The Third Servant
The third servant is referred to dismissively as ‘the other one’ and is much more clearly the focus of the parable. This servant did not put the money to work, instead he wrapped it in a handkerchief and put it aside. He gives a reason for this which is difficult to believe. He says:
Luke 19:20 “Then another servant came and said,`Sir, 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.’
The question for me is why he failed to put this money to work? And what has this to do with Jesus reason for telling the story in the first place, that people were thinking the kingdom was imminent?
It brings us back to Jesus original purpose in telling the parable. I wonder did the third servant fail to put the money to work because he felt the time was too short. To get a good return requires long-term investment, and as any invester knows, at any one point along the way a loss may have to be endured in order to make a greater return. If the King was to return during such a lull that would be a disaster. So on the understanding that the King would be returning pretty soon, best not to take any risk. Why invest in a property for instance, if you cannot let that property sit for a period of time to appreciate. If the King’s coming is imminent don’t invest, you won’t have time to make a return.
You see, long-term investing is foolishness to those who have a short-term mindset.
This is a challenge of the Christian life. We must hold these two things in tension. That is, the King could return at any moment, and we should be ready and watching for him. But we must also act wisely, as if he wasn’t coming for a long time, and that he has invested us with some gifts, resources on which he expects a return. He has blessed us, but in return he expects some profit. The resources we have are the ones he has given us, blessed us with. And when used for his kingdom, his resources will earn a return. We must make investments in his kingdom, spending our money, our energy and even our lives in such a way that when he returns we will hear his ‘Well done!’
The great temptation for us is to rest on our laurels; to believe and act as if our salvation has been won; our eternal destiny is secure and there is nothing else to do, except wait for the returning to King to sort out this nasty world. The implication of this story is that we can’t rest. We cannot sit back and coast into the kingdom. The Master has gone away and we have been given a responsibility to work for a return until he comes again.
The judgment at the climax is fascinating. Later.