11As they were listening to this, he went on to tell a parable, because he was near Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately. 12So he said, "A nobleman went to a distant country to get royal power for himself and then return. 13He summoned ten of his slaves, and gave them ten pounds*[see footnote], and said to them, 'Do business with these until I come back.' 14But the citizens of his country hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, 'We do not want this man to rule over us.' 15When he returned, having received royal power, he ordered these slaves, to whom he had given the money, to be summoned so that he might find out what they had gained by trading. 16The first came forward and said, 'Lord, your pound has made ten more pounds.' 17He said to him, 'Well done, good slave! Because you have been trustworthy in a very small thing, take charge of ten cities.' 18Then the second came, saying, 'Lord, your pound has made five pounds.' 19He said to him, 'And you, rule over five cities.' 20Then the other came, saying, 'Lord, here is your pound. I wrapped it up in a piece of cloth, 21for I was afraid of you, because you are a harsh man; you take what you did not deposit, and reap what you did not sow.' 22He said to him, 'I will judge you by your own words, you wicked slave! You knew, did you, that I was a harsh man, taking what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow?23Why then did you not put my money into the bank? Then when I returned, I could have collected it with interest.' 24He said to the bystanders, 'Take the pound from him and give it to the one who has ten pounds.'25(And they said to him, 'Lord, he has ten pounds!') 26'I tell you, to all those who have, more will be given; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 27But as for these enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them - bring them here and slaughter them in my presence.'"
[*pound. The Greek word is mina. A mina was three months wages. So based on a salary of $60K, one mina would be $15K. We will convert mina to our current equivalent.]
Distributive justice can be defined as the fair allocation of goods and resources among different members of society. From a strictly distributive justice point of view, the nobleman in the story is unjust, given that he takes the $15K from one man and gives that amount to another man who already has $150K. The point of the story that Jesus tells, however, is not about distributive justice nor about economics, but about the "economics" of God's kingdom.
The English word 'economics' is derived from the Greek word οἰκονόμος (oikonomos, or, "household management"). A certain "economics" of God's Kingdom is expounded here through the parable of the nobleman who gives money to his slaves with the expectation that when he returns the slaves would have made something out of the money received. We can also interpret this parable more broadly as what we humans should do with the talents that God gives us. But paying attention to the 'kingdom of God' in verse 11 alerts us to the fact that what Jesus is teaching here is less about God and human beings in general but more about God and God's gifts in the realm of God's Kingdom.
The parable is not complicated. Ten slaves are given $15K each. One slave invests his $15K and makes $150K. For his good investment, this slave is given charge of ten cities. Second slave invests his $15K and makes $75K. For his good investment, this slave is given charge of five cities. The third slave takes his $15K and wraps the money in cloth for safekeeping. No return on investment. In anger the nobleman orders the third man to give up his $15K and the money is given to the first man with the $150K. What's enlightening here in this parable is the reason why the third man did not invest the money. He says, "for I was afraid of you" (v.21). The nobleman then takes this very reason of fear and asks the man, if you were afraid of me, why didn't you at least put the money in the bank. Minimally a small interest would have accrued. So it's not fear entirely that's the sole reason for the third man's inaction. The parable does not say what other factor was involved besides fear in the man's lack of forethought. Perhaps there was a lack seriousness about the importance of doing something with the money (at least this thought is consistent with other teachings of Jesus about the Kingdom of God).
After the third man loses his money to the first man, the nobleman sums up the principle of why the third man's money was taken away: "I tell you, to all those who have, more will be given; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away." It sounds unfair, maybe even harsh. It is only "unfair" if we have the view that everyone is entitled to receive the same amount as others. The parable is not about entitlement. The parable is about the importance of doing something with the gifts that God has given you for the sake of His Kingdom!
The Lord views our lives and the gifts of talent, knowledge, skills, time, and money as absolutely important things. An earnest seriousness about how we live and how we invest our gifts for the sake of God's Kingdom need to animate our thinking and planning. YOLO. But this 'You Only Live Once' is not about jumping out of airplanes and trekking across exotic terrain or risking your life deep sea diving. It's ultimately about what you do with your life. It's ultimately about "working out your salvation with fear and trembling" (Philippians 2:12). It's about offering our bodies as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1). The Kingdom of God deserves nothing short of our very best -- our very lives and all our gifts!
Let's pray: Father God, this Thanksgiving Day we thank you for the gift of life and our many gifts. We do not want to waste our lives. We do not want to see our lives pass before us without fully investing in your Kingdom. You deserve the best. We deserve the best. The best is a life completely given over to you. No gift withheld, no resource wrapped in cloth for safekeeping. Everything is poured out to you, for our joy and for the advancement of your Kingdom. Help us to take our $15K and turn it into $15 million! In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!