Theme: Working at the Master’s Business Until He Returns
1. We invest in others through the Gospel.
2. We trust the promise of the Holy Spirit.
As we approach the end of the Church year, which concludes next Sunday, we are often directed to themes involving the Last Day of God’s judgment. Our forefathers who began the practice of preaching according to the Church calendar, carefully fashioned it this way. The Church year begins with the Lord’s first advent and ends with thoughts and reminders of His second advent.
Given the current state of our nation and the lingering effects of the latest election, we might very well consider thoughts of the End Times extremely appropriate. There is certainly a great deal of gloom and doom going on right now, although not particularly because of thoughts of the Lord’s Day. Whenever there is an opportunity to worry about earthly matters, we return to the direction and comfort of our Lord’s Word. He reminds us that “it is better to trust in the LORD, than to put confidence in man.” He allows us to boast, “The Lord is my helper, what can man do to me?” He reassures us, “with man it is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” And He directs us, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”
We can’t help but think about what is going on in our lives right now. But as God so often does, He shifts the attention from this realm to the next. He takes the spotlight off of you and puts it on Himself. And so we remind ourselves to focus on the Lord’s eternal Word. The Word as it comes to us today is from Luke 19:11-27, and is indeed a look at the divine day of judgment.
Luke 19:11-27 As they were listening to this, He went on to tell a parable because He was near Jerusalem, and they thought the kingdom of God was going to appear right away. 12 Therefore He said: "A nobleman traveled to a far country to receive for himself authority to be king and then return. 13 He called 10 of his slaves, gave them 10 minas, and told them, 'Engage in business until I come back.' 14 "But his subjects hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, 'We don't want this man to rule over us!' 15 "At his return, having received the authority to be king, he summoned those slaves he had given the money to, so he could find out how much they had made in business. 16 The first came forward and said, 'Master, your mina has earned 10 more minas.' 17 " 'Well done, good slave! ' he told him. 'Because you have been faithful in a very small matter, have authority over 10 towns.' 18 "The second came and said, 'Master, your mina has made five minas.' 19 "So he said to him, 'You will be over five towns.' 20 "And another came and said, 'Master, here is your mina. I have kept it hidden away in a cloth 21 because I was afraid of you, for you're a tough man: you collect what you didn't deposit and reap what you didn't sow.' 22 "He told him, 'I will judge you by what you have said, you evil slave! If you knew I was a tough man, collecting what I didn't deposit and reaping what I didn't sow, 23 why didn't you put my money in the bank? And when I returned, I would have collected it with interest!' 24 So he said to those standing there, 'Take the mina away from him and give it to the one who has 10 minas.' 25 "But they said to him, 'Master, he has 10 minas.' 26 " 'I tell you, that to everyone who has, more will be given; and from the one who does not have, even what he does have will be taken away. 27 But bring here these enemies of mine, who did not want me to rule over them, and slaughter them in my presence.'"
This is God’s Word, the Creator of heaven and earth and the Redeemer of lost mankind. By faith we understand these truths and through the Word our faith is increased. We pray, “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief!”
In Luke’s Gospel this parable comes right before Jesus enters Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. This is near the end of His time on earth. Just prior to this Jesus visited the house of Zacchaeus and ended His talk there by saying, “The Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost,” Zacchaeus, no doubt, was an example of that very thing. The reason for this parable in our text is to remind people, especially those sitting on the fence between faith and unbelief, that there are consequences for denying Jesus.
For those of us who believe, it’s a no-brainer. Of course we know this. We don’t need to be concerned about this, we’re covered. True indeed, but we who believe also have the great responsibility of building the Lord’s Church until He comes. It’s not time to relax and take it easy just because we already have faith. The fact that we believe adds an even greater importance that we get that message out to as many as possible.
This is pictured in our parable as investing for the Lord. We know this as evangelism in its proper sense, or what we often call mission work. We take our authority, strength, and example for this task from Jesus. Certainly He had nothing to worry about while here on earth. He was perfect and holy in every way. All forces of nature were under His control. Truly, what could man do to Him? But, Jesus still made the work of spreading the Word His utmost priority; not for Himself, of course, but for others. We follow the same example.
As we think about God’s work as business, it brings us back to a much earlier time in Jesus’ life. Remember the one story we have from Jesus’ childhood outside His birth. The time He stayed in the temple at Jerusalem to address the religious scholars. When His earthly parents questioned His motives, Jesus directed them to the attention that His Heavenly Father’s business demanded. Here we see the same thing, now at the end of Jesus’ life, directed at our lives.
