Engage in Kingdom Business (Luke 19:11-27)

            There is nothing like the excitement of waiting for a child to be born.  I remember the mix of excitement and nervousness sitting in the hospital room waiting to go back for the delivery.  Yet the waiting and preparation for the baby begins long before the delivery. Expectant mothers have to prepare their bodies for delivery by eating healthy and hydrating ensuring their blood pressure and vitals are correct. Expectant fathers have to say goodbye to their office or “man cave” by transforming it into a nursery. Parents have to assemble the crib, paint the walls new colors, and hang the appropriate pictures.  There are showers for the baby to load up on clothes and diapers. Expectant parents know the baby is coming, and when they know the baby is coming they engage in preparing for the arrival. 

            In this waiting and expectation, Christians are like expectant parents.  We know God is going to come and will deliver his kingdom. And because we know his arrival is coming, we must engage in preparing for His arrival.  Many Jews believed that the Messiah was going to come as a powerful political king restoring the nation of Israel.  They supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately.  Ask any expectant mother at month 7 and they will tell you that they are ready for the baby to be born, but they do not have any control over the timing of the delivery.  We do not have control over the timing of the Lord’s return.  We know that it is going to happen, but all we can do is to wait for it.  Luke 19:11,

As they heard these things, he proceeded to tell a parable, because he was near to Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately.

Jesus shared this parable to illustrate that His kingdom will not be fully established until some later date. In this parable Jesus shows three distinct groups of people. I pray that the Holy Spirit clarifies which group you are in and convicts you to respond accordingly. Let me frame this passage by asking you three questions, the first,

Are you Engaging in Kingdom Business?

Luke 19:12-19,

He said therefore, “A nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and then return. Calling ten of his servants, he gave them ten minas, and said to them, ‘Engage in business until I come.’ But his citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to reign over us.’ When he returned, having received the kingdom, he ordered these servants to whom he had given the money to be called to him, that he might know what they had gained by doing business. The first came before him, saying, ‘Lord, your mina has made ten minas more.’ And he said to him, ‘Well done, good servant! Because you have been faithful in a very little, you shall have authority over ten cities.’ And the second came, saying, ‘Lord, your mina has made five minas.’ And he said to him, ‘And you are to be over five cities.’ (Luke 19:12-19)

The parable is of a nobleman who went to a far country to receive for himself a kingdom. Before he left, he called ten of his servants together giving them each one mina (or about 3 months salary) and tells them, “Engage in business until I come.” These ten servants were called to engage in the King’s business while he was away to prepare for his return. In this way the nobleman represents Jesus Christ.  Jesus Christ returned home and was given all power and dominion and authority, seated at the right hand of the God.  He has gone to receive a kingdom.

This is an interesting parable for Luke’s gospel. For most of Luke’s gospel he mentions the kingdom being near or present, but here Luke is speaking about the kingdom that is to come. This is where we get the “already, but not yet” theology of the kingdom.  Jesus Christ has brought the kingdom to us in part, but will one day bring the kingdom to us completely.  So we are called to live in the “already” (born again, redeemed, holy, righteous people of God) and the not-yet (still living in the flesh, battling the world and the devil).  Jesus has already won us the victory, but we have not experienced ceasefire. 

I think one of the key phrases of this parable is at the end of verse 13, “Engage in business until I come.” We see two realities here: what we are called to do- engage in the King’s business, and how long we are called to do it – until Christ comes.  We see in the parable what happens when the King returns.  It says in verse 15, “When he returned, having received the kingdom,” he is coming back after fully establishing the kingdom. He calls all the servants to him and judges their engagement in the master’s business. The first two servants provide a return for the investment. I love the interchange with the first servant and the master, verses 16-17,

The first came before him, saying, ‘Lord, your mina has made ten minas more.’ And he said to him, ‘Well done, good servant! Because you have been faithful in a very little, you shall have authority over ten cities.’

This man is rewarded for his faithfulness. He has been faithful with little so he has been entrusted with much. God will always reward the faithfulness of his people.

I love those words, “well done.”  The task is over.  The race has been run.  The job is finished. Well done!! These words are promised for all who engage in kingdom business, so how do you know if you are engaging in kingdom business?  First of all, it doesn’t mean that you are saved, because of your work, but rather your engagement in work is a sign that you are saved, for Jesus said,I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) Engaging in kingdom business does not earn us merit with God, but proves that we are abiding in Jesus. So another way to frame the question is, “Are you abiding or remaining in Christ?” Paul uses the similar concept of walking throughout his epistles.  Are you walking with Christ? Are you abiding in Christ? This is kingdom engagement.

Or yet another way to look at engaging in kingdom business would be to ask, “Are we being good stewards of the lives God have given us? The nobleman gave each servant a mina and then judged them based on their stewardship. So are we using our money, our talents, and our time for kingdom business?  Paul weds both these concepts together in Ephesians 5,

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5:15-21)

Making the best use of your time is intimately connected to serving and living together with one another. 

We can divorce spirituality from Christ and his people. I hear many people say that they do not attend church because they are more spiritual than religious.  Although it may sound trendy and be a cultural buzzword, biblical spirituality cannot be divorced from Christ and his people.  Theologian and Biblical scholar, Andreas Kostenberger writes,

“Growth in spirituality is evidenced in the form of active obedience, love, mission, and corporate unity and peace. We therefore progress in spirituality (engage in kingdom business) as we express love for others in practical and concrete ways, make our day-by-day decisions in obedience to God’s commands, involve ourselves, in the fulfillment of God’s mission in the world, and promote peace and unity within God’s church.[1]

All that to say is that one of the most profound and biblical ways to engage in kingdom business is to be a faithful member in a local church. 

