South Sydney Anglican Church

Luke 17-21: “Portraits of True Faith” (Sunday Series 6)

19 November 2023
Luke 17-21:

Between Jesus 1st and 2nd Comings we must be Faithful Stewards

Intro:              Morning friends and visitors. My name is Matt Johnson and today we are continuing our study of Lukes gospel – thinking about being faith-filled stewards in the Kingdom of God.

PRAYER:       Well, the PARABLE OF THE MINA’S is one of Jesus’ famous parables about Christians being good and faithful stewards. But what is a good and faithful steward? In today’s culture we tend to think a good and faithful steward is a safe, prudent and risk adverse steward. Good and faithful stewardship is equated with wisdom and prudence.

But I think this is wrong. In today’s story Jesus is actually encouraging us to be SPIRITUAL VERSIONS of Elon Musk and Warren Buffet. I say this because in today’s parable 1) the servant who plays it safe (and hides the mina, so he doesn’t lose it) is rebuked. 2) But the two servants who take significant entrepreneurial risk to gain returns of 1000% and 500% are commended. So which are you?

Is risk aversion really GOOD STEWARDSHIP when people are dying and going to hell?  Or does good stewardship in a fallen, sinful world ACTUALLY and ALWAYS require a measure of entrepreneurial risk?

One of my proudest moments as a pastor was watching many of you agree to take SIGNIFICANT RISKS during coronavirus for God’s Kingdom. Our politicians told us to isolate and “BE SAFE”. Our Bishops told us to shut our churches, get vaccinated AND “BE SAFE.” But our church elders (who I commend) – decided to take A SIGNIFICANT RISK – for the Kingdom of God. Through a few quick emails – we got our church labelled as an ESSENTIAL SERVICE – for OzHarvest food distribution. Then our church members also took on risk for God’s Kingdom. Every week, throughout Coronavirus – we had faith-filled church members (even some aging and unwell) unloading OzHarvest trucks and distributing food to hundreds of people.

We even got toilet paper to give away when you couldn’t get any toilet paper. And as people in housing commission (many living alone, with serious mental health issues) CAME TO COLLECT FOOD – we prayed with them, witnessed to them and provided a little bit of human love each week. Did it ever occur to you how many SUICIDES we may have prevented in the towers simply by offering this small bit of love each week? Was that risk worth it?

Now we weren’t cavalier. We still checked our volunteers temperatures and we used masks and gloves. But we weren’t so risk adverse that we threw out Jesus’ command to love our neighbour. And despite government and church mandates – our church still kind of did church every week in service to our community. OF COURSE, remaining faithful to Jesus was a risk. I was very aware that one of our volunteers could be exposed to Coronavirus and die. Or we could have had an incident where our church was labelled a super-spreader on channel 9 news. Yet, even with both these negative possibilities – I think THE RISK we took was much more faithful stewardship than BEING SAFE.

 When I recently told the ARCHBISHOP OF SYDNEY that we ran our food ministry throughout the pandemic his words to me were; “I’m glad you did that and I’m glad I did not know.This is no sleight on the Archbishop. But it is a very telling statement. How do I navigate – “I’m glad you did that AND I’m glad I didn’t know.”

Point 1:         Jesus calls us to be Spiritual Entrepreneurs (between 1 & 2)

Show:                        Lk.19:11-14 (READ)

Explain:          Well this parable of the MINA’S in Lukes gospel is very similar to Jesus’ parable of the TALENTS in Matthew’s gospel. But there are some significant differences. A) The parable of the minas is told in Jericho. B) The parable of the talents is told in Jerusalem. A) With the MINA’s there are 10 servants. B) With the TALENT’s there are three servants. So in my opinion the two stories should not be conflated. As Jesus gets ready to die in Jerusalem he probably told several stories about the importance of being faithful servants as we await his return.

