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Don't Sit On Your Minas

Thoughts on stewardship.

 

Last month Billy Graham and his wife, Ruth, received a very prestigious award. One paper read:

WASHINGTON, D.C. May 3—Evangelist Billy Graham and his wife, Ruth, received the Congressional Gold Medal—the highest honor which Congress can bestow on a citizen—at a special ceremony in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol yesterday, attended by more than 700 congressional, diplomatic and religious leaders. This was only the 114th time Congress has enacted legislation to present this medal since it was first given to George Washington in 1776.

Signed into law by President Clinton, it recognized the Grahams for "outstanding and lasting contributions to morality, racial equality, family, philanthropy and religion." Mr. Graham is the second clergyman to receive this award for ministry, and they are the third couple to be so honored.

I've told you many times that one of my heroes is Billy Graham. As I watched him receive the Congressional Gold Medal, I was shocked to see how fast Billy's health has deteriorated since that interview. His Parkinson's Disease has taken its toll on him physically, but it was obvious, even in his weaker state, his spirit and his character are as strong as ever.

Now, a person like Billy could easily be tempted to be proud, and take the credit for all the accomplishments in his life. But in an interview with Diane Sawyer, he made it clear the highest honor for him would come from someone else. That statement reminds me of a particular parable of Jesus in Luke 19:11-27.

Luke 19:11-27 11 While they were listening to this, he went on to tell them a parable, because he was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once. 12 He said: "A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return. 13 So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas. 'Put this money to work,' he said, 'until I come back.' 14 "But his subjects hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, 'We don't want this man to be our king.'

15 "He was made king, however, and returned home. Then he sent for the servants to whom he had given the money, in order to find out what they had gained with it. 16 "The first one came and said, 'Sir, your mina has earned ten more.' 17 "'Well done, my good servant!' his master replied. 'Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.' 18 "The second came and said, 'Sir, your mina has earned five more.' 19 "His master answered, 'You take charge of five cities.'

20 "Then another servant came and said, 'Sir, here is your mina; I have kept it laid away in a piece of cloth. 21 I was afraid of you, because you are a hard man. You take out what you did not put in and reap what you did not sow.' 22 "His master replied, 'I will judge you by your own words, you wicked servant! You knew, did you, that I am a hard man, taking out what I did not put in, and reaping what I did not sow? 23 Why then didn't you put my money on deposit, so that when I came back, I could have collected it with interest?' 24 "Then he said to those standing by, 'Take his mina away from him and give it to the one who has ten minas.' 25 "'Sir,' they said, 'he already has ten!' 26 "He replied, 'I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what he has will be taken away. 27 But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them-- bring them here and kill them in front of me.'"

Five Key Elements of the Story

the nobleman who goes away. Lk. 19:11-12

11] While they were listening to this, he went on to tell them a parable, because he was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once. 12]He said: "A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return." The nobleman represents Jesus, who will soon leave for the distant country of heaven, where He will receive His kingdom and eventually return to establish His authority on earth.

two groups of people:

The first group is 10 of the nobleman's slaves. v. 13—"So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas. 'Put this money to work,' he said, 'until I come back.'" The second significant group is the citizens of the country he left behind (i.e., unbelievers who resist Jesus' rule over their lives). v. 14—"But his subjects hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, 'We don't want this man to be our king.'"(Keep these two groups in mind.)

the money the nobleman leaves with his slaves

He gave each slave one "mina," which equaled approximately three to four months of an average worker's yearly salary. It is important to point out, however, that the mina represents not only money but the resources or talents God places in our hands. We all have a calling or a skill, and the same 24 hours a day to do something with it.

the nobleman's command

v. 13b—"Put this money to work," he said, "until I come back." The command had broad application: the slaves had complete freedom to invest the nobleman's money any way they wished. The expectation was, however, that they make a gain for their master. He expected they would do something with their minas!

ultimate accountability

The nobleman returned as a king. 15]—"He was made king, however, and returned home. Then he sent for the servants to whom he had given the money, in order to find out what they had gained with it." Jesus doesn't say how long the nobleman was gone, perhaps years. When he returns, business/gain was on his mind, and he was in charge. Notice he didn't ask; heordered his slaves to come before him to give an account of how they did with their investments.

How well did the slaves fare? vv. 16-19—"The first one came and said, 'Sir, your mina has earned ten more.' 17] "'Well done, my good servant!' his master replied. 'Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.' 18] "The second came and said, 'Sir, your mina has earned five more.' 19] "His master answered, 'You take charge of five cities.'"

The first two slaves wisely referred to the money as "your mina." They rightly recognized that the money and profits were his, not theirs. Notice also that the rewards corresponded with the returns—vv. 17-19. They were no longer slaves; they became rulers of cities. The principle is simple: Faithfulness with things will give us opportunities with people!

