JESUS’ ILLUSTRATION OF THE TEN MINAS
Though Jerusalem is Jesus’ destination, he may still be at the home of Zacchaeus with his disciples. They believe that “the Kingdom of God” is soon to be set up with Jesus as King. (Luke 19:11) They misunderstand this matter, just as they fail to grasp that Jesus must die. So he gives an illustration to help them to see that the Kingdom is yet a long way off.
He says: “A man of noble birth traveled to a distant land to secure kingly power for himself and to return.” (Luke 19:12) Such a trip would take time. Clearly Jesus is the “man of noble birth” who travels to a “distant land,” to heaven, where his Father will give him kingly power.
In the illustration, before the “man of noble birth” departs, he calls ten slaves and gives each a silver mina, telling them: “Do business with these until I come.” (Luke 19:13) Literal silver minas are valuable pieces of money. A mina amounts to the wages that an agricultural worker earns in over three months.
The disciples may discern that they are like the ten slaves in the illustration, for Jesus has already likened them to harvest workers. (Matthew 9:35-38) Of course, he has not asked them to bring in a harvest of grain. Rather, the harvest consists of other disciples who can find a place in the Kingdom of God. The disciples use what assets they have to produce more heirs of the Kingdom.
What more does Jesus reveal in this illustration? He says that citizens “hated [the man of noble birth] and sent out a body of ambassadors after him to say, ‘We do not want this man to become king over us.’” (Luke 19:14) The disciples know that the Jews do not accept Jesus
As for the ten slaves, how do they use their minas until the “man of noble birth” receives “kingly power” and returns? Jesus relates: “When he eventually got back after having secured the kingly power, he summoned the slaves to whom he had given the money, in order to ascertain what they had gained by their business activity. So the first one came forward and said, ‘Lord, your mina gained ten minas.’ He said to him, ‘Well done, good slave! Because in a very small matter you have proved yourself faithful, hold authority over ten cities.’ Now the second came, saying, ‘Your mina, Lord, made five minas.’ He said to this one as well, ‘You too be in charge of five cities.’”
If the disciples perceive that they are like the slaves who use their assets to the full to make more disciples, they can rest assured that Jesus will be pleased. And they can trust that he will reward such diligence. Of course, not all of Jesus’ disciples have the same circumstances in life nor the same opportunities or abilities. Yet Jesus, who receives “kingly power,” will recognize and bless their loyal efforts at disciple-making.
Note a contrast, though, as Jesus concludes his illustration: “But another [slave] came, saying, ‘Lord, here is your mina that I kept hidden away in a cloth. You see, I was in fear of you, because you are a harsh man; you take what you did not deposit, and you reap what you did not sow.’ He said to him, ‘By your own words I judge you, wicked slave. You knew, did you, that I am a harsh man, taking what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow? So why did you not put my money in a bank? Then on my coming, I would have collected it with interest.’ With that he said to those standing by, ‘Take the mina from him and give it to the one who has the ten minas.’”
For failing to work to increase the wealth of his master’s kingdom, this slave experiences loss. The apostles are anticipating Jesus’ reigning in the Kingdom of God. So from what he says about this last slave, they likely perceive that if they are not diligent, they will not find a place in that Kingdom.
Jesus’ words must stimulate the loyal disciples to increased efforts. He concludes: “I say to you, to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who does not have, even what he has will be taken away.” He adds that his enemies, who do not want him “to become king over them,” will experience execution. Then Jesus resumes his trip up to Jerusalem.
This article refines our understanding of the parable of the talents.