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“And as they heard these things, He added and spake a parable, because He was nigh to Jerusalem, and because they thought that the kingdom of God should immediately appear. He said therefore, A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return. And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, Occupy till I come. But his citizens hated him, and sent a message after him, saying, We will not have this man to reign over us. And it came to pass, that when he was returned, having received the kingdom, then he commanded these servants to be called unto him, to whom he had given the money, that he might know how much every man had gained by trading. Then came the first, saying, Lord, thy pound hath gained ten pounds. And he said unto him, Well, thou good servant: because thou hast been faithful in a very little, have thou authority over ten cities. And the second came, saying, Lord, thy pound hath gained five pounds. And he said likewise to him, Be thou also over five cities. And another came, saying, Lord, behold, here is thy pound, which I have kept laid up in a napkin: for I feared thee, because thou art an austere man: thou takest up that thou layedst not down, and reapest that thou didst not sow. And he saith unto him, Out of thine own mouth will I judge thee, thou wicked servant. Thou knewest that I was an austere man, taking up that I laid not down, and reaping that I did not sow: wherefore then gavest not thou my money into the bank, that at my coming I might have required mine own with usury? And he said unto them that stood by, Take from him the pound, and give it to him that hath ten pounds. (And they said unto him, Lord, he hath ten pounds.) For I say unto you, That unto every one which hath shall be given; and from him that hath not, even that he hath shall be taken away from him. But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me”—Luke 19:11-27.
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Our blessed Lord had passed through Jericho and was well on His way to Jerusalem. He knew that many were expecting Him to set up immediately the kingdom which had been predicted for so long by the prophets. Many of the Jews looked for Him to enter the royal city and declare Himself Israel’s Messiah. They expected Him to put Himself at the head of an army of Jewish zealots and drive out the Romans, take over the throne of His father David and begin His reign on Mount Zion. Some day these Old Testament prophecies will be fulfilled, but the time had not yet come, and it is still in the future. During the present age the kingdom ,of God cometh not with outward show; the kingdom is now apprehended by faith. It is a spiritual kingdom in the hearts of men and women who are born again, and who own the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ. The gospel is preached in order that men may be saved and reign with Him when He returns.
The Lord Jesus related a parable to make it plain that His kingdom was not to be set up at His first coming but will be manifested when He comes back: that is, at His second advent. This parable was based on an historical incident that had taken place not many years before, and with which the people generally would be familiar. When King Herod died, that is, the Herod who lived when our Lord Jesus Christ was born, and who decreed that all babies in Bethlehem should be put to death, he decreed in his will that Archelaus should succeed him on the throne. But the Jews hated this man and did not want him to reign over them, and so he went over the sea to Rome to confer with Augustus Caesar, and to secure his approval regarding the kingdom. Before going away he entrusted large sums of money to many of his friends and gave instructions as to how this money was to be used in his absence, in order to make other friends who would forward his interests and be ready to acknowledge his claims. But the Jews who hated him sent an embassy after him and said to Caesar, “We do not want this man to reign over us. He is cruel; we hate every member of his house.” Archelaus conferred with the Emperor, secured his approval and eventually returned to Jerusalem to be proclaimed king over Judaea. He then sent for the servants to whom he had entrusted the money and inquired as to the use they had made of it, rewarding them according to their faithfulness to his interests. After that he summoned his enemies who had been determined that he should not be recognized as king, and put many of them to death.
All this was fresh in the minds of the people, for it had occurred when Jesus was only a little lad. He based His parable upon that incident, because there was a certain likeness in what took place then and what will take place in connection with His present rejection and future return.
“And as they heard these things, He added and spake a parable, because He was nigh to Jerusalem, and because they thought that the kingdom of God should immediately appear. He said therefore, A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return.” “A certain nobleman”: the Nobleman is the Man Christ Jesus, and He has gone into a far country. He has gone to the Father’s house, not like Archelaus to confer with some earthly ruler, but He has gone to confer with His Father and to remain with Him yonder until the time when He is to take the kingdom. Ere going away the nobleman “called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, Occupy till I come.” Our blessed Lord has conferred upon all His servants certain treasure, certain talents, certain abilities, all of which He holds us responsible to use for His glory during His absence. Every Christian has something committed to him which he can use for Christ. Suppose you have the talent of public speaking: you can preach the gospel before great throngs; you can tell of the Saviour who died, and who has been raised again—if you have this talent then you are responsible to proclaim His message. But suppose you say you have no special gift. Well, you can live for Christ in your own home. You can so live for Him before your friends and your neighbors that they will realize the importance of owning His authority over their own lives. Possibly yours is the talent of singing. Then He would have you dedicate your voice to Him, and use that talent He has given you to make Him known to men. I heard of one young lady who had a talent along that line. Her worldly father had spent great sums of money to fit her for the opera platform or stage, but just as she was completing her musical education—if you can ever complete a musical education—she was saved at a special meeting and yielded her life to the Lord. When she returned home, she said, “Father, I cannot go on the opera-stage now: Christ has saved me; I have yielded my life to Him. He has given me my voice, and now I want to use it for Him.” Her father was intensely angry; and he finally said to her, “My daughter, I am going to give you one more opportunity. We have planned a great party to welcome you home—your graduation party. Now your friends will be here tonight, and when they come I want you to sing for them some of those operatic songs that you have learned; and if you do not I shall disown you and cast you out.” She waited until evening came. Her friends arrived, and she was presented to them. The hour came when she was asked to go to the piano and sing. She breathed a prayer in her heart and went over to the instrument and sat down. After the first introductory note, she began to sing with her beautiful, trained voice:
“No room for mirth or trifling here,
For worldly hope or worldly fear,
If life so soon is gone;
If now the Judge is at the door,
And all mankind must stand before
The inexorable throne.”