So looking at verse 11 – we see it says “while they were listening to this – Jesus told them this parable…” While the people were listening to Jesus speak to Zacchaeus in Jericho – he goes on to tell the crowd this parable. And a big part of this parable is explaining that God’s Kingdom is going to come in TWO STAGES. The Jews thought that as soon as the Messiah came to Jerusalem – VOILA he would be crowned King (AND there would be world peace). But not quite…

As we saw last week – Jesus explains that when he gets to Jerusalem he will be rejected, killed and after three days rise from the dead. Jesus is beginning to explain the interim steps between the King coming to Jerusalem and the Kingdom coming in glory. (GOSPEL). First, by dying on the cross – Jesus is going to pay for our sins – so that people can start entering Gods Kingdom. THE PROBLEM IS that because we are all sinners – none us are good enough for Gods Kingdom. So instead of being welcomed into Gods Kingdom as faithful people – we deserve to be punished for all our sin. So Jesus begins to explain he is going to take this punishment for us – as he dies on the cross. God will accept Jesus death for our sins because he wants to give us one more chance. THE BIBLE SAYS that if we A) BELIEVE Jesus died for us and B) we start FOLLOWING Jesus as King – God will forgive us – and this is how we enter the Kingdom of God – NOW.

But step 2 – Jesus then has to rise from the dead, ascend into heaven and present his atoning sacrifice for our sins to God the Father. Then step 3 the Holy Spirit is poured out, step four the gospel goes around the world and step 5 Jesus comes back to gather his people and judge the world. Then step 6 – the Kingdom of God comes in glory, world peace, no more death etc etc So what do we do in this interim period – as we await Jesus return?

Well look again at verse 12 (READ – vv.12-14). Now as Jesus tells this story he is 1) talking about himself as the King and 2) he is telling us what we should do as servants while we await his return. But if you lived in Jericho in 30AD – you’d think; hang on this story sounds familiar. You see, HEROD THE GREAT died in his palace in Jericho in 6AD. Four days before he died – he changed his will making his son ARCHELEUS – King, instead of his son ANTIPAS – King. Naturally this caused a great fight over who is the true King of the Jews. So Archeleus jumped on a boat and went to a distant land (in this case Rome), to get Caesar Augustus to validate that he was the true King. But a delegation of 50 Jews who HATED Archeleus – also headed to Rome saying we don’t want Archeleus to be king. We want Antipas.

So Jesus is likening his story to Archeleus’ story. Just as Archeleus went to Rome to validate his kingship and then returned to rule Jerusalem, so Jesus is going to go to heaven to validate his Kingship with God before returning to rule the world. Now despite the delegation of 50 Jews telling Caesar they didn’t want Archeleus to be King, Caesar made him king anyway. Then Caesar sent word to a ROMAN LEGATE named VARUS in Syria to destroy all those in Jerusalem who opposed Archeleus. So the streets of Jerusalem ran with the blood. Then after the bloodshed – Archeleus returned to Jerusalem AND started bestowing favours upon all the people who remained faithful to him as King while he was in Rome.

 Apply:            So Jesus has chosen a well-known historical story about King Archeleus, to explain his own Kingship. Some people will immediately recognize Jesus is the true King, but others will oppose Jesus and want a different King. So, (like Archeleus) Jesus will go away (to heaven) to be validated as King by GOD and then he will return to rule. At that point Jesus enemies will be destroyed and Jesus’ faithful servants will be rewarded. The fact that Jesus has a recent historical story to explain the two stages of his kingdom is almost too good to be true. It’s like the Sovereign God orchestrated history to make this particular parable especially powerful. Doo. Doo. Doo, Doo… That’s X-Files sound track if you didn’t know. Our God is awesome….

But here’s an important question – have you recognized the true king (of God’s Kingdom) or are you backing some other king? Maybe Mohammad, or Buddha or a cult leader like Sai Baba or Joseph Smith of the Mormons. Remember backing the wrong King ends in bloodshed. So choose wisely and then remain faithful to the true King…

But Jesus now adds some teaching elements to this story. Jesus says the King has 10 SERVANTS and 10 MINAS and each servant is given one mina. Now a MINA was an Aramaic form of money. It was equal to 100 Jewish drachma’s or 100 Roman denarius. So the King is giving each servant about 100 days or 3.5 months salary. In modern terms we might think about $20,000 dollars. But the key words (end of verse 13) are “put this money to work”. This phrase literally means turn a profit. It doesn’t mean play it safe and preserve what I have given you. IT MEANS – be entrepreneurial – and make this MINA into something more than I’ve given you. Turn a profit.

