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Jesus taught the public (and His own disciples) in parables, like any Jewish rabbi. While Jesus’ parables often made one main thrust, they were also full of sideline details from which we can glean many life lessons. Did Jesus include the details on purpose? I think so.
11 And as they heard these things, he added and spake a parable, because he was nigh to Jerusalem, and because they thought that the kingdom of God should immediately appear.
12 He said therefore, A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return.
13 And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, Occupy till I come.
14 But his citizens hated him, and sent a message after him, saying, We will not have this man to reign over us.
15 And it came to pass, that when he was returned, having received the kingdom, then he commanded these servants to be called unto him, to whom he had given the money, that he might know how much every man had gained by trading.
16 Then came the first, saying, Lord, thy pound hath gained ten pounds.
17 And he said unto him, Well, thou good servant: because thou hast been faithful in a very little, have thou authority over ten cities.
18 And the second came, saying, Lord, thy pound hath gained five pounds.
19 And he said likewise to him, Be thou also over five cities.
20 And another came, saying, Lord, behold, here is thy pound, which I have kept laid up in a napkin:
21 For I feared thee, because thou art an austere man: thou takest up that thou layedst not down, and reapest that thou didst not sow.
22 And he saith unto him, Out of thine own mouth will I judge thee, thou wicked servant. Thou knewest that I was an austere man, taking up that I laid not down, and reaping that I did not sow:
23 Wherefore then gavest not thou my money into the bank, that at my coming I might have required mine own with usury?
24 And he said unto them that stood by, Take from him the pound, and give it to him that hath ten pounds.
25 (And they said unto him, Lord, he hath ten pounds.)
26 For I say unto you, That unto every one which hath shall be given; and from him that hath not, even that he hath shall be taken away from him.
27 But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me.
I recently heard a sermon preached out of this passage. To be honest, I can’t even remember what kind of point the man preaching brought out because I was sifting through some thoughts of my own. One of the first things that came to my mind as the passage was read was, “A lot of people would call that unfair.” I could just see some people from today saying, “I worked hard but I only made five hundred dollars. Why don’t I get ten cities, too? That’s not fair; you can’t discriminate against me just because I’m not as talented as he is!” While I’ve never heard someone say those words, I’ve sensed that attitude from plenty of people.
Culture today is all about equality: making sure everyone gets treated equally and fairly (whether he’s worked for it or not). This philosophy gets overdone to the point of humanism. Guess what? Life isn’t fair! The sooner you realize that and grow up, the better off you’ll be, and your family, community, and country will be better for your maturity.
Perhaps it’s a strange thing to pull from this passage, but I think it’s so interesting that what the master did in rewarding his servants is not what a lot of people today would like to see. Two servants were given a pound (some denomination of currency, I’m guessing) each (for the sake of time, we’ll leave out the other eight servants who were given the same amount of money). One servant made ten pounds by trading. The master complimented him and gave him ten cities to look after. The second servant made five pounds. The master complimented him and gave him five cities. But wait! They both did good jobs and the master was pleased. We’re given no indication that one servant worked harder than the other. They both put to good use what they had been given. So why was one rewarded more than the other? Surely one servant shouldn’t be rewarded more just because he was more talented (or maybe he just got lucky), right? Then to top it off, the first servant, the one who earned ten pounds, is given the pound of the unfaithful servant (verse 24)! Our response would probably mimic the response of those listening, “Lord, he hath ten pounds.” As in, “Lord, he already has ten pounds! Give it to the guy who only has five!”
Why do you think Jesus did this? I’d like to suggest that it’s because of His mercy. Think about it this way: maybe Servant 1 and Servant 2 both worked the same amount. Servant 1 excelled because he was more talented. The master rewarded him with more because he could handle more responsibility. Giving ten cities to Servant 2 might have actually been a curse to him because he might not have been able to handle it. Not everyone gets the same reward, not because he doesn’t deserve it but because he might be better off (even happier) without it. If we can realize that and be content with what we are given, what more could we ask for? Don’t be upset when you’re not given as much as someone else; with material blessing comes responsibility – a responsibility that you just might be happier without if you aren’t capable of handling it.
And you’ll notice that the two servants actually were rewarded the same amount: 100% of what they had earned. In proportions, they received the same amount. If that’s not fair, I don’t know what is. It’s only common sense to reward people this way. Of course, the guy with the ten pounds got a one-pound bonus later on, but refer to the previous paragraph.
I don’t think this is the typical lesson to pull from this passage of Scripture. Jesus’ main point was teaching that we are to be faithful stewards of what we are given while we wait for the return of the Master. However, I think it’s so neat that Jesus taught so many sideline important life lessons in His parables. Nothing He said was by accident, and it all had (and still has) a purpose.
Be faithful with what you are given, use it efficiently to serve the Master, then be content with your reward because the Master knows best. You will be rewarded, and your reward will be fair.