When we consider what the western church has done to Jesus’ call to be His witnesses, it is no wonder that so many Christians don’t do it. America is great at industrialization. If it can be formulized, patented, made an assembly line of, and shoved into a neat and shiny package, we are your people. This consumer-driven, money-back-guarantee mindset has successfully crossed over into sacred territory – the advancement Kingdom of Heaven. Christians are told to memorize certain scriptures, regurgitate them in the correct order to someone who needs Jesus, and somehow pressure them into reciting a “sinner’s prayer”, and victory is guaranteed. Not only is this completely non-biblical, it turns an act of love and obedience into a self-serving recruitment program. But what does the Bread of Life actually say about being witnesses for Christ?
While there are plenty of places throughout scripture where Jesus, Paul, and others talk about and exemplify the process of witnessing, Jesus tells a parable, recorded by Luke, which simplifies it very well. It’s a parable that is easily skipped over because it’s sandwiched between the infamous account of Zacchaeus-the-wee-little-man and the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. On top of that, it’s often misinterpreted partly because some bible translators entitle the section something along the lines of “The Parable of Money Usage” (titles were not part of the original text, but were placed there by publishers to help us organize scripture), and partly because it’s easier to swallow if we interpret it incorrectly. But when we really look at the parable of the ten minas in Luke 19:11-27, we see in the very first verse (v. 11) that Jesus told this parable “because he was near to Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately.”
This was no lesson on money usage, though being good stewards of our finances is part of our witness. It was an explanation of how the Kingdom of God would come about, and what the role of God’s people would be. Jesus knew what was about to go down in Jerusalem. He knew his disciples had a long road ahead of them, and that they would be greatly disappointed to discover that the Kingdom of God was neither immediate nor was it a huge political takeover or anything of earthly construction[I]. Rather, the Kingdom of God would consist of the servants of God doing God’s business – occupying earth – God’s way and on God’s behalf in order to turn it back over to God.
I know the following scripture seems long, but it’s really only 16 verses, so please take a moment to read it either here or in your own Bible:
Luke 19:11-27 (ESV)
As they heard these things, he proceeded to tell a parable, because he was near to Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately. 12 He said therefore, “A nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and then return. 13 Calling ten of his servants,[a] he gave them ten minas,[b] and said to them, ‘Engage in business until I come.’ 14 But his citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to reign over us.’ 15 When he returned, having received the kingdom, he ordered these servants to whom he had given the money to be called to him, that he might know what they had gained by doing business. 16 The first came before him, saying, ‘Lord, your mina has made ten minas more.’ 17 And he said to him, ‘Well done, good servant![c] Because you have been faithful in a very little, you shall have authority over ten cities.’ 18 And the second came, saying, ‘Lord, your mina has made five minas.’ 19 And he said to him, ‘And you are to be over five cities.’ 20 Then another came, saying, ‘Lord, here is your mina, which I kept laid away in a handkerchief; 21 for I was afraid of you, because you are a severe man. You take what you did not deposit, and reap what you did not sow.’ 22 He said to him, ‘I will condemn you with your own words, you wicked servant! You knew that I was a severe man, taking what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow? 23 Why then did you not put my money in the bank, and at my coming I might have collected it with interest?’ 24 And he said to those who stood by, ‘Take the mina from him, and give it to the one who has the ten minas.’ 25 And they said to him, ‘Lord, he has ten minas!’ 26 ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 27 But as for these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slaughter them before me.’”
We must cease becoming offended that God expects something of us! The first obstacle I face when reading these verses is myself. I get offended. It’s not so much that the parable puts me in the place of servant, but that God is in the place of a “harsh” master. And then I remember Who God is and to whom the parable was told. Jesus used it in a time and place before the master-bondslave relationship was offensive. That was just the way it was. A master owned land and had much wealth, and a bondservant voluntarily sold himself to the master in order to survive. From that point on he was all about his master’s business. God owns the cattle on a thousand hills and Jesus is the Creator of the universe, and I voluntarily give my life to Him daily in order to survive. After all, I was purchased with a price far above rubies, gold, or even minas, and I am not my own [ii] . I make a crappy master and an even worse King, so now I am all about my Master’s business. Is God a good and loving master? Yes! (And a much better master than the world, myself, or the devil!) But He is also Almighty God, Commander of Angel Armies, Creator King over the Universe and everything in heaven and on earth belongs to Him. He has every right to expect something out of me and I cannot be offended at the idea that He can and will collect it when He so chooses. We do not have the choice to “opt out” of doing His business.