But then a third slave stepped forward to give his report, and his reward matched his return, too. He got nothing. vv. 20-23—"Then another servant came and said, 'Sir, here is your mina; I have kept it laid away in a piece of cloth. 21] I was afraid of you, because you are a hard man. You take out what you did not put in and reap what you did not sow.' 22] "His master replied, 'I will judge you by your own words, you wicked servant! You knew, did you, that I am a hard man, taking out what I did not put in, and reaping what I did not sow? 23] Why then didn't you put my money on deposit, so that when I came back, I could have collected it with interest?'"

It was ultimately very obvious that folding the mina in a handkerchief was not the master's idea of doing business. Oh, the slave had an excuse, and claimed he hid it because he was afraid. I have a hard time with that one, because if he really feared the master, he would have obeyed him. Even a safe, low-interest savings account would have been better than nothing.

So displeased was he with the slave, he told those standing nearby to take his mina away from him and give it to the one who had 10 minas. But they objected, v. 25. "'Sir,' they said, 'he already has ten!'

It isn't always clear to people that the Lord is in charge and his wisdom/direction doesn't have to be approved before it is accepted. Thus the king answers them with a principle and a prediction. This response is so important because it points to the heart of Jesus' message.

The Principles and the Prediction

Luke begins with the prediction concerning the citizens who resisted the nobleman's claim to power. That was their stance, so now when he returns as king, they will receive judgment both swift and grim. v. 27—"But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them—bring them here and kill them in front of me." Wow! Although these enemies had no minas to invest (they were not even classified as slaves), they possessed the greatest gift any person could have—time. The master had given them plenty of time to submit to his rule when he was gone, but they blew their opportunity. Now it was too late—just as it will be for unbelievers when Christ comes again as King of Kings. With that in mind, I need to stop and clarify three things at this point.

Clarification #1. Unbelievers should know Judgment Day is coming, and Scripture makes it clear that those who don't know Jesus Christ as personal Savior will stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ—check out Revelation 20:11-15.

Clarification #2. But this parable is not really talking about, or to, non-believers. It is addressing those who are followers/slaves of the Lord—those who have been given minas, talents, resources directly from His hand.

Clarification #3. Obviously this parable doesn't give a complete picture of our Lord, the resources He has made available to His followers, His love for them, or His death and resurrection. The parable doesn't intend to explain everything going on in the relationship between the master and the slave. Parables have one main point to get across. But what is here is an accurate picture of the kingdom of God.

Remember v. 11]—"While they were listening to this, he went on to tell them a parable, because he was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once." So this passage is speaking directly to Christians, but indirectly to non-Christians; and the message is clear. One day the kingdom will be fully realized on this earth; and the Lord, the King, will return. Believers/slaves will have to give an account. All who refuse His rulership will also have to give an account, and they will receive ultimate separation from God, i.e., hell.

So what should Christians pick up from this parable? Why is it significant? One or more of the following principles gives us the answer

Principle #1: You cannot stand still and continue to grow.

Jesus says in v. 26, "I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what he has will be taken away." We've all heard the phrase, "Use it or lose it," and that is true. An athlete's muscles and skills will atrophy without training; an artist's creativity will shrivel if the imagination isn't stretched. For example, actor Christopher Reeve—who, as you know, suffered a horseback riding accident that left him paralyzed from the neck down—continues physical therapy so his muscles won't atrophy, possibly allowing him a slight chance to walk again.

When we go through one door of learning and growth, we're led to more doors and even greater opportunities for growth; but if we refuse to keep moving forward, we lose something. Whatever resources, talents, or interests God has given you, don't sit on your minas. Don't worry about how many minas you have, either. Here's a very important truth: the Master is more pleased with less talented believers who use what they have, than highly talented believers who do nothing.

Don't spend your time looking at what others have—pay attention to what you have. Don't sit on your minas—invest them. So what do you have? Look at the Minas Inventory entitled:How much do you have? Listed are some of the resources we all have as believers, the ones for which we will all have to give an account. In addition to these, we all have individual minas/talents/abilities/ gifts unique to us! There will also be group/team/church opportunities that can only be accomplished collectively.

Principle #2: We all have some money, some financial resources; and when we use that money, we are investing God's resources, not ours.

It's much easier to think of gifts and talents as coming from God, but if we miss our financialresources, we miss a very important "mina" in our inventory. As believers, we are stewards, not owners of our finances. What we have, God has provided for us. God also provides us minds to think with and backs to work—our very ability to earn a paycheck. Without Him, we'd have nothing. So our houses, our stereos, our cars, even our lives are His property; all on loan to us from His heavenly warehouse (see Luke 12:27-32.) This parable's clear implication is, the Lord cares about how we're using His property, and we must be wise as to how we handle His gift. He's loaned it to us to earn dividends for His kingdom—to show love, to give encouragement, to transform lives. This next principle, therefore, is an extension of principle #2.

