Jesus’ parable, all ten servants receive exactly the same amount, one mina each. The master tells them, v13 “Put this money to work until I come back.” Literally from the Greek, “Pragmatize” it – carry on business, get trading with it.

      I’ve been reading Bob Goff’s book, Love Does. In one chapter he tells about his son playing a typical youth group game called “Bigger and Better”. Each youth starts out with a dime - just ten cents - and goes door-to-door explaining the game they’re playing and trying to ‘trade up’ for something ‘bigger and better’. Bob’s son got a mattress at his first stop. By the end of the evening, he was driving back a pickup truck! All starting out from a single dime. He donated the pickup to a church. Bob’s son was experiencing freedom from the need to “have” things in order to feel significant.

      Well, the servants in Jesus’ parable for the most part set to work trading with the master’s mina, seeking to carry on business with it, playing their own version of “Bigger and Better”. Some, like Bob Goff’s son, were very good at it. One parlayed his or her mina into ten minas. Another was able to report, v18, “Master, I invested your money and made five times the original amount.” Wow! I want these people on MY investment team! Then again – would I be ‘comfortable’ with the riskiness of what they were investing in? Pharmaceuticals? Airlines? Armaments manufacturers? Breweries? ...Often in the investment world, it turns out so-called ‘ethical’ investments don’t always match the returns of other types!

      But it’s hard to argue with success. The master-become-king recognizes the shrewdness and entrepreneurial ability in these servants and rewards them handsomely, proportionately according to their accomplishment. The ten-mina earner is put in charge of ten cities. Think of it – that’s like much of southwestern Ontario! Another receives five cities, because they multiplied their mina by five.

      There is reward awaiting believers who are faithful with what’s been entrusted to us. Paul states in 2Cor 5:9f “So we make it our goal to please [the Lord]...For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.”

      Faith involves a willingness to go out on a limb, to accept risk, to put yourself out there as the Lord leads – perhaps in sharing the gospel with someone who might scoff at it, perhaps in making a loan to someone in need who might not end up paying you back. This week in a restaurant several of us joined hands to say grace; a small thing, but it still leaves you feeling a bit ‘exposed’ in the view of the general public. Nevertheless, it’s worth the risk.

      But one of the ten servants scored very “risk-averse” on their profile. When called to account they reported, v20 “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.” They played it SAFE, like the person who keeps their money stashed in an old sock under their mattress. It doesn’t increase, but it doesn’t lose value, either (apart from inflation, but let’s ignore that for now).

      We can see they’re not willing to risk. We can also see they really don’t know their master very well: they say he’s a HARD man - literally ‘austere’ - harsh, rough, rigid – but this is pretty doubtful because he’s just doled out ten CITIES to one servant and five cities to another! Sounds pretty generous to me.

      The master doesn’t agree with the servant’s assessment, but just uses his very words to confront him or her with her poor judgment. V23 “Why then didn’t you put my money on deposit, so that when I came back, I could have collected it with interest?” Better a little income than none at all.

      The servant’s reluctance to take a risk – to trust that their master is going to treat them justly and fairly – backfires. What they have clung to so tightly, in fear of losing it, not daring to invest it – even the little they have is taken away from them. V24 The master orders that servant’s lone mina to be taken away and given instead to Ten-Mina Minder. Then we get the pithy summary in v26: “to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what he has will be taken away.”

      The contrast here is between the one who HAS and the one who has NOT - faith, commitment, trust, willingness to actually carry on business for the master. Those who HAVE are given more responsibility – in the case of the parable, cities. The lesson here is: step out in faith, risk yourself for the sake of the Master’s Kingdom and enterprise – or risk losing what you’re gripping so tightly anyway! Because IT (whatever IT is) really cannot save you.

      V21 Lone-mina Minder admitted, “I was afraid of you...” Fear paralyzes; it blinds us even to the potential of what we already have, what it could do if we trust God with it. Back in October 1981 the Wall Street Journal did a survey in conjunction with a Gallup Poll of some of America’s top executives, all making salaries in six figures (anywhere from $100,000 to $999,000). One survey question was, “What is your greatest fear?” The reply, almost without exception, was: “I fear I will not have enough in this time of inflation.” These successful men and women who by most standards had ‘made it’ were still worried that they wouldn’t have enough!

      The servant in the parable wasn’t punished as harshly as the rebellious subjects whom the king had executed in front of him. But the servant DID have their lone mina taken away. Jesus seems to be urging us to dare to commit our selves and our resources fully to Him, to “invest” all we have and are in His cause. We could put it this way: ARE WE ‘ALL IN’? [visual aid: barrel - keeping part outside vs being all enclosed]

      There is no more vivid illustration of being “all in” for Jesus than the ordinance of baptism by immersion. The candidate becomes fully sunk into the water; as Paul describes it in Romans 6:3f “...all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death...We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” Baptism promises candidates make describe our giving ourselves totally to Jesus by faith in Him, renouncing or saying “no” to the world and the devil and all their temptations.

      Being “in Christ” involved our entire being, requiring us to be “all in”. Ron Hutchcraft relates a small baptism-related quirk about the first Christian emperor. “Constantine had declared Christianity would be the official religion of the Roman Empire and he wanted all of his soldiers to be baptized.There was just one catch; when they went in the water and got baptized, most of them got baptized, but they held one hand out of the water.It was their sword hand.They refused to let the hand that got things done be baptized for Jesus, which honestly has caused me to ask, ‘What’s in my un-baptized hand?’”

      How about you? Are you truly “all in” for Jesus, or is there something you’re trying desperately to keep OUT of the baptismal water? Maybe it’s your business practices, or your investments. Maybe it’s your tongue, your biting sarcasm and half-truths. Maybe it’s your viewing habits, some other part of your body, or activity on your calendar. Confess that to Him and receive Him afresh as Lord of EVERY aspect of your being. As His servant, discover for yourself the reward and recognition by Him the Master that faithful stewardship brings! Let’s pray.