We have been given everything we need. Ten minas is a lot of cash. It’s two-and-a-half year’s wages. Take a minute to calculate that. These guys were given more than enough to do the master’s business and take care of themselves in the process. It’s easy to turn this into a lesson on money. It’s even easier to theoretically plan that, on the occasion of God giving me a whole bunch of cash, I will use it for His Kingdom. That will most likely not happen. But this is a parable – it’s allegorical – not an outright example. So we must ask ourselves, “What have I been given?” If God has allowed you to be born in modern America, you’ve been given more than you need right off the bat: freedom, privilege, education, wealth, and influence. No matter how poor you are, if you are American, you are richer than the rest of the world. No matter how oppressed you may feel, you have more privileges than your brothers and sisters across the globe. School is free here, and internet access, social media, and the freedom to go wherever you please and speak to whomever you want makes you a person of influence. If all that weren’t enough, God has apportioned spiritual gifts and talents to His children, which make us a force to be reckoned with and allow us to offer something to the world that they can get nowhere else: a piece of heaven in their lives.
So what is the Master’s business? The master in the parable had given them everything they needed to do his business, which was buying, selling, and trading in a way that would give him a foothold in the land he had been given. I love the way the King James version phrases it: Occupy till I come. What is God’s business? God’s business has not changed since the beginning: to dwell with His people – to infiltrate and occupy a dark world with His convicting, healing, saving light. Upon his final departure from Earth, Jesus was uber excited for us that the Holy Spirit would replace him on earth[iii], because, being fully spirit, Holy Spirit can dwell within each and every believer as seals of our citizenship in God’s Kingdom. The Kingdom of Heaven coming to earth is defined by the citizens of the Kingdom filled with the Spirit of God multiplying and spreading throughout the earth until it is fully occupied. This is what Jesus meant when he said, “The kingdom of God is in the midst of [within] you”[iv] .
We are building the Master’s Kingdom – not our own. As we carry out Jesus’ command to love others as He loved us, we must keep in mind that it is our Master’s Business we are doing. It is for His glory that we do it. We must give God the credit for every good work we do. Peter reminds us to “always [be] prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” Wicked servants would use the master’s provisions to build their own little kingdoms – promote their own names – glorify their organizations or churches. Faithful servants are all about the Master’s business. Faithful servants are about the Kingdom of God and are not in competition with other servants, because they know that we all have the same Master. Faithful servants know that eventually, the Master will return to occupy the land Himself.
When fear becomes my master, I will fail. So what was the deal with that last guy? Why was the master so harsh with him? Because instead of serving his true master, he bowed down to fear. The Bible is clear that whatever we serve becomes master over us. (The idea of being my own master is a lie…I will always serve something or someone bigger than myself.) The wicked servant had forsaken allegiance to his master and served himself and his fear. He had lived in the land the entire time and had sustained himself somehow – presumably using the master’s provisions. But instead of staking a claim in the land for the Master’s sake he merely survived. We, as servants of the Most High God, are called – no, commanded – to do more than merely survive. When we refuse to speak up as a witness for Christ, it is because we love ourselves more than we love that person. It happens when we serve fear instead of God. But we have been called to love like Christ loves – laying down our lives (including our pride) for others. Will they always receive it well? Of course not. The citizens in the parable hated the master and most of the world hates Jesus. The world loves people who do good, but can they can turn on you in a heartbeat when you tell them that you work for Jesus. Be ready for it and tell them anyway.
Witnessing for Christ is NOT a spiritual gift. Witnessing for Christ is merely loving others in practical ways and speaking a witness to them as to what Jesus has done in my life. Witnessing for Christ leaves the convicting to the Holy Spirit. Witnessing to Christ is not more than I can do. It’s not a spiritual gift and it’s not a super power. It’s not an option. To witness for Christ is to do the master’s work in the world that He will return to and occupy one day, and He has every right to expect something from me in the time He has given me here. It may feel difficult some days, but it’s never complicated. I don’t have to memorize a bunch of Bible verses and stress out about reciting them in the correct order (though the more I steep myself in scripture, the more intimately I know God and the more easily I recognize His voice). I don’t have to answer every question people have about God, the Bible, or even this crazy messed up world. And I definitely don’t need to twist anyone’s arm into reciting a prayer that really means nothing to them (please don’t do that!).
Love people enough to tell them who Jesus is. Tell them your story and let them know Who wrote it. If you know Jesus, you’ve got all the information you need. Remember the Samaritan woman in John 4? John records that “many Samaritans from that town believed in [Jesus] because of the woman’s testimony”[v] . If you truly know Jesus, you surely have some testimony to give about the difference He has made in your life. If your life is no different now than before you knew Him, you may not actually know Him. Those who preach Jesus without following Him, are hypocrites. Those who walk in His love without telling others the good news of the gospel message are self-serving. The gospel of Jesus Christ is simple and the Spirit of God has supplied you with everything you need to walk it out and speak of it boldly. On one hand, it’s not something we can get away with opting out of. On the other, we serve a good Master who has paved the way before us. We don’t need superpowers to be His witnesses.
[i] Luke 17:20-21
[ii] 1 Cor 6:20; 7:23; Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 1:18
[iii] John 16:7
[iv] Luke 17:21
[v] John 4:39