Vol. 10 — No. 46 November 16, 1969
And as they heard these things, he added and spake a parable, because he was nigh to Jerusalem, and because they thought that the kingdom of God should immediately appear. He said therefore, A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return. And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, Occupy (trade) till I come. But his citizens hated him, and sent a message after him, saying, We will not have this man to reign over us. And it came to pass, that when he was returned, having received the kingdom, then he commanded these servants to be called unto him, to whom he had given the money, that he might know how much every man had gained by trading. Then came the first, saying, Lord, thy pound hath gained ten pounds. And he said unto him, Well, thou good servant: because thou hast been faithful in a very little, have thou authority over ten cities. And the second came, saying, Lord, thy pound hath gained five pounds. And he said likewise to him, Be thou also over five cities. And another came, saying, Lord, behold, here is thy pound, which I have kept laid up in a napkin: For I feared thee, because thou art an austere man: thou takest up that thou layedst not down, and reapest that thou didst not sow. And he saith unto him, Out of thine own mouth will I judge thee, thou wicked servant. Thou knewest that I was an austere man, taking up that I laid not down, and reaping that I did not sow: Wherefore then gavest not thou my money into the bank, that at my coming I might have required mine own with usury? And he said unto them that stood by, Take from him the pound, and give it to him that hath ten pounds. (And they said unto him, Lord, he hath ten pounds.) For I say unto you, That unto every one which hath shall be given; and from him that hath not, even that he hath shall be taken away from him. But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me.
In Christ Jesus, who has entrusted each of us with a working capital of one of His dollars, Fellow Redeemed:
Next Sunday afternoon the annual meeting of the congregation will be held. The agenda for the meeting and the decisions that will be made concern the Lord’s business, as we are conducting it in our midst. It is properly the concern of every member of the congregation—young and old, male and female. For that reason the agenda of the meeting was made available to you already last Sunday and you were urged to study it. For that reason additional information has been given you in today’s bulletin, and more will be coming next Sunday. But despite all the efforts that we make to keep everyone informed and to encourage everyone to make the Lord’s business His own personal business, it is quite possible and at times quite evident that some of our members act as though they have no personal stake in and no personal responsibility for the decisions that are made concerning the work of the Lord. For that reason I would this morning draw your attention to the Lord’s teaching concerning the DOLLAR that He has entrusted to each of you—whether you are aware of it or not.
The Lord spoke this parable on the way to Jerusalem just before Palm Sunday. He taught it to both His disciples and to the multitudes. There was tension and excitement in the air. The people thought that the Lord’s going up to Jerusalem meant “that the kingdom of God should immediately appear.” They were the people who thought of the kingdom of God in a nationalistic sense as a return of the lost glory of Israel. They were the ones who sang their “Hosannas” on Palm Sunday and screamed their “Crucify Hims” on Good Friday. The Lord didn’t want His disciples to be deluded or carried away by the mood of the mob at the moment. They were to learn that work came before they would enter their rest and receive their crown, that they were to be faithful in the assignment He gave them, and not be slothful. The people were to learn the danger and penalty of opposing His kingdom of grace.
“He said therefore, A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return.” The Lord is speaking of Himself. Rather than re-establish the kingdom of Israel as popular opinion anticipated, He would leave this earth shortly at His ascension to be given all authority in heaven and on earth. But our Lord assured His audience that He would return, and He shall at the end of time.
Now what were His disciples to be doing between the time of His ascension and His return in glory at the end of time? “And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds (literally minas; we can say dollars), and said unto them, Occupy (that is, trade or do business with them) till I come.” Notice—“ten servants…ten pounds.” Ten is the number of completeness. The “ten servants” are all the disciples of the Lord during the entire New Testament era, including you and me. The ten pounds (the common English money of the King James translators) or ten dollars that have been distributed among us are the soul-saving Word of the Lord: the Law of God which exposes sin, condemns and damns to hell and the Gospel which raises up to heaven and gives life by grace through faith in Christ Jesus. This is the spiritual capital that has been given to us. And we are to be working with it, doing business with it, trading with it! That’s our business—the Lord’s business entrusted to us!
The Lord also had a word for the giddy, fickle multitude—who at that time were His fellow countrymen, the Jews. “But his citizens hated him, and sent a message after him, saying, We will not have this man to reign over us.” The Jews, his citizens at that time, made their message clear when they yelled “Away with Him. Crucify Him! We have no king but Caesar.” Most of the Jews are still screaming the same thing today. They are joined by countless others who keep on sending up clear messages to heaven: “We will not have this man—this Jesus—to reign over us.”
“And it came to pass, that when he was returned, having received the kingdom”—the Lord Jesus, despised and rejected as He is by most, shall return. Don’t ever for a moment doubt it! What then? Then comes the time for an accounting: “He commanded these servants to be called unto him, to whom he had given the money, that he might know how much every man had gained by trading.” On that last day every disciple of the Lord will be asked to give an account of the spiritual business that he did in his lifetime with the soul-saving Word of the Lord. The first servant reported that he had gained ten dollars with the one entrusted to him. Because he had been faithful, he was given authority over ten cities. The next servant reported that he had gained five dollars with his dollar. He was given authority over five cities. Now notice two things: First, that each servant does not have the same success with his trading. The one gained ten dollars, the other five. So it is when Christians use the Word of the Lord for the purpose of gaining disciples for the Lord. A St. Paul or a Luther gained ten more dollars. You and I may gain but five. The important thing is that we faithfully trade with the dollar given us. The second point is that the Lord rewards in grace. We belong to Him, and we work with His dollar. The profits belong to Him. Yet He graciously and generously rewards. Notice also that the rewards vary according to the souls won for Christ. The more you or I lead to Christ, the harder we work with our dollar—the greater shall be our reward in the world to come, but remember always that it is a reward not of merit but of grace.