There are many challenges involved with conducting the Father’s business. For the timid servant who concealed his mina, it was fear. He knew His master to be a strict man who demanded much. And so he was afraid. We understand. This is the natural response to the pounding of God’s law in our hearts. The Greek word for “tough” in verse 21 is where our English word “austere” comes from, meaning strict, hard, or serious. The law reminds us that God takes His business seriously. Therefore, we shouldn’t take it lightly either.
But, the law also reminds us of the toughness in God’s own nature. He demands holiness in much more than just sharing His Word. All people will give an account of their works on the last Day, just as these servants had to reveal the investments they made. Paul wrote in this manner to the Corinthians saying, For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw-- 13 each one's work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done (1 Corinthians 3:11-13).
Peter mentioned the same thing, reminding the Christians that on the final Day, all things, included our works, will be laid bare, open for all to see. Nothing secret, nothing hidden. The importance here is not that the works we do save us. This wasn’t any different than the servants in the parable. They were not found worthy for their works alone, but rather because the investment they made with the Master’s gift revealed their love and trust in the Master’s work. In the same way, the works we do are evidence of that we have saving faith in our hearts, including the work of sharing the Gospel with others.
Fear enters in because the gift of faith seems so fragile in such a hostile world. This comes through in the parable too. In verse 17 the Master describes the investment as a “very small matter.” How could this be if He judges so strictly according to this gift? It seems like it’s a pretty big deal. The key is found in that which the investment is compared with. In comparison to the kingdom of heaven, the work we do here on earth is indeed a much smaller matter. But, this is also the way the world looks at the Gospel.
The Greek word for “very small” also describes something that is insignificant. It’s indicative of something that appears to be far less important than something else. To the many things happening in the world, few people actually take notice of the gospel. They certainly wouldn’t notice it, or appreciate its power, on their own. Again, Paul writes to the Corinthians, For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:18, 21, 24).
There is fear in sharing the Word of God with others, both in exposing sin through the Law and giving hope through the Gospel, because the world sees it as foolishness. Truly, to the unbeliever, it is a “very small matter” compared to everything else going on in the world. There is then, also fear for the believer, because we know very clearly what God demands. He takes His business seriously. It seems like the mission-minded Christian is continually caught between two extremes. God’s justice on the one side and the world’s hostility on the other. As Isaiah despaired, so we do often, “Lord, who will believe us?”
Fear is among us naturally. But, it doesn’t have to be. God promises the gift of the Holy Spirit. He can change hearts. He can remove the fear of terror and install the fear of respect and reverence for God. Every element of this business of our Master is built on Jesus. Consider this description of Jesus’ work for a fallen world:
1 John 4:17-20 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.
It may make sense to us to refrain from sharing God’s Word, especially the message of repentance. Who will believe? It won’t make a difference. We tell ourselves these things time and time again. But, you should ask yourself in those moments. Do I believe it? Does it make a difference for me? Fear exists when we block God out of view. The Holy Spirit is able to accomplish anything. The Bible contains the records of the conversions of the most unlikely of people: the city of Nineveh in the book of Jonah, the Syrian commander Naaman, the thief on the cross, and the Apostle Paul. Who are we to doubt God? Fear exists when we try to overthink things. God tells us the solution: Preach and believe the Word.
All people need God’s Word. Not just because it’s a tough time for our nation, or because we are divided on issues in our country. We all need it because we’re all sinners and sin is at the root of every problem. You’ve been entrusted with a precious gift that can help people with any problem. But, what good is it if you don’t use it? How helpful will it be if it is considered to be a “very small thing” to you as well? Love your neighbor by being kind, speaking well of them, and helping them. Do that. But, don’t be afraid to love them with the perfect love of Jesus of Gospel. If we truly believe that faith is greater than the fruits of that faith, we need to act like it. When the day of judgment comes, our good works will count for nothing if they are not also accompanied by faith in Jesus.
We hardly have time to consider the very end of this parable; the very tough description of God’s judgment. It’s worth noting though, that the same word for “enemies” in the last verse is used in Romans 5:10: For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.
Judgment Day is a serious matter. No amount of heartfelt intentions or good works will make the difference before God. Because of sin we all are enemies. But, God does not desire anyone’s destruction. He shed His own blood so that we could have a way of deliverance. We believe; let us show that light to others. Amen.
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.