A Parable About Power, Empire, Money and Violence 1 – Luke 19:11-27

put this money to work till I return

One question is all we asked about this parable in Luke 19. Just one question. “Is there any evidence in the story to suggest that the third servant, who wrapped the money in a handkerchief, was wrong in his assessment of the character of the King?” (Luk 19:20-21).

I suppose it could be argued that the man of noble birth was generous in taking the risk of giving his money away to the ten servants and then, from the ‘successful’ performance of the first two servants, he was even more generous in giving them responsibilities for multiple cities. The ‘reward’ was way out of proportion to the investment return from the servants . I’m not sure that’s a strong argument. After all, in the experience of the citizens of the cities given to these servants the king was arguable perpetuating a doctrine of forced governance that he himself had benefitted from earlier.

So if we examine the evidence from the clues given in the story what picture emerges of this king.

  • He had sufficient power and authority to go to a different country to be made king (Luk 19:12). Incidentally, how did this happen? Was this through conquest and the forceful expansion of empire?
  • He was hated by his subjects who engaged in public protest against his kingship and he had sufficient power and was sufficiently secure that he could ignore them. (Luk 19:14-15)
  • He grew more wealthy off of the efforts of others (though if course he risked his own capital) (Luk 19:15-19).
  • The first law he passed as the new king was to enrich the wealthy and further impoverish the poor (Luk 19:26). This came even after some of his subjects advised him that the one who was getting the third servant’s money already had plenty (Luk 19:25).
  • He murdered his subjects and did it in such a way that he could watch (Luk 19:27).

Seems to me that the third servant’s assessment, in his fear, was absolutely accurate. This king was a hard man, taking whatever he wanted (like the kingship itself) and reaping personal benefit in places and in ways that he had never worked for. He was a violent, greedy despot.

The political and social culture he promoted was one in which, if you bought in to it like the first two servants, you stood to gain more. But if you weren’t prepared to buy into it, or you resisted it, at best you were impoverished, at worst you were executed.

The one who has plenty will be given even more. But if you had nothing, even what you had would be taken from you (Luk 19:26). What is the logic of that last sentence? If you had nothing even what you had would be taken? Is he talking about a person’s dignity? Or even their life?

No wonder some of his subjects objected to this man becoming king. Who would want to live in such a kingdom?

Still we need to ask, where do I fit in to this parable?

Part 2 HERE
Part 3 HERE
Part 4 HERE

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