No Participation Trophies

While the people were listening to this, Jesus proceeded to tell them a parable, because He was near Jerusalem and they thought the kingdom of God would appear imminently. So He said, “A man of noble birth went to a distant country to lay claim to his kingship and then return. Beforehand, he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas. ‘Conduct business with this until I return,’ he said.

But his subjects hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, ‘We do not want this man to rule over us.’

When he returned from procuring his kingship, he summoned the servants to whom he had given the money, to find out what each one had earned.

The first servant came forward and said, ‘Master, your mina has produced ten more minas.’

His master replied, ‘Well done, good servant! Because you have been faithful in a very small matter, you shall have authority over ten cities.’

The second servant came and said, ‘Master, your mina has made five minas.’

And to this one he said, ‘You shall have authority over five cities.’

Then another servant came and said, ‘Master, here is your mina, which I have laid away in a piece of cloth. For I was afraid of you, because you are a harsh man. You withdraw what you did not deposit and reap what you did not sow.’

His master replied, ‘You wicked servant, I will judge you by your own words. So you knew that I am a harsh man, withdrawing what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow? Why then did you not deposit my money in the bank, and upon my return I could have collected it with interest?’

Then he told those standing by, ‘Take the mina from him and give it to the one who has ten minas.’

‘Master,’ they said, ‘he already has ten!’

He replied, ‘I tell you that everyone who has will be given more; but the one who does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. And these enemies of mine who were unwilling for me to rule over them, bring them here and slay them in front of me.’” Luke 19:11-27.

This is quite similar to the parable of the talents in Matthew 25. It takes place in a larger ecosystem in which not only the servants are judged and rewarded according to their works, but the subjects who were unwilling to be ruled by the king are put to the sword. Another difference is that this parable was told in Jericho right after meeting Zacchaeus. The parable of the talents is told after Jesus comes to Jerusalem to be crucified. So these parables do not contradict each other. Each was for a different audience. And the people who grumbled about Zacchaeus getting a commendation from Jesus may have been cast as the subjects who didn’t want to be ruled by Him.

Nevertheless, this is one of Jesus’s harshest lessons. There will be rewards and honor for those who serve Him well, and actual execution for those who refuse to serve Him at all. There will be no participation trophies.

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