Over the years, there have been quite a few debates about which economic system is closer to what the Bible prescribes for society. Some say that Free-Market Capitalism is the best system for raising people out of poverty, while others prefer more government regulation and state welfare. Without getting into that debate right now, I’d like to submit something: In at least one sense of the word, God is a capitalist. If you define a capitalist as someone who invests in something and expects to make a profit from it (i.e., he expects to get more out of it than what he put into it), then the Lord certainly meets the definition.
There are two parables of Jesus which are similar in their basic setting and plot. The boss, or king, goes away for a short while and leaves some money for his servants to invest while he’s away. The other one is in Matthew. They're similar in the basics, but they differ in a lot of important ways. Matthew’s version has the Master giving separate amounts to different servants, presumably based on his evaluation of their industriousness and skill. In today’s passage from Luke, he gives the same amount to each of ten servants. Also the whole amount was different, since a talent was a lot of money, worth more than a thousand dollars. A mina, however, was worth about three month’s wages. Matthew has a “Master,” while Luke has an actual “king” who’s going to get enthroned, hence the side-story drama about subjects who protested and revolted against his rule.
But the main point is the same: God has invested each of us with certain gifts, and he expects a profit from them. In both stories the servant gets into trouble by assuming that his Master is a “hard” man who’s demanding and exacting. Thus this genius hides his money away. When the Master returns, the servant gives back the exact same amount as he received. But he didn’t give the money to his servants for “safekeeping.” He gave it to the servants to make use of it in order to further his interests.
There’s a real important difference we see in Luke, which is a strong point to make. First, I have to say it again, since this society has trouble hearing it: We're saved by grace through faith in Christ plus nothing. When we get to Heaven, none of us will deserve to be there. I deserve nothing but eternity in Hell, and so do you. But there is the concept of reward in Scripture. As you work for Christ, he’s taking note of that. When you make sacrifices for the Kingdom, he records it. When you love the loveless and show Christ-like mercy to those who do wrong to you, he notices. Hebrews 6:10 is one of my favorite verse in all Scripture when I’m feeling down or discouraged.
Exactly what’s God’s “system”? What’s the relationship between doing X and getting Y as a reward? The Bible never says. But this story gives us a few principles which we should know:
• Trustworthiness in small matters leads to being put in charge of bigger things. You might think to yourself “I wish I had a million dollars. Just think about the things I could do for the Kingdom if I had that type of money!” Friend, you’d have the same type of faithfulness and attitude towards a million dollars that you have with the one dollar you have in your pocket right now as we speak.
• It’s quite possible to lose what you have. You ever hear the phrase “Use it or lose it”? It certainly applies here. If the Lord has given you something, you need to use it in his his service. If you don’t use it, he’ll take it away. Maybe here, maybe when he returns. There will be people who are glad to be in the presence of Christ, but who still regret the loss they’ve suffered due to their own foolishness.
• There’s a huge ratio between our service and his reward. Turning the money into a profit ended up giving him more than he possibly dreamed. When we stand before the Seat of Christ and receive our reward for service, there will be no one who complains that they got cheated. Do I really need to say it again? Have you memorized it yet? Are you completely sick of it yet? There’s never been anyone in the history of mankind who did things God’s way who regretted it in the end.
So what do you think?
Lord Jesus, you really are coming back, aren’t you? Am I setting myself up for regret or for joy? By your grace, let’s get to work.