11 While they were listening to these things, Jesus went on to tell a parable, because He was near Jerusalem, and they supposed that the kingdom of God was going to appear immediately. 12 So He said, “A nobleman went to a distant country to receive a kingdom for himself, and then return. 13 And he called ten of his slaves, and gave them ten minas and said to them, ‘Do business with this until I come back.’ 14 But his citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to reign over us.’
This parable would have been familiar to the Judean crowd. The Jews had Roman officials and Roman appointed kings over them during their occupation. Some of these rulers were less than good men or they were simply insensitive to the Jews culture and religion. In some cases, the Jewish leaders ended up appealing to Caesar via letter or delegation for relief. That’s sort of the image here.
It should be noted that the Lord Jesus sometimes used bad people as characters in His parables. This nobleman is not well loved. His people despise him, and as the Jews sometimes did at their own risk, they appeal to a higher authority while he is away asking for him to be replaced. This obviously was even more of a risky move because this nobleman had just been awarded another kingdom, so his standing with the higher authorities was likely in good esteem. In this parable, it ends in disaster.
In the meanwhile, the nobleman prepares for his journey by calling ten of slaves and gives them each a mina. A mina was equal to 100 drachma or about four month’s wages for a laborer. Figure the median wage in the US is about $44,000. So about $11,000 in modern terms. He gives them instructions to go out and do business on his behalf until he returns.
15 When he returned, after receiving the kingdom, he ordered that these slaves, to whom he had given the money, be called to him so that he might know what business they had done. 16 The first appeared, saying, ‘Master, your mina has made ten minas more.’ 17 And he said to him, ‘Well done, good slave, because you have been faithful in a very little thing, you are to be in authority over ten cities.’ 18 The second came, saying, ‘Your mina, master, has made five minas.’ 19 And he said to him also, ‘And you are to be over five cities.’ 20 Another came, saying, ‘Master, here is your mina, which I kept put away in a handkerchief; 21 for I was afraid of you, because you are an exacting man; you take up what you did not lay down and reap what you did not sow.’ 22 He *said to him, ‘By your own words I will judge you, you worthless slave. Did you know that I am an exacting man, taking up what I did not lay down and reaping what I did not sow? 23 Then why did you not put my money in the bank, and having come, I would have collected it with interest?’ 24 Then he said to the bystanders, ‘Take the mina away from him and give it to the one who has the ten minas.’ 25 And they said to him, ‘Master, he has ten minas already.’ 26 I tell you that to everyone who has, more shall be given, but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away. 27 But these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slay them in my presence.”
When the reckoning comes, the slaves come and present their accounts. The first slave has earned $110,000 off of his $11,000 investment. His lord is obviously pleased and seeing his good business sense, immediately promotes him, giving him power and authority over 10 cities. The second slave presents his books, he earned $55,000 off of his $11,000 investment. The lord is again pleased and promotes this man.
The final slave did nothing with what he was given. He feared his master and feared the consequences of failure. He was driven by fear and it paralyzed him. It kept him from taking chances. It kept him from investing what he had. It even kept him from entrusting what he had to official institutions that would safeguard it and lend the money themselves to others.
Fear often keeps us from engaging the world around us. We fear embarrassment, we fear failure, we fear getting hurt. We’re called to spend our lives investing in others, loving people, reaching out to them, showing them the Way. But our fears intrude on our lives sometimes, keeping us away from others. We build up walls. We cocoon ourselves away, and we like it there. It’s nice, warm, safe inside. We all have something to offer others, but as long as we stay locked up, hidden, buried in the dirt, we’re not doing anything. Our lives can touch so many others for good, but it means acting, sometimes it means not listening to the fears we all have.
The ‘reward’ for this slave is to lose everything. He has shut himself off from the world. All that he had, he hoarded, and now, at the day of accounting, he has lost the little that was given to him.
The moral of the story is to act. Invest. Get out of our shell. Interact with other people. Love them, comfort them, listen to them, be kind to them, share the good news with them. Our lives can have an amazing impact in this world if we just act.