Friday, July 30, 2010

Parable of the Minas (4) Ten Servants

The nobleman had called ten servants and given each of them a mina to take care of. A mina was coin worth about three months wages. When the man returned as king he called his servants together to see what they had achieved. The first servant had earned ten minas.

The first one came and said, 'Sir, your mina has earned ten more.'
'Well done, my good servant!' his master replied. 'Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities' (Luke 19:16).
There are two things to notice about this response.

We assume that the servant had done well, but this needs a closer examination. The nobleman would have been away for less than a year, yet the servant had turned one mina into ten. That was a thousand percent interest. He could not have got that sort of return by planting and harvesting a crop.

Jesus listeners would understand that the only people who could make this sort of return were loans sharks and crooks. In those times, it was common practice for unscrupulous people to make loans to poor and desperate people. When the borrowers failed to repay the loan their property would be repossessed.

The first servant understood the character of his master well. To get a thousand percent return he must have reaped what he did not sow or taken out what he did not put in.

The reward of ten cities is telling. The king was not making his servant king of ten cities. A king would not give up that sort of power. He was giving the servant tax collection rights over ten cities. The main role of kings like Herod was to collect money for the Roman empire. The king was appointing the servant as a chief tax collector, just like Zacchaeus. From the king’s point of view, the servant was the perfect man for the job, because he had extracted a thousand percent interest from the person who borrowed his mina. That was just the sort of ruthless attitude that an effective tax collector would need.

The second servant had only produced a 500 percent rate of returns. Because he was not as ruthless, he was only given tax collection rights in five cities.

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