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God’s Word for You

Luke 19:15b-23 ten cities, five cities

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Friday, January 18, 2019

Then he ordered that the servants to whom he had given the money be called to him, in order to find out what they had done with it.  16 The first one came and said, ‘Lord, your mina has earned ten more.’  17 ‘Well done, my good servant!’ his Lord replied. ‘Because you have been faithful in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.’

When the Lord returns on Judgment Day, we will be called forward to our judgment. The calling will be our resurrection. In the parable, the believers are judged first, which matches some things said elsewhere in the Bible, such as Jesus saying that he “will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left” (Matthew 25:32), and will welcome the sheep before he condemns the goats (Matthew 25:34-46).

Remember that all of the Lord’s servants were given the same amount, one mina, which we have seen as the gospel. No one was given anything more or less. The first servant announces that the mina has earned ten more—a good return for the Lord’s investment. Notice that the servant takes no credit for this success. “Your mina,” he says, not “my work” or “my investment.” “Your mina has earned ten more.”

18 The second came and said, ‘Lord, your mina has earned five more.’ 19 His Lord answered, ‘You take charge of five cities.’

The second servant also gives credit to the mina (the gospel) and not to himself. With both of these servants, the attitude is just what Christ expects: “We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty” (Luke 17:10).

Now we come to the rewards given to these servants—ten cities, and five cities! God has promised us a position of authority in heaven. Paul says: “If we die with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him” (1 Timothy 2:11-12). Also: “Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death [hell] has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years” (Revelation 20:6).

So what is the difference between the five cities and the ten cities? They mean very little to us. Rule of a city in heaven is beyond our ability to comprehend, and so we must look to what God is saying about himself. He gives gifts to us in this life, and he will give gifts to us in the life of the world to come. He gave my brother an artistic gift and musical gifts; he gave my sister gifts of memory, intellect, and compassion. God gives farmers certain gifts, accountants other gifts, administrators still others, and so on. Pastors, teachers, politicians, police officers, soldiers, sailors, astronomers, salesmen, authors, editors, custodians, electricians, carpenters—how can we judge how each Christian uses the gospel and the gifts God gives? We each need to be faithful here below, and we will let God worry about what sort of rewards he might give there above.

20 Then another servant came and said, ‘Lord, 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 Lord 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 Then why didn’t you put my money on deposit, so that when I came back, I could have collected it with interest?’

This third servant missed the point of the gospel. He never says “Your mina did this or that.” He says, “I hid it.” I kept your gospel buried away, unused. And why? “You are a hard man.” How different is what this third servant says from what the delegation said? “We did not want this man to be our king.” He did nothing for the Lord because of the low opinion he had of the Lord. He never used the gospel, the word, or the sacraments, because he didn’t really put any stake in them. Christianity was a social experience for him, a thing to do, but not a belief to cherish. Had God been a criminal, a tyrant, or a murderer, the servant would have fought against him. But he did nothing at all. If he had really believed in Christ as God and worshiped him, he would have done something, anything, with his gift of the mina. But he did nothing because he thought nothing at all of God. For him a church was a big empty room sometimes used for its fine acoustics. For him a congregation was a contact list. For him God was an image in a stained-glass window no better or worse than a unicorn or a dragon. For him, God was something to represent something else, but never to take at face value.

The Lord’s judgment on this man might confuse us, but it’s not over with. There is more to be said. For now, it’s surely best to examine your life and ask: Am I putting the Lord’s gift to work? Will the gospel grow through me—into my family, into my friends, or into my neighbors? Does the gospel grow in my own heart? Can I go to the Lord and say with honesty and confidence: “Look, Lord! Your gospel has grown. Your mina has earned a few more!”

If you are a pastor or a Christian teacher, then “you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly” (James 3:1). Have I stood in the way of the gospel? Have I taken offense when I should have been compassionate? Have I been approached by a thief and withheld the gospel because I thought it was my place to judge the thief? Or the adulterer? Or the pervert? Or the prisoner?

Lord, let me be faithful with what you have given. I do not deserve to have a place of honor in your church, but you have chosen me. I am only a child (1 Kings 3:7; Jeremiah 1:6). I am a man of unclean lips (Isaiah 6:5). I do not know how to speak (Ezekiel 1:6). Who am I, that I should go? (Exodus 3:11). Aren’t I the one who raised havoc in his church? (Acts 9:21). Yet my Lord has said, “Come, follow me” (Mark 1:17), and I have followed. My feet have dragged, and I have wandered the streets, and I have lost my way, but he has always come to take me by the hand. Forgive me, Lord God, and fashion me into a tool fit for your use.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.

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