When Jesus returns, we all will be called to give an account of our business.
The delay in the Jesus’ return does not mean that He will not return. His return is certain. The group of disgruntled citizens in this parable hoped that he would not return. But, clearly, when He returns it will be as King, with full power and authority to reign. He calls His servants to give an account of the business they have conducted in His absence and He orders that His enemies be brought and executed in His presence.
Three groups will give an account:
- The Servants Who Have Done Business For Him Will Be Rewarded According To Their Faithfulness.
Only three of the ten servants are mentioned, and these three fall into two categories: two who have made various amounts with the king’s money; and, one who has not done anything with it. Here we are looking at the two who traded and invested the money in such a way that they multiplied it. The first got a ten-fold profit, turning the ten pounds of silver into ten times more. We are not to take this in a literal way, as if he has led ten people to Christ or led ten ministries. Rather, the meaning is that he has taken what the master entrusted to him and used it well, multiplying it.
The master commends him: “‘Well done!’ the king exclaimed. ‘You are a good servant. You have been faithful with the little I entrusted to you, so you will be governor of ten cities as your reward.’ (19:17). Again, this many not be literally, that he will be over ten cities in the millennium. The main idea is that the servant’s responsible use of the master’s treasure will be rewarded with increased responsibility in the future kingdom. The servant has shown himself faithful in a little thing; he will now be faithful in much.
The master also praises the second servant, 19 “‘Well done!’ the king said. ‘You will be governor over five cities.’ Luke 19:19 (NLT)
He rewards him according to his success. His treasure has earned five more, so he is put in charge of five cities. Why did he have 5 instead of 10? We don’t know but perhaps the difference in results was due to factors beyond his control.
We can learn several things about the doctrine of rewards from the way the master rewards these two servants. While salvation is by grace alone (the master freely gave the treasure to each servant, apart from anything they had done), rewards will be proportionate to our service. Matthew Henry explains, “This intimates that there are degrees of glory in heaven; every vessel will be alike full, but not alike large. And the degrees of glory there will be according to the degrees of usefulness here” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible [Scripture Truth Book Company], 5:787, italics his).
While in one sense, the rewards are proportionate to the service, in another sense the rewards far exceed the service. Earning money is “a very little thing” (19:17), but the reward is to be over an entire city, a fairly large responsibility. Spurgeon comments, “The rewards of the millennium will evidently be all of grace, because they are so incomparably beyond anything which the servants’ earnings could have deserved. Their Lord was not bound to pay them anything: they were his bond-servants; but what he gave them was of his overflowing grace” (Spurgeon’s Expository Encyclopedia [Baker], 4:205).
We also learn that the servants’ service here was a test and a preparation for their future service in the kingdom (Spurgeon, p. 204). The master tested them to see if they would be faithful in a little thing. Their performance of their duties in this little thing was preparing them to graduate from servants to rulers, yet still under the Master.
If the thought of sitting on a cloud in heaven, strumming a harp throughout eternity sounds boring, you need not worry! The Lord has prepared meaningful and satisfying activity for us, both in His millennial kingdom and in the eternal state.
We also learn that Jesus notices all of the service of His servants and that all that we do for Him will be richly rewarded. Sometimes when we serve in the church and no one seems to notice what we’ve done, we get angry or depressed. Even more annoying, sometimes someone else gets the credit for what we have worked so hard to do! Of course, when we feel that way, we have our focus in the wrong place. We shouldn’t be serving for the recognition of men. The good news is that Jesus knows the accomplishments of each of His servants and rewards them accordingly. Our labor in the Lord will not be in vain. Each of us should be laboring so that one day we will hear the Lord Jesus say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
- The Servants Who Have Not Done Business For Him Will Be Stripped Of Everything They Had.
The first two servants had made a profit with the master’s silver, but the third servant had simply wrapped it in a handkerchief and he returns it intact to the master. He offers the excuse that he feared the master, knowing that he was an exacting man who takes up what he did not lay down and reaps where he had not sown. The master reprimands the servant for not at least putting the money in the bank, so that it would have earned interest. Then he judges the servant by his own words. He takes the treasure from him and gives it to the man who has earned ten more. When the bystanders express surprise, he explains the principle: “To everyone who has more shall be given, but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away.” The one who has proven himself faithful will have more opportunities for faithfulness. The one who has been unfaithful will be stripped of his responsibilities.
The question is, does this unfaithful servant represent a true believer who loses his rewards, who is saved, yet so as through fire (1 Cor. 3:13-15)? Or, is he a person who professes to know God, but by his deeds he denies him, being detestable and disobedient, and worthless for any good deed (Titus 1:16)?
It seems to most commentators that this third servant does not know the king. He wrongly thinks of him as a harsh man, when in reality he is very generous to the faithful servants. Darrel Bock explains, “The third servant represents people who are related to the king in that they are associated with the community and have responsibility in it. Nevertheless their attitude shows that they do not see God as gracious and that they have not really trusted him…. Such people are left with nothing at the judgment; they are sent to outer darkness, because they never really trusted or knew God” (Luke [Baker], 2:1542). J. C. Ryle observes, “Hard thoughts of God are a common mark of all unconverted people. They first misrepresent Him, and then try to excuse themselves for not loving and serving Him” (Expository Thoughts on the Gospels [Baker], Luke 11-24, p. 305).
This third servant, then, represents those in the church who know the gospel and should believe it. But they are indifferent and unconcerned about the Jesus’ purpose and kingdom. As a result, they are not using the opportunities He has given them to further His kingdom. They are living for themselves and making up excuses as to why they are not serving the King.
- The Rebellious Will Be Punished With Eternal Separation From The King.
The king says, “And as for these enemies of mine who didn’t want me to be their king—bring them in and execute them right here in front of me.” (19:27). They hated the king and actively opposed His reign. But their opposition did not stop His being installed as king. While in the parable the penalty is execution, that is mild compared to the eternal judgment that will come upon those who have actively opposed the lordship of Christ.
Note also that the issue is Christ’s lordship. These rebels did not want Him reigning over them. Those who have truly believed in Christ have accepted Him as Lord. There is no category of those who are truly saved, but who opt not to make Jesus their Lord.
There is no neutral position with regard to Christ. Each of us is in one of the three categories. I hope that none of us are actively opposing His right to be King. If you are, repent quickly, before He comes and you face His judgement. There may be some who profess to know Him, but you’re living for yourself. You’re not doing business for the King. You need to begin using the gospel in the Master’s business. If you are faithfully serving Him, you can expect Him to richly reward you when He returns.
There’s a story of Wycliffe missionaries in South America that had been assigned to translate the Bible into one of the Indian tribal languages. As you probably know, this is a lengthy and tedious process. Before computers, it often took as long as twenty years.
During the process, the translators were teaching the Scriptures and seeing a new church emerging among the tribe. But in this case, as they came toward the end of the translation project, the tribal people were becoming more and more involved in producing drugs and less and less interested in the Scriptures. When they finally finished the translation of the New Testament and scheduled a dedication service, not even one person came!
One of missionaries was angry and bitter. She had given twenty years of her life so that these people could have the Scriptures, but they didn’t even want it! Then she said this:
“It is as though God has been washing His Word over my soul and healing me, and He has opened my eyes to see this all from His perspective. I am just beginning to realize now that we did it for Him! That is the only thing that makes any sense in all of this. We did it for God!” (In his book, Finishing Well [Leadership Resources International], p. 190.)
That must be our focus as well. The world may scorn us and reject our message. But we’re doing it for Him. We’ll never lose if we faithfully do business for Jesus! When He comes, He will reward you for everything that you have done for His kingdom.