Principle #3: What we spend our money on shows our priorities.

The truth is, we spend money on what we consider important. The absolute bare necessities of food, clothing, shelter, schooling, medical care, as well as any other spending are a general list of our priorities. Here's a revealing exercise: take a look sometime at your checkbook or any record of your financial transactions. Put each transaction in a general category, e.g., food, hospitality, basic household expenses, recreation/entertainment, giving, ministry, etc. Then add them up and put them in order of what receives the most attention and/or the most transactions. This represents your list of priorities.

In the context of this parable, we have a wonderful example of this principle: Zaccheus' heart was set right after one meeting with Jesus. The first part of the chapter we are looking at, Luke 19, says Zaccheus immediately sold his stock in greed and invested heavily in generosity, i.e., his checkbook ledger quickly reflected his new set of priorities. Did you catch that? His stock in greed was invested heavily in generosity. Therefore, his checkbook ledger quickly reflected his new set of priorities. It was while the crowd was still grappling with this stunning change in Zaccheus' heart that Jesus took the occasion to tell them this parable about money and resources/minas (19:11a).

Principle #4: What you need most cannot be purchased with money.

Consider what money can and cannot buy. Money can buy

  • a bed, but not sleep

  • pleasure, but not peace

  • medicine, but not health

  • companionship, but not friendship

  • a crucifix, but not a Savior

By focusing on money and things exclusively, we lose sight of what's most important (see Luke 12:20-21). Topping the list is our salvation, which Peter says was bought not with money, but with the precious blood of Christ (see 1 Pet. 1:18-19).

Principle #5: Time follows values, e.g., we spend time on what or whom we value the most

We have so little time. We should look not only at our checkbooks, but at our watches, to determine what our real values are.

Principle #6: The Lord will reward broad vision, not fearful restraint.

Fear of failure, criticism, or burnout has caused many of us to keep our minas neatly folded in napkins, patiently waiting for Christ's return. Jesus, however, commands us to do business. Think big, then, and be generous. He smiled on the ones who risked, not the fearful.

Some time ago I had a chance to see a couple who used to be in our church. The wife was one of my interns about 17 years ago. We started off the internship by working through some major pain in her life, but I was privileged to see Jesus do some very significant healing in her life. That was the beginning. The second phase begins as she built on the healing and began to dream. We spent a lot of time just talking about her skills, and dreams of music, writing, drama, creative expressions of worship and teaching. She was a big dreamer. It's fun now to see how God has rewarded her and how all of those dreams have been or are being fulfilled.

The Lord will reward broad vision, not fearful restraint. By God's grace, we will continue to have broad and even risky vision!

Principle #7: We will ultimately give account to the Lord, not others.

All believers will one day stand before Christ's judgment seat—not that of our parents, brothers, sisters, bosses, or friends (see 2 Cor. 5:10). That doesn't have to be a negative or scary thought: people often measure us by standards we can never achieve. But Jesus measures us according to the potential with which He created us. There's freedom in that thought, isn't there? Freedom to take a chance, to try, to invest our lives in things that last. If we refuse to take the positive challenge, however, we must also deal with the very negative consequences—the shame, e.g., 1 Cor. 3:10-15.

Conclusion

If we fail to measure our lives in the light of eternity and God's judgment, we measure them in a very limited way. Let me ask you again: How much do you have? I can tell what the Judgment Seat of Christ is going to be like for a believer, by hearing his answer to this question. The person who continually invests his/her minas, has a list that goes on and on, a list something like this:

  • Salvation

  • Fruit of the Spirit, i.e., Peace

  • Financial resources—10%

  • Word

  • Friendships

  • Family

  • Church

  • Opportunity to give/share, etc.

Think about the day you were born. Many of us think nothing/little happened before we were born, but if you are a wise investor, you will ask about what preceded you. You will want to know, so you can build upon others' lives and not repeat their mistakes.As you think about your timeline, think before time. God's plan started before time, before the foundation of the earth. Time and its events didn't take God by surprise; He invented time. We are living in God's world, and it is His plan we want to live by.

Now think about the end of your life. After this, as I said earlier, we will all appear at the judgment seat of Christ, or the Great White Throne Judgment. All who have ever lived will stand before God at one or the other.How short is this time between life and death in comparison to eternity—infinity! What happens in this short time, however, will influence how we spend eternity. We think our lives are so long, but in comparison to eternity the time will hardly be measurable.

In your mind, hang your "bag of minas" in the spot on the timeline between life and death. Recognize that what we do in this timeframe with what we have received (represented by the minas) will affect our eternity with God. It's a massive stretch for youth to think this way, because at the most they think three months in advance. Most adults are not much better, and the proof is that many Boomers have not saved for retirement.

My encouragement is to inventory your mina bag. Put your resources in an eternal context. Determine not to sit on them, but to invest them!