…Then [the king] sent for the servants to whom he had given the money, in order to find out what they had gained with it. The first one came and said, “Sir, your mina has earned ten more.” “Well done, my good servant!” his master replied. “Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.” (Luke 19:15-17)
Recently I heard about a girl who dreams of a career in music, and feels that God has given her this as his vision of her life. But she is flunking her college music classes. Why?
One reason is because she hasn’t been buying the required text books. She says it’s to save money, but she’s actually retaking a class she flunked before because she didn’t buy the books. How does that save money?
I wonder if she might be operating with a somewhat flawed theology. If she expends any effort, it will be “in the flesh,” and won’t be according to God’s plan. If she learns music theory or invests hours in training or practicing, she’ll be taking away from God’s glory. She’s waiting in faith for her magical ship to come in, when God takes her to the heights of success, without her having done anything.
Jesus’ parable of the minas in Luke 19 addresses this. Before leaving, a king gave three servants a mina, a coin worth 100 denarii, about three months wages. One works very hard to invest it, and he earns ten more. One works moderately hard and earns five more. One hates the king and sees the mina not as an opportunity but as a chore, and he buries it. When the king returns he puts the most industrious one in charge of ten cities, and the next in charge of five cities. The last must surrender his mina, and it is given to the first, who’ll actually put it to use.
When God gives us something to do with our lives, it’s like a mina. We can hit the ground running with what we’ve been given, or we can do a halfhearted job. Or we can assume that God is evil and he’s giving us a terrible burden, and bury our gifts. The effort that we expend to reach God’s goals for us, he will magnify a million times over. But we actually must do our part! Investing our time to refine a skill that God has given us does not rob God of his glory, it submits to his will.
It strikes me that actually God is being kind towards the servants in what he gives them. The industrious servant will enjoy his position in charge of ten cities, but the halfhearted one would find the task of running ten cities to be too much. Five cities is plenty for the effort that he’s willing to expend.
As for the servant who didn’t want to do anything with the simple task of investing a mina, he certainly won’t want to deal with the burden of running a city. So in a sense, he even gets what he most desires.
It’s like the king was giving his servants a little taste of a bigger gift and responsibility, to see if they really wanted it. In the same way, the music major who refuses to do her homework now probably won’t enjoy the hours of practice and preparation that a career in music requires.
In the world to come, there will be good things to do, and Jesus speaks about a reward for those who have served him. Doesn’t that make you want to get to work?