Then came the third servant, saying, “Lord, behold here is thy pound, which I have kept laid up in a napkin.” He hadn’t traded or done business with it. What was his excuse? “I feared thee, because thou art an austere man: thou takest up that thou layest not down, and reapest that thou didst not sow.” That servant imputed his own outlook on things to his Lord. People are constantly doing this—creating an image of God in their minds which is but a reflection of themselves. The Lord said that the man stood condemned by his own evaluation of his Lord. If he really believed that his Lord was “an austere man,” the least he could have done was to place his dollar in a bank so the Lord could have received the interest. There are disciples that say they can’t talk to others of Jesus. They find themselves tongue-tied. They can’t communicate, and so they wrap their dollar in a napkin and instead of trading with the dollar and using the napkin to wipe the sweat off their brow. Any disciple can pray for the success of the Word and can support others in the preaching and teaching of the Word. There is no excuse for wrapping one’s dollar in a napkin and doing nothing.
The judgment came. The Lord “said unto them that stood by (the holy angels), Take from him the pound, and give it to him that hath ten pounds. (And they said unto him, Lord, he hath ten pounds.) For I say unto you, That unto every one which hath shall be given; and from him that hath not, even that he hath shall be taken away.” How often haven’t I said this very thing in your midst, and for some it was quite painful. If you or I don’t want the Word that has been given to us personally and entrusted to us for doing business, the Lord can find someone else to take our place. He doesn’t need any of us! We need Him and should count it a privilege to be entrusted with His dollar—His living and life-giving Word.
There was a final word of judgment for the enemies of the Lord who kept sending messages after Him: “We will not have this man to reign over us.” What will be their fate? “But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me.” The same loving and gracious Savior who invites all men to come unto Him and who will welcome His own into the everlasting mansions will execute judgment upon those who reject Him by sentencing them to eternal torment in hell. Let no one ever imagine for even a moment that it won’t be just so.
Now that we’ve studied the parable, let’s apply it to ourselves. Let me ask you:
It took the Lord over fifteen hundred years to complete His Word to men. The Holy Spirit stimulated, moved, and guided men of differing occupations, varying endowments to record God’s Word to man. Here it is—in the Bible! It is a word that exposes the bankruptcy of man spiritually. It is a word that holds each sinner up for inspection by the Judge of all flesh. It is a Word that pronounces judgment and death upon each man that ever lived. But thank God it is a Word that reveals God’s rescue plan for man. It is a Word that reveals the Father’s love in sending His Son. It is a Word that reveals all that the Son did and suffered to win our salvation. It is a Word that proclaims victory over sin, death, and damnation for all. It is a living and life-giving Word. It has been given to you and you and you—to each one of you. No one can say, “Lord, I don’t want the responsibility. I’d rather not.” No, the Lord has placed His Word into each of our hands.
You parents, are you doing business with that Word over against your children—teaching them privately, supervising and insisting upon their doing their Sunday School work, not sending but bringing them to Sunday School and Divine Worship? Or are you so busy providing material things—many of which are harmful that you are neglecting the One Thing Needful? All of you, are you testifying in the family circle and the circle of your friends, acquaintances, fellow workers? Are you inviting, exhorting, admonishing? Are you trading with, doing business with, the dollar entrusted to you? Think on this, and think hard, for the next question is this:
We’re all going to be there on that last day—no one absent! Will one or the other of us have to say: “Here’s your dollar, Lord. I kept it neatly wrapped in this napkin, but I was so busy with this and that and the other thing, I never really had tine to pay much attention to the Christian education of my children. I never really found the opportunity to speak to anyone about his salvation—really didn’t have much time to attend Sunday School and Worship Service myself. And, Lord, when they asked for support for benevolences—for doing your work in distant places and for supporting schools to train teachers and preachers, I always thought that they were just trying to get my money. After all, we didn’t know those people far away, and we had so much expense in our own congregation—even if, come to think of it, I didn’t help much there either.” Is this what you or I are going to have to confess on Judgment Day?
Think on it, and think on it in the light of this final question:
When someone dies, people tend to evaluate his life in terms of the amount of the estate that he leaves behind. That won’t mean anything on the last day. The question then will be faithfulness. Did you faithfully trade with the dollar entrusted to you? The Lord graciously rewards faithfulness. If you use the Word in your home, among those you associate with, if you testify and confess as the opportunity presents itself, if you willingly and liberally support the work at home and abroad—you grow in grace and knowledge and will receive your ten or five cities. If you or I refuse to work with the soul-saving Word entrusted to us, that Word may be taken from us and we may lose our soul’s salvation.
How’s business? How’s your business of doing the Lord’s business? Amen.
Ministry by Mail is a weekly publication of the Church of the Lutheran Confession. Subscription and staff information may be found online at www.clclutheran.org/ministrybymail.
All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the King James Version.