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(Part 18)


November 17, 2010
Today’s reading: Luke 19:11-28

Today’s parable of the ten gold coins gives us a lesson on servant leadership. The gold coins refer to talents, which God gives freely to His people in order for them to serve Him.

What are the talents for? Jesus says to the ten servants, “Engage in trade with these until I return.” (Lk 19:13). Jesus came into the world in order to reconcile people to God and to win salvation for them. This he accomplished on the cross. Before Jesus ascended into heaven, he commissioned his disciples to proclaim this good news of salvation to the world. They are to do this until he returns once again, at the end of time. The experience of salvation by people would depend on their hearing and accepting the good news, which in turn would depend on evangelizers who are sent to proclaim that good news. Then, as people are brought into a life in Christ, their formation needs to continue and to deepen. Thus, disciples of Jesus, especially servant leaders, are tasked with winning souls and expanding the kingdom of God on earth, in preparation for heaven.

What are these talents? They are the gifts God has given us, such as life, health, mental abilities, skills, resources, etc. If we understand that we belong to God, are His instruments, and are just passing through this earth, our focus should be on serving God and building His kingdom on earth. In this we make use of our talents. Now we all use our God-given talents in different ways. Some use them for the kingdom, others use them for personal benefit, and still others do a combination. This accounts for the different fruits achieved by the servants. One earns ten additional coins, a second earns five, and a third earned nothing.

To the one who earned ten, Jesus says, “Well done, good servant!” (Lk 19:17a). Jesus is elated. His will is being done. The kingdom is being built. This is servanthood at its best. The second servant who earned five is appreciated and rewarded. He too has served the kingdom, though producing less fruit than the first. Finally, the third servant is severely rebuked and condemned. He did not use his talent for the kingdom.

In fact, Jesus calls the third servant “wicked.” Why? What did he do wrong? Here we need to see what God actually expects of those whom He calls to servanthood. This is important because we might just be going through our lives, doing nothing that is wrong or bad, but we might be surprised when we come before God at the final judgment and receive condemnation. What does God expect of us, His servants?

First, God harvests what He did not plant (Lk 19:21-22), that is, we do the work of evangelization and mission, and the harvest of souls belongs to God. God has made Himself totally dependent upon us to accomplish His will. He gives us talents, but it is up to us to use them for God’s purposes. Here we see the critical importance of living our lives as servants of the Master.

Second, God is a “demanding person” (Lk 19:21-22). Since God depends on us for the proclamation of the good news of salvation, which is the all-important work in this life, God demands our all. This is after all about souls. This is about experiencing the salvation that Jesus went to such great lengths to win for us. God expects that we will be fruitful instruments. If we are not, then what is our existence for? We are to live not for ourselves but for God. If we are selfish with our God-given gifts, then the kingdom that God wants to build through us (that is, all his disciples) will not be built as widely and as strongly. The giving of gifts to us is totally connected with the purposes of God for the life of the world, and beyond.

Jesus says that if we do not gather, then we scatter. God gathers His people, while Satan scatters them. By not gathering the flock, we contribute to keeping the flock scattered. By not bringing people into a life in Christ, we in effect keep them under the dominion of Satan. By not doing the work of God, which He has entrusted to His people, then we in effect are doing the work of Satan. Thus we commit the sin of omission. Thus we do evil.

We need to see the great importance of using our God-given gifts for God’s purposes. If we do not, then we stand condemned. If we do, we are rewarded and even extolled.

There is another thing. Since we exist for God and not for ourselves, since God gives us talents in order to serve Him and His purposes in the world, then our responses determine whether we grow or diminish in experiencing the fullness of God’s grace and blessings. The third servant who did nothing loses his talent, while the first servant is given the additional talent (Lk 19:24). And here lies a spiritual principle: “to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” (Lk 19:26).

How do we experience the abundance of blessings that God has reserved for His beloved people? Just by our faithfulness. When we serve God with our talents, we not only win a harvest for God, but we also get a windfall for ourselves. We not only are extolled by God, but we also increase in our experience of His grace and blessings.

As servant leaders, those who are faithful will be given charge of ten or of five cities (Lk 19:17,19). Since God depends on His people for His work, then those He finds dependable and fruitful will be given even greater responsibilities. We start off with whatever talents God gives us, no matter how small our talent might be. If we prove faithful, then God Himself multiplies those talents. Those who are faithful in small matters will be given greater responsibilities (Lk 19:17). Further, God not only depends on His people to bring in the harvest, but also on His servant leaders to continue to govern His people in His name, preparing them for their ultimate destination, heaven.

God is about an awesome work in the world. This work involves the very salvation of souls. It is carrying on the very mission of Jesus and participating in his salvific work. It can be truly intimidating, as God calls us to do work that is divine. Some might be deterred by the challenge and the demands of true discipleship (Lk 19:21a). Some might be afraid of failure and displeasing God (Lk 19:20-21).

But God just expects that we try to look to His interests and to do what we can with what He gives us. We might even just take the easy path and deposit His money in the bank to earn interest (Lk 19:23). As long as we are working for the kingdom and using our talents for God’s purposes, then we will be on the right path. We must not be afraid of failure. We must simply do our part and be faithful.

And of course, when we do even more that just deposit the money in a bank, when we truly strive to become faithful and effective instruments, when we utilize our gifts and our talents simply to glorify God and build His kingdom on earth, when we give our all while not counting the cost, then we will experience the fullness of God’s blessings, and will hear Jesus say to us, “Well done, good servant!”

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