Love each other during difficult times. Forgive and bear with each other when you are offended. Visit widows regularly. Give cards on special days. Grieve with each other.  Pray for each other’s lost family members.  Rejoice with those who rejoice.  Outdo one another in showing honor.  In this age where radical spirituality is promoted, wouldn’t it be surprising that the greatest kingdom business we can engage in is right here in the local church.  Our love for God will almost always be expressed in concrete acts of love to others.  Be a faithful church member and be confident that you are engaging in kingdom business.
Second question:

Are you Ignoring Kingdom Business?

            If we are not engaging in kingdom business, we may be ignoring it. And there are grave consequences for ignoring kingdom business, Luke 19:19-26,

Then another came, saying, ‘Lord, here is your mina, which I kept laid away in a handkerchief; for I was afraid of you, because you are a severe man. You take what you did not deposit, and reap what you did not sow.’ He said to him, ‘I will condemn you with your own words, you wicked servant! You knew that I was a severe man, taking what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow? Why then did you not put my money in the bank, and at my coming I might have collected it with interest?’ And he said to those who stood by, ‘Take the mina from him, and give it to the one who has the ten minas.’ And they said to him, ‘Lord, he has ten minas!’ ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.

This servant did not receive is commendation, but a condemnation.  He was condemned because he did not respond in loving obedience to the King.

            Let’s analyze this servant’s attitude and character.  First, he was afraid of the master because he believed him to be a severe man.  He did not trust his graciousness and kindness, but lived in a state of fear. 1 John 4:18, “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.”  Second, he was lazy and selfish. If he was truly afraid, he would have been motivated to try and bring a return, but his fear never changed his behavior.  His laziness and selfishness causes him to ignore kingdom business.  Lasty, he is wicked, verse 22, “I will condemn you with your own words, you wicked servant.” So his fearful, self-serving lazy, wicked attitude brought him condemnation.

            A very similar parable is told in Matthew 25.  The servant was rebuked in Matthew 25 by the master with these words,

‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ (Matthew 25:26-30). 

Luke does not have such a stinging, clear end. The wicked servant in Matthew ends in Hell, the place of outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.

            Now remember Jesus told this parable to those who thought the kingdom of God was going to come immediately.  There was going to be some considerable time between the first and second coming of Christ.  This passage is an encouragement to those who are engaging in kingdom business to press on and remain steadfast, but this passage is also a warning to those who are part of the community yet are ignoring kingdom business.  In a church community, there are some of you who need to be encouraged in your gospel engagement, while there are others they need to be warned. For if you are ignoring kingdom business, indifferent in loving one another, refusing to use your gifts to build up the body, desiring to be served rather than to serve, withholding forgiveness from others, stirring up strife, harboring bitterness, etc., you may not a good and faithful servant of Christ.

            The great Christian theologian Augustine of Hippo said the church will always be a mixed community.  True believers will always be among false believers.  Jesus shared the parable of the weeds in Matthew 13,

27 So the servants of the owner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’28 He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us then to go and gather them up?’ 29 But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.”’” (Matthew 13:27-30 NKJV)

Jesus said, “Let them both grow together until the harvest time,” then the separation will come. 

Farmers are very familiar with wheat and tares.  If you look at baby wheat and baby tares, they are indistinguishable.  It is impossible to tell the difference until the harvest. Both the wheat and tares are harvested in the spring. The tare stands tall and proud while the wheat bows from its weight.  It is a great illustration. The tare, like the wicked servant, stands tall in his pride, not truly recognizing the King while the wheat bows in humble submission the one who has received the kingdom.  Those ignoring kingdom business are usually those too proud to humble themselves in service of others. Be warned that there is a judgment awaiting all those who did not recognize Christ as the true king.
Third Question,

Are you Against Kingdom Business?

            The previous warning was to those who are in the community, but the last group Jesus addresses in this parable, are those who reject him.  Verse 14,But his citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to reign over us.’” It was common in those days, for Jews to send a delegation to oppose someone’s reign. Jewish Historian Josephus mentions one such time when the Jews sent a delegation to oppose Archelaus’s reign.  The Jews despised him for he massacred 3,000 Jews during one Passover so the citizens referenced in verse 14 would have been receive by the audience as a clear reference to the Jews hatred of Jesus.[2] Jesus finished the parable with these words regarding the Jews, “But as for these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slaughter them before me.’” These enemies do not hear his words only feel his wrath.

            The truth is that all of us at one time were enemies of God. We were wicked servants rejecting our King’s reign for our own rule. Jesus Christ is the only true King.  He came to us, his enemies.  He was born as a man, lived a perfect life, and died for all those who want Jesus to reign over them.  He came as a man died and was resurrected from the dead. And after showing himself to his disciples, God exalted Him the highest place giving Him full authority over His Kingdom as the one true King.  His kingdom will not come immediately, but it will come.  And when it comes, no one will be able to stand, except for those who have already been humbled and have invited Jesus to reign over them as King. Jesus is the only true King, but the greatness of his reign is that it started in death so that we could live. Who would not want to follow a King that would die for them?

            So which words will you hear on that day? Well done, my good and faithful servant, you have been faithful with little so you will receive much? Or you lazy, wicked servant, you are condemned with your own words? You can know today what words you are going to hear on that day. All true citizens of the kingdom of heaven who engage in kingdom business will be rewarded for their faithfulness. Engage in kingdom business, until He comes.

[1] Kostenberg, Andreas. Excellence: The Character of God and the pursuit of Scholarly Virtue. Crossway. Wheaton, IL 2011. Pg. 75.
[2] Bock, Darrell. BEC. Luke 9:51-23:53. Pg. 1533