19:11-27 As they were listening to these things, Jesus went on to tell them a parable because he was near Jerusalem, and they were thinking that the kingdom of God was going to appear immediately. So he said, "There was a noble man who went into a distant country to receive a kingdom for himself and then to return. He called ten of his own servants and gave them 5 pounds each and said to them, 'Trade with these until I come.' His citizens hated him, and they despatched an embassy after him, saying, 'We do not wish this man to be king over us.' When he had received the kingdom and had returned, he ordered the servants to whom he had given the money to be called to him, that he might know what they had made by trading with it. The first came and said, 'Sir, your 5 pounds has produced 50 pounds.' So he said to him, 'Well done, good servant! Because you have shown yourself faithful in a little thing, you shall have authority over ten cities.' And the second came and said to him also, 'Sir, your 5 pounds has made 25 pounds.' He said to him also, 'You, too, are to be promoted over five cities.' Another came to him and said, 'Sir, here is your 5 pounds, which I was keeping laid away in a towel, for I was afraid of you, because I know that you are a hard man. You take up what you did not put down and you reap what you did not sow.' He said to him, 'Out of your own mouth I judge you, wicked servant. You knew that I am a hard man, taking up what I did not put down, and reaping what I did not sow. You ought, therefore, to have given my money to the bankers, so that when I came, I would have received it plus interest.' He said to those standing by, 'Take the 5 pounds from him and give it to him who has 50 pounds.' They said to him, 'Sir, he has 50 pounds.' I tell you, that to everyone who has it will be given; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away. But as for these my enemies, who did not wish to have me as their king--bring them here and hew them to pieces in my presence."
This is unique among the parables of Jesus, because it is the only one whose story is in part based on an actual historical event. It tells about a king who went away to receive a kingdom and whose subjects did their best to stop him receiving it. When Herod the Great died in 4 B.C. he left his kingdom divided between Herod Antipas, Herod Philip and Archelaus. That division had to be ratified by the Romans, who were the overlords of Palestine, before it became effective. Archelaus, to whom Judaea had been left, went to Rome to persuade Augustus to allow him to enter into his inheritance, whereupon the Jews sent an embassy of fifty men to Rome to inform Augustus that they did not wish to have him as king. In point of fact, Augustus confirmed him in his inheritance, though without the actual title of king. Anyone in Judaea, on hearing the parable, would immediately remember the historical circumstances on which it was based.
The parable of the king and his servants illustrates certain great facts of the Christian life.
(i) It tells of the king's trust. He gave his servants the money and then went away and left them to use it as they could and as they thought best. He did not in any way interfere with them, or stand over them. He left them entirely to their own devices. That is the way in which God trusts us. Someone has said, "The nicest thing about God is that he trusts us to do so much by ourselves."
(ii) It tells of the king's test. As always, this trust was a test, of whether or not a man was faithful and reliable in little things. Sometimes a man justifies a certain large inefficiency in the ordinary routine affairs of life by claiming that "he has a mind above trifles." God has not. It is precisely in these routine duties that God is testing men. There is no example of this like Jesus himself. Of his thirty-three years of life Jesus spent thirty in Nazareth. Had he not discharged with absolute fidelity the tasks of the carpenter's shop in Nazareth and the obligation of being the breadwinner of the family, God could never have given him the supreme task of being the Saviour of the world.
(iii) It tells us of the king's reward. The reward that the faithful servants received was not one which they could enjoy by sitting down and folding their hands and doing nothing. One was put over ten cities and the other over five. The reward of work well done was more work to do. The greatest compliment we can pay a man is to give him ever greater and harder tasks to do. The great reward of God to the man who has satisfied the test is more trust.
(iv) The parable concludes with one of the inexorable laws of life. To him who has, more will be given; from him who has not, what he has will be taken away. If a man plays a game and goes on practising at it, he will play it with ever greater efficiency; if he does not practise, he will lose much of whatever knack and ability he has. If we discipline and train our bodies, they will grow ever fitter and stronger; if we do not, they will grow flabby and lose much of the strength we have. If a schoolboy learns Latin, and goes on with his learning, the wealth of Latin literature will open wider and wider to him; if he does not go on learning, he will forget much of the Latin he knows. If we really strive after goodness and master this and that temptation, new vistas and new heights of goodness will open to us; if we give up the battle and take the easy way, much of the resistance power we once possessed will be lost and we will slip from whatever height we had attained.
There is no such thing as standing still in the Christian life. We either get more or lose what we have. We either advance to greater heights or slip back.