Point 2:         Jesus will Reward his Spiritual Entrepreneurs at his Return

Show:                        Lk.19:15-19 (READ)

Explain:         Notice Jesus summons his servants to see what they have GAINED. Jesus is expecting A RETURN. Now remember in this parable the King gave his servants THE MINAS to use on his behalf. THE MINAS don’t belong to the servants. THE MINAS are simply entrusted to the servants to turn a profit for the King. This is an important truth to grasp in Christian stewardship and entrepreneurship.

Everything Jesus has given you (money, talents, possessions, opportunities and even relationships) is like a mina ( a unit of currency) that you are meant to use to turn a profit. As Psalm 24 says (Slide 5 – Ps.24:1-2). Psalm 24 reminds us that nothing is rightfully ours. Everything belongs to God because he made it. We are just custodians who are meant to use the things God gives us – not to feather our own nest, but to advance God’s Kingdom. THE QUESTION IS do you recognize that all your stuff is actually God’s stuff?

Well Jesus now calls the first servant who has made a 1000% return. That’s impressive even by WARREN BUFFET and BERKSHIRE HATHAWAY standards. Since 1965 Warren Buffet (largely regarded one of the best investors of all time) has averaged a 20% return. Buffet’s best year ever was 1976 – which saw a 129% return. But the first servant has led Buffet for dead with 1000% return. So the servant is commended and he is given oversight of 10 cities. Then, the second servant comes forward and he has gained a 500% return. This still blows Buffet out of the water. So the King commends the servant and gives him oversight of 5 cities.

Apply:            NOW PLEASE NOTE – the servant who produced 10 minas gets 10 cities. And the one who produces five minas is given 5 cities. The servants seem to be rewarded according to their faithfulness. Now I know that in our egalitarian world we are preoccupied with making everything equal and the same.

The person who comes first in a race gets the same medal as the person who comes last in the race. This is supposedly fair. But I think the Bible is more nuanced than our egalitarian world. Although, salvation is based entirely on GODS GRACE and is available EQUALLY to all people by faith in Jesus, THE HONOUR we ultimately receive in heaven seems to depend on our faithfulness to Jesus now. But that doesn’t mean pastors, missionaries and bishops will get the VIP seats in heaven. It may turn out that the mum who has faithfully looked after her disabled child all her life; OR the regular joe electrician who lost his job standing for God’s truth – may in fact be a far more faithful steward than the big name pastors who always played it safe. Jesus seems to be giving us A CARROT to motivate us towards good stewardship…

But again, here in the affluent Christian west we have a problem, It’s well established on every SUPERANNUATION BOARD that the more people accumulate, the more risk adverse they become – because the objective is no longer growing what we have, but preserving what we’ve got. And in the western Christian church – we now have a lot to lose. So risk aversion tends to come with wealth and we then call it good stewardship. But if we want 1) the church to grow, 2) the sanctity of life to be preserved, AND 3) basic family values to remain for our children (in an increasingly hostile, secular, anti-Jesus culture) – we are going to need to take a lot more risk – simply to avoid going backwards. SECULAR INFLATION is working against our Christian investments.

Now I think risk aversion in the institutional Christian church is now so extreme (it has us drowning in OH&S policy, insurance requirements and legal demands) that we have little left to invest in Jesus kingdom. Now I know “SAFETY” is another sacred cow. But think? Was it really safe for Moses to lead a million people into the desert with just a little unleavened bread. Was it really safe when David went to fight Goliath with a slingshot. Was it really safe when Jesus walked into Jerusalem and turned over the tables in the temple? Are we being too safe? Can too safe actually be unchristian? This is a question worth asking,

Point 3:         Jesus will Punish Unfaithful Servants & Enemies at his Return

Show:            Lk.19:20-25 (READ)

Explain:         Well the third servant hides his mina in his house in a piece of cloth. And the servant justifies his actions by saying he was AFRAID of the master because he is a hard man. The servant is AFRAID what the master will do if he loses the mina in a bad investment. So he plays it safe and simply preserves what he is given. So, the master rebukes him and says, if you are so risk adverse – couldn’t you have at least put the mina in the bank and earnt a little interest. The king is disgusted by this man’s lack of faith and faithfulness. So he takes the mina off him and gives it to the man who has been most faithful. I wonder if this parable is the origin of the phrase USE IT OR LOSE IT.

