During some rioting in the UK, one store hung this sign on the window: “Due to the imminent collapse of civilization, we regret to announce that we will close today at 4 p.m. and reopen tomorrow at 10 a.m. We apologize for any inconvenience caused by the collapse of civilization.” Across America, preppers anticipate the breakdown of civilization and establish rural compounds, stock up on weaponry and canned food, and hunker down in anticipation of the coming apocalypse.
In 40 BC, Herod travelled to Rome to request of Augustus Caesar the position of King of the Jews. He confessed his previous support for Mark Anthony, but concluded by saying, “I ask you not to remember whose friend I was, but what a good friend I was.” Augustus gave Herod the throne. Later, Archelaus made the same trip to Rome to argue that he should inherit Herod’s kingdom. The Jews knew that Archelaus was a cruel man, and they sent a delegation to Rome to petition that he not be made king.
The Parable of the Talents (Luke 19:11-27) is set against this contemporary political scene. In the parable, the man going to a far country represents Jesus Himself. He is confident of His return, for instead of taking His wealth with Him, He entrusts it to His servants and commands them to “Occupy until I come” (Luke 19:13). Yet, the citizens hate the departed Master and send a message after Him, saying “We will not have this man to reign over us” (Luke 19:14).
In an era of political instability, when nobody knows who will return as ruler from the far-off journey, it would make sense to bury the money and wait to see who will return triumphant—the Master or His enemies. All the “smart money” would be buried, awaiting the outcome. Yet, the Master entrusts His talents to His servants and sets them to work. Are they willing to take the risk and openly declare themselves to be His loyal servants during His absence in a world where many oppose Him and His rule?
When the Master returns, the first servant presents 10 talents and gives the credit to his Master. The second servant does similar. Both receive the same commendation: “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Jesus does not commend these servants’ profitability but their open faithfulness to Him in a hostile world expressed through the public use of their God-given talents. The third servant misjudged the Master’s true character and so was unwilling to publicly commit to Him during His absence by publicly trading with his Master’s goods.
In the Riga Lutheran Academy in Latvia after 1991, every prospective student who wished to study theology and prepare for the pastoral ministry had to go through a long interview. The most important question they were asked was, “When were you baptized?” Those who were baptized before 1991 and the collapse of communism risked their lives to be baptized. If they were baptized after the collapse of communism, the seminary had many further questions to ask about their desire to enter the pastoral ministry.
I praise God that in such a hostile world in which so many say, “We do not want this man to rule over us,” so many are faithfully using the talents God has given them in sacrificial prayer, giving and front-line service that the Good News of His return might be proclaimed worldwide. In so doing, we let our world know that we are the loyal and faithful disciples of the soon-returning Master. And when He comes, Jesus will say those wonderful words to each one of us: “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master” (Matt. 25:21).