Luke 19:11-27: “A nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and then return. Calling ten of his servants, he gave them ten minas and said to them, ‘Engage in business until I come,’ ...” This sounds familiar: “the parable of the talents,” wherein the servants are entrusted with the master’s money while he’s away. We settle in for an exhortation to use our gifts as we have opportunity.
Not so fast. Luke adds, “But his citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to reign over us.’” We usually skip over this part, or assume that the nobleman is off to become king of another country, whose citizens don’t want him. No, it’s this country, our country, that doesn’t want him—he’s going away to be crowned and will come back as the unwelcome king. Welcome or not, his servants’ responsibility is the same.
Christians live in a hostile culture, wherever and whenever they happen to be born. Sometimes it’s more obvious than other times, but in every era, the majority will say, “We do not want this man to reign over us.” Maybe they say it out loud, in a political convention that shouts down the token mention of God in their party platform. Maybe they say it in a popular vote that approves a definition of marriage foreign to the master’s law. Or they say it in a general loosening of standards that sends illegitimacy rates up and credit ratings down.
Whatever lip service they give to the notion of a higher power, their actions speak loud and clear: We do not want this man to reign over us.
What’s a faithful servant to do? Stockpile groceries, check the ammo, double the locks and hunker down? Maybe save a little extra for those foolish virgins who didn’t prepare and come hammering on the door when darkness falls? The story of the minas doesn’t seem to leave us that option. Instead, “Engage in business until I come.”
In Luke’s chronology, this is the last parable Jesus tells before entering Jerusalem, where He would first be idolized and then rejected. His closest followers, to whom He’d given plenty of warning, would be shocked when their kingdom hopes ended up nailed to a cross. What “business” was left, beyond picking up the pieces of their broken hearts and lying low?
We know what happened, though. In a storm of wind and fire, they received the family business, handed on by the Divine Agent of Father and Son. They had a mission: “You shall be My witnesses.” They had a message: “God has made [Jesus] both Lord and Christ.” They had a mandate: “Go into all the world ...” None of that has changed.
On Election Day, The Huffington Post featured a piece titled “Goodbye Christian America, Hello True Christianity,” by World Vision President Richard Stearns. Stearns expressed regret over certain First Amendment battles waged by Christians: “[T]he fight over symbolic issues is backfiring, alienating people from the truths of the gospel rather than attracting them to it.” For a better way, he pointed to Pastor Dean Curry of Tacoma, who mobilized civic groups, businesses, churches, synagogues, and individuals from the gay community to raise funds for AIDS victims in Africa. Curry’s church used to be known for its spectacular Christmas pageant, but now, he said, “we’re known as the church that is helping AIDS orphans.”
I agree that the church needs to be known for what it’s for, rather than what it’s against, but the main thing we’re for is Christ. Feeding the hungry, comforting the sick, and sheltering the homeless are all kingdom business, but all in the name of an unwelcome king. As society slides, the world screams louder, “We do not want this man to reign over us!” Yet whatever the cost, whatever the circumstances, our business remains: He’s coming back. He will reign; He will judge (Luke 19:27). Before that happens, be reconciled.