Loving Monday: Risky Business
Seven minas remain unaccounted for.
That’s my conclusion when I read Jesus’ parable of the ten minas in Luke’s Gospel.
The man of noble birth, before embarking on his quest to be made king, called ten servants and gave them ten minas with instructions to “put the money to work.”
Never mind the part about how much his subjects hated him and trailed behind to subvert his plans. He became king anyway. Once crowned, he sent for the servants to make an accounting.
The first reported that his one mina earned another ten. The second showed how he took his one mina and netted five more.
A delighted king put these faithful servants who understood return on investment in charge of a number of cities commensurate with their earnings.
Another servant cowered in fear and unwrapped his one mina from a protective cloth. He returned it unharmed, but unimproved. The king, who did not want just his mina back but wanted back his mina plus, flipped a royal nutty and gave the man’s sparkling but solitary mina to the servant with the keener investment sense.
So we know that story. And we know Matthew’s version of it with the three servants and the talents of money apportioned to them based on their ability.
But what about the other seven in Luke’s record?
What did they do with their minas?
I think I need to wind back a little. We’re continuing discussion of John Beckett’s Loving Monday over at High Calling Blogs. In chapters 15 to 17, Beckett explored a business’ capacity (and responsibility) to show compassion, to serve, and to give back.
He shared the example of a major customer hanging in with his company when it hit hard times even when, at least on the surface, it didn’t look like Beckett’s plant could keep up. Beckett went on to recount how, while also maintaining accountability, they work compassionately with an employee to resolve performance issues (including exercising compassion even when termination is necessary) or extending credit to a struggling customer.
He considered the various ways in which they cultivate servanthood in the very hearts of their employees. He told of his company’s generous giving practices.
And in perhaps the most compelling story, he shared how he helped establish his own “island of misfit toys,” a for-profit company charged with employment of the hard-to-hire — folks with limited education, criminal records or a history of substance abuse.
Throughout it all, coupling compassion, serving and giving with what appears to be a pretty good head for business, Beckett’s company thrived as a quality, profitable organization with an impeccable reputation.
But it came at no small risk.
All that money he’s given away? He could have earned significant investments returns. I’d expect that by extending grace to struggling customers they may have lost some revenue. And hiring ex-cons? Opens a whole world of risk.
Many of his company’s policies and core values strike me as just good business. But any one of them could have backfired at any time, putting him and his company at risk for loss.
In the end, he was motivated to take the risk by a deep sense of stewardship.
Beckett recognized that his business ultimately was not his own.
It also became very clear to me that it wasn’t really my business — it was God’s. Instead of “owning” it, I was set in place as a steward, watching over it as long as God desired. (p. 123)
That brings me back to the ten minas. Beckett makes reference to this story, observing that
[The nobleman] expected them to produce a return on the amounts they had been given. When he came back, he rewarded those who did make a profit. Those who did not lost what they had to those who were productive. (p. 125)
This is where I start to wonder. Luke records the returns only for the first three servants. What about the other seven? What did they do with their minas?
I like to think that at least one of the other seven guys came back with no mina at all.
This would be the guy who was not so in love with his mina that he wrapped it in a soft microfiber cloth and slid it into a safe behind grandma’s portrait every night.
This would be the guy who was not so terrified of the master that he plunked his mina into a rusty tin can and buried it in the yard next to some dog bones.
This would be the guy that went out and spent his mina. Every last drachma of it.
This guy, in my extended account of the other seven servants, was the one who showed up in front of the king muddy and bloody (and a little ruddy, if you like the rhyming sort of thing). He smelled like work and sweat. His clothes were torn and dirty. His mina pouch was full of holes, and still showed the tire track where the bus ran over it.
And his rough, scarred hands were empty.
He spent it all.
And came back with nothing.
I like to think, though neither Luke’s nor Matthew’s records will back me up on the surface, that the master had a soft spot for this guy.
He fed the poor. He clothed the naked. He traveled over and under and across and through.
He risked everything for the sake of his master, and he came back empty.
Battered, bruised, and used up.
This is the missionary who retires after 50 years of service in the field without a single convert. This is the grandmother who kneels at her bedside for three hours a day but never sees how God works in the lives of those for whom she prays. This is the pastor whose church plant fails. The student who drops out of school to care for family.
The business person who takes one compassionate risk too many.
This is us, sometimes, laboring, trusting, taking one more step by faith and not by sight even though we don’t see a return on our investment.
We risk the mina to get Him a return, and maybe we lose it all.
But we took the risk. We didn’t sit on our hands.
When the nobleman went away, he gave instruction to his servants to “put the money to work.” He didn’t say to shelter it. He intended for them to take the risk to make the gains.
There’s a part of me that wants to see Jesus stand up and cheer and welcome us to share His joy when we, barefoot and bleeding, stumble in to give an account because we used our mina up, even though we don’t know what we have to show for it.
I am confident that He knows.
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