Then after the King – judges his servants 1) rewarding the faithful and 2) punishing the unfaithful, he turns on those who outright reject his kingship and has them killed. Nothing more is said. Those who have opposed the true King of Gods Kingdom are killed. Now you can tell yourself this will never happen and loving, gentle Jesus would never do such a thing. But Jesus says; “he will.”

Apply:            So what do we LEARN from the final part of this parable? Well, first of all we see that THE THIRD SERVANT is operating from a place of fear, rather than faith. His decision is driven by fear. Please know that in many ways – fear is the exact opposite of faith. One of the MOST COMMON PHRASES in the Bible occurring more than 100 times is “DO NOT BE AFRAID.” Quite often that phrase is accompanied by the words; “DO NOT BE AFRAID, FOR I AM WITH YOU.” says the Lord. Why does God have to tell us NOT TO BE AFRAID – so many times?

Well, its because FEAR is one of Satan’s best weapons against stewardship. We know that we should stand against unethical conduct in the workplace, but we go quiet because we are afraid of losing our job? We know we should share the gospel with our friends, but we become afraid that we may be rejected or mocked by our peers.

Some of us – even have deep callings to be missionaries OR go into full-time ministry or be insanely generous with our money, but we become paralysed by all the what if’s. FEAR OFTEN CONTROLS OUR LIVES MORE THAN FAITH. But that is why God gave us spiritual armour. With spiritual armour in place – faith is meant to triumph over fear – so that we do great things for God’s Kingdom.

As 1 Corinthians 2 explains our faith and even faithful stewardship does not rest in human wisdom, but relies on Gods power. And when our faith and faithful stewardship relies on Gods power to do the impossible or work a miracle it looks like foolishness to the world. Sadly, too much of our Christian view of good stewardship is now based on conservative, prudential human wisdom.

In two weeks time we will look at Jesus commending the poor widow who put her last two copper coins into the temple treasury. HOW FOOLISH? What is she going to live on? By humans standards of wisdom that is pure madness. She has just given away her ENTIRE SUPERANNUATION. Yet, Jesus commends her for having great faith. If we are going to be good stewards – faith in God’s power, Gods love and God’s provision needs to triumph over the fear that is inherent in human wisdom. You think any of the great missionaries who risked their lives to take the gospel to the darkest parts of Africa, Asia and South America were not afraid? You know what it required from them to become great stewards? (PAUSE) One decision of faith. Just 30 seconds of courageous belief that if God is with me who can be against me?

BUT THIS RAISES ANOTHER QUESTION? Does the third servant even know the King? You see the third servant views the King as a hard master. The servant says you take out what you did not put in and you reap what you did not sow. But is this true? Jesus is not a hard master. He is loving master – who loves and cares about us so much he died for us. And Jesus promises to be with us until the very end of the age.

So is there anything we do for God’s Kingdom or as faithful stewards where Jesus is not personally invested in the putting in or the sowing. And if Jesus is with us – in the putting in and the sowing – is there any chance of objective failure? (PAUSE) The return may not come the way you expect. But if King Jesus is urging you through His Word and Spirit to do something risky for Gods kingdom – do you really think that risk will fail to produce a return? And if Jesus is really with you in the risk – is it really a risk at all?

The question is – do you really have eyes to see the King? Last week, the blind beggar could SEE and Zacchaeus climbed a tree in order to SEE? If you can see really see King Jesus (his goodness, his love, his power and the fact that he is with you) – you’ll begin to realise that there is ZERO RISK in good and faith-filled stewardship. Even if it appears that you lose everything – you win, a thousand times as much now and great honour in eternity? EVERY TIME you are a faithful steward – it is a pay day for you AND God’s Kingdom. So stop trying A) to be a wise steward by human standards and B) be a little more faith-filled, risk embracing and entrepreneurial in your stewardship – because sometimes faithful stewards, by which I mean faith-filled stewards – do walk on water, slay giants with stones and see fire fall from the sky with great returns for God’s Kingdom. Faithful means faith-filled.

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