As they heard these things, he proceeded to tell a parable, because he was near to Jerusalem and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately. He said therefore,“A nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and then return. Calling ten of his servants,a he gave them ten minas and said to them, ‘Engage in business until I come.’ But his citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to reign over us.’When he returned, having received the kingdom, he ordered these servants to whom he had given the money to be called to him, that he might know what they had gained by doing business. The first came before him, saying, ‘Lord, your mina has made ten minas more.’ And he said to him, ‘Well done, good servant!c Because you have been faithful in a very little, you shall have authority over ten cities. ’And the second came, saying, ‘Lord, your mina has made five minas. ’And he said to him, ‘And you are to be over five cities.’ Then another came, saying, ‘Lord, here is your mina, which I kept laid away in a handkerchief; for I was afraid of you, because you are a severe man. You take what you did not deposit and reap what you did not sow.’ He said to him, ‘I will condemn you with your own words, you wicked servant! You knew that I was a severe man, taking what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow? Why then did you not put my money in the bank and at my coming I might have collected it with interest?’ And he said to those who stood by, ‘Take the mina from him and give it to the one who has the ten minas.’ And they said to him, ‘Lord, he has ten minas!’ ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. But as for these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slaughter them before me.’”
This parable is almost always misunderstood, either though willful blindness or the deception from others. Before examining what this parable actually says, I think it’s important to know the context.
Jesus is describing this story to a crowd that was all too familiar with an evil ruler. When Jesus told this parable, the crowd had just left Jericho and were on their way to Jerusalem. Archelaus (23 BC – 18 AD) was the ruler that had lived in Jericho and he had indeed been a ruler opposed by many for his killing of 3000 protesters against his rule. This all happened at a time when Archelaus was on his way to Rome to be appointed as king of Judea.
The other important context here is that Jesus and the crowd had just left Jericho in which Zacchaeus, who was a tax collector, had repented of his greed by giving away half his wealth to the poor. This is relevant, because the parable is talking about who can amass the most wealth in the craftiest ways of business.
So what the parable is describing is Satan, ruling over the earth as he does through government and crony capitalism. Satan ultimately gets his authority from God, which is a parallel to how Archelaus gets his authority from Rome. The righteous people of the world are persecuted by Satan through acts of government authority. These are the people that hate the rule that Satan has over the world now and they appeal to God the Father for salvation from this persecution. Instead the rule of Satan continues and reward upon reward is heaped onto those that follow the ways of the world.
The message is clear, while Satan is ruling over the earth, persecution is to be expected for those that oppose him. Getting ahead in the world means being crafty and savvy to the ways of the world. Those that are at the top receive more, while those that the bottom have what little they have taken away from them.
Jesus nowhere is saying to act like one servant or another, he’s just describing that before the Kingdom of God is to arrive, we must suffer through the persecutions in the kingdom of a most hated ruler, Satan. We can choose to please Satan and achieve status within his kingdom or be slaughtered, just like so many have been before us.