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Knee Jerk Devotional: Luke 19:11-27

The one where I’m confuzzled…

Passage:

While he had their attention, and because they were getting close to Jerusalem by this time and expectation was building that God’s kingdom would appear any minute, he told this story:

“There was once a man descended from a royal house who needed to make a long trip back to headquarters to get authorization for his rule and then return. But first he called ten servants together, gave them each a sum of money, and instructed them, ‘Operate with this until I return.’

“But the citizens there hated him. So they sent a commission with a signed petition to oppose his rule: ‘We don’t want this man to rule us.’

“When he came back bringing the authorization of his rule, he called those ten servants to whom he had given the money to find out how they had done.

“The first said, ‘Master, I doubled your money.’

“He said, ‘Good servant! Great work! Because you’ve been trustworthy in this small job, I’m making you governor of ten towns.’

“The second said, ‘Master, I made a fifty percent profit on your money.’

“He said, ‘I’m putting you in charge of five towns.’

“The next servant said, ‘Master, here’s your money safe and sound. I kept it hidden in the cellar. To tell you the truth, I was a little afraid. I know you have high standards and hate sloppiness, and don’t suffer fools gladly.’

“He said, ‘You’re right that I don’t suffer fools gladly—and you’ve acted the fool! Why didn’t you at least invest the money in securities so I would have gotten a little interest on it?’

“Then he said to those standing there, ‘Take the money from him and give it to the servant who doubled my stake.’

“They said, ‘But Master, he already has double . . .’

“He said, ‘That’s what I mean: Risk your life and get more than you ever dreamed of. Play it safe and end up holding the bag.

“‘As for these enemies of mine who petitioned against my rule, clear them out of here. I don’t want to see their faces around here again.'”

This is one of the hardest parables for me. It doesn’t fit into the nice and neat categories that other parables do. It also raises so many questions in my mind that probably most of you aren’t interested in. So, be prepared to be a bit bored.

Truly, in these Knee Jerk Devotionals I don’t “study up” on them. My process is simply pray, read, respond, publish. That’s it. This is my daily reading of the Scripture and personal journaling through it.

But, this parable.

Ugh.

It challenges me.

Here’s the thing, I struggle with this parable because the traditional interpretation of it just doesn’t sit right with me. I have heard this parable taught too often as a cudgel to guilt people into doing things for the church. Sure, we couch it in “faithfulness” language but, really we are simply asking, “Why are you wasting your time?”

This morning as I was thinking about it again there was a sense of guilt and shame that washed over me thinking about this passage.

Am I really being faithful?
Have I taken what God has given me and multiplied it?
Am I a good servant?

These questions lead me into a spiral of shame. I am left wondering, where is the grace in this parable? Where is the mercy?

The traditional interpretation is that Jesus is the “king” figure in the story. But, the description of the king doesn’t jive with the picture or Jesus from the rest of the Gospel.

Jesus says that his “yoke is easy and his burden is light.” He had just said that he had come to find the lost. The description here of one who “doesn’t suffer fools” or in the NIV, “a hard man.” Why the two descriptions? Could it possibly be that something else is going on here? Is Jesus really saying that if we are deficient in our good works that we will be condemned?

Welcome to my mind. I am struggling with this one this morning. I don’t have the answers. This is the beauty of the Scriptures for me. I love coming to these places and not having an answer. I get to search, study, research, think, process, pray. It energizes me and ignites my imagination.

So, if you don’t mind I’m going to wrap this up, I have some thick books to start digging through and some time to be spent on Google Scholar.

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