Day 8: Visible loyalty to the invisible King
The parable of the pounds in Luke 19, I believe, is one of the most misunderstood parables that was told by Jesus.
Because we are often resource-centric and capitalistic in our worldview, our focal point of this parable is the pounds that were distributed to the 10 servants of the nobleman.
Our attention is drilled into how successful each servant was in multiplying the pounds that were entrusted to them. Hence, our conclusion is that this parable is about stewardship.
But there remains some contradiction within the parable. If the issue is about the ability of each servant to multiply the pounds entrusted to them, then why is the commendation of the servants one of faithfulness and not success?
(The parable) is about us declaring that we are on His side in a situation where there is not yet absolute evidence of His rulership.
If profitability is what the nobleman was after amongst his servants, then shouldn’t the commendation be: “Well done, good servant because you were successful in the very little.”
Faithfulness just isn’t something we associate with good business skills. What may shed light for us in this parable is that this parable actually mimicked actual events that took place in the days of Jesus.
In 40 BC, Herod fled to the Romans, seeking an appointment to become king over the region of Palestine. Kind Antigonus, backed by the Parthians, had taken Jerusalem. The Romans wanted to counteract the Parthians and so they appointed Herod and gave him the title “King of the Jews” and sent him back to retake Jerusalem. It took another three years and a bloody war before Herod conquered Jerusalem in 37 BC.
The parallels to the parable that Jesus told were well-recognised by his hearers. The sentiments the scenario evoked would have been palpable. In a situation of political flux, where the outcome of who shall rule was uncertain, it would have been folly to state at the onset who you are supporting.
In the first century, supporting the wrong political side could easily cost you your life. What the nobleman was asking his servants to do was to publicly and openly declare their allegiance to him before the issue had been settled. To conduct business in the name of the nobleman during his absence, and before his appointment to rule, was to risk it all.
It was to risk the animosity of those opposed to the nobleman. It was to risk ridicule, persecution, rejection, cancellation and the like. All of a sudden, it didn’t seem like such a bad idea to hide the pound and wait till it was certain that the nobleman had indeed been appointed ruler before coming out and declaring where your allegiance lay.
The parable speaks about Jesus, of course. Just as the nobleman left to receive an appointment, Christ has gone back to the Father. Some day, He will return with the public coronation as the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, but in the interim of his absolute absence, we, His followers, are left here.
The parable now begins to take form. This isn’t a parable about stewardship, it’s about loyalty. It isn’t about how we handle resources but about our bold public witness of Christ during His visible absence. It is about us declaring that we are on His side in a situation where there is not yet absolute evidence of His rulership.
The original Greek language in this parable indicates, as well, that the nobleman was interested in the volume of transactions done and not the amount of profit made.
All these indications align themselves now to give us a very clear picture of what the Lord was driving at. This is what I want to share with us as we pray for Singapore during this season of 40.Days, 40.Voices, 40.Prayers.
A Scripture exaltation from the lips of our Saviour, let’s pray that the church will always stand boldly for Christ, sharing His love and doing the works of God in the name of Jesus Christ.
Let our light shine boldly and publicly and let us openly declare that we are followers of Jesus Christ. Let us pray:
Our dear heavenly Father, we thank You for Your Word and for the exaltation that comes through Your Word.
We pray, O God, that in this season, You will give us courage and boldness to always stand for You publicly, Lord, that we will never shun nor turn aside from declaring that we are Your followers. Give us grace and fill our hearts with such love for our nation.
We ask this all in Jesus’ name, Amen.
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