She sang all four stanzas of that old Wesleyan hymn. After she finished she rose from the piano, expecting her father to dismiss her from the house, but he came forward with tears streaming down his face and said, “My daughter, I too want to know your Saviour.” The reward of dedicating her voice to the Lord was the winning of her own father to Christ. We all have talents committed to us which we are to use in His interests during His absence. Just as in the case of Archelaus, we read of those who hated our Lord and sent a messenger after Him, saying, “We will not have this Man to reign over us.” I do not think I am stretching it by saying that the messenger was no other than Stephen, the first martyr of Christianity, who went into the presence of the Lord to bear witness that they did not want Jesus to reign over them. They stoned Stephen to death because of his message. And he went to be with Christ and to give the decision of the people. That was their attitude then, and it has been their attitude all through the centuries since. They said, “We have no king but Caesar.” They refused to own Jesus as their rightful Ruler, and so they abide still in unbelief.
As our Lord looked forward to His second advent, He said, “And it came to pass, that when he was returned, having received the kingdom, then he commanded these servants to be called unto him, to whom he had given the money, that he might know how much every man had gained by trading.” Only three are mentioned particularly, as examples. “Then came the first, saying, Lord, thy pound hath gained ten pounds. And he said unto him, Well, thou good servant: because thou hast been faithful in a very little, have thou authority over ten cities.” By wise and careful investment the first servant had made an excellent profit on what had been committed to him. His integrity and trustworthiness were recognized by the master, and he was rewarded accordingly. This of course suggests the way Christ’s faithful servants will be compensated at His return for all they have accomplished for Him in His absence. If you are faithful even in a little now, you will reign with Him in power then. The measure of our authority in our association with Him when He comes back will be according to the measure of our devotion to Him now.
The second servant came and said, “Lord, thy pound hath gained five pounds. And he said likewise to him, Be thou also over five cities.” All have not the same business acumen, nor the same talents and abilities. But this man, too, had acted wisely and with concern for his master’s interests. The reward was not so great as in the other case, but it was in proportion to the gain that had resulted from the servant’s business activities. You see the place given us is according to the work done. I am afraid there are many of us who are Christians, who know our souls are saved, but who are going to find out when the King returns that we have lost out terribly, because we have done so little self-denying service for Him. We have lived to please ourselves to a great extent. So there will be very little for which He can reward us.
“And another came, saying, Lord, behold, here is thy pound, which I have kept laid up in a napkin.” It was an inexcusable fault thus to have failed in the trust committed to him, not realizing that “It is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful” (1 Cor. 4:2). Yet how many Christians are failing in the same way, not using that which God has entrusted to them. Clean, straightforward business methods are as important in the Lord’s work as in secular affairs. This man said, as it were, “Master, here is your money. I have not lost it; but I have not used it, because I was afraid I could not use it satisfactorily. I knew that thou wert a hard man to please.” “For I feared thee, because thou art an austere man: thou takest up that thou layest not down, and reapest that thou didst not sow”—“I knew you demanded a lot, and so I did not try to do anything.” It shows how little he knew his master. If the servant really believed this, it was all the more reason why he should have been diligent in business, in order that he might have pleased the one who employed him (Rom. 12:11; Prov. 22:29). Is there anyone who says, “I have only one talent, and I can do so little; I cannot do enough to win His approval, and so I will not do anything at all”? This nobleman turned to the slothful servant and said, “Out of thine own mouth will I judge thee, thou wicked servant. Thou knew-est that I was an austere man, taking up that I laid not down, and reaping that I did not sow: wherefore then gavest not thou my money into the bank, that at my coming I might have required mine own with usury?” The servant’s excuse was hypocritical. He did not know his master, and he did not want to put himself to any trouble on his behalf. Sternly the master rebuked the slothfulness of his servant, pointing out that if he feared to make any investments, he might, at least, have placed the money where it would have drawn interest and thus not have stood idle. It is a salutary lesson in the right use of capital which God has put in our hands, and the spiritual lesson is even clearer. We shall be held responsible, not alone for overt acts of evil, but also for sins of omission. And so he had all taken from him, and he found himself without reward because of his failure to serve. That which is not used will profit nothing, rather shall we suffer loss. Whereas they who wisely use what they have will be further rewarded.
Actually, I gather, from the fourth chapter of the First Epistle to the Corinthians, that there will be no Christian left without reward, for we read, “Then shall every man have praise of God” (4:5). But I am afraid there will be many of us who will have very little reward because we have done so little real service for our Lord Jesus Christ. “Unto every one which hath shall be given; and from him that hath not, even that he hath shall be taken away.” The first half of the verse is clear enough and requires no comment. The latter part may be better understood if we paraphrase slightly, so that it would read: From him who hath not used that which was entrusted to him, even that itself shall be taken. Opportunities neglected are lost forever.
The nobleman then commanded that his enemies be brought before him, “But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me.” And in that coming day when Christ returns, those who reject His grace, those who refuse to own Him, those who spurn His love, will have to know His judgment when He is “revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God.” Have you bowed your heart before Him? Have you recognized Him as the rightful King? Have you put your trust in Him as Saviour? Do you own Him as Lord of your life? “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” If you have never recognized Him as your rightful Lord, do it today. It is not yet too late. The King has not returned, although His coming draws nigh. He will soon be back, and then it will be too late to get right with Him. Why not make this the occasion when you yield your heart and your life to Him and acknowledge Him as earth’s rightful Lord and King?