Fear of God: the wrong way

Superficially, the Parable of the Ten Minas resembles the Parable of the Ten Talents, but the differences are probably more important than the similarities. Jesus told the parable right before his triumphal entry into Jerusalem. His followers thought he was going there to claim his kingdom. In fact, he intended to go to his Father to receive it. In the parable, he traveled to a far country.

Mina, like talents, is a unit of money. In this parable, though, the minas represent spiritual gifts. The nobleman gave a mina to each of ten servants. (In the parable of the talents, he gave three men different amounts according to their differing ability.) Then he returned, having received the kingdom, and called the servants to find out how they had done. This parable does not give account of all ten of them. It lets three represent them all.

Remember: the nobleman did not lend the minas. He did not appoint his servants as stewards of the minas. He made a gift of ten minas to each of them and told them to do business.

The first servant reported earning ten more minas. Commending him, the nobleman did not take back either his gift or the increase on it. Instead, he awarded the servant with authority over ten cities. The second reported earning five minas. Again the nobleman commended him, allowed him to keep the original gift and the increase, and gave him authority over five cities.

Notice he initially rewarded all ten servants equally, but the gave the later reward on the basis of what they accomplished with the first. Then came the third servant. He simply gave the one mina back and said some rather insulting things about the nobleman’s character–things that the nobleman’s generosity toward the first two utterly disproved. The nobleman did not commend him; he scolded him, reclaimed his gift, and gave it to the first servant.

The third servant testified that he behaved out of fear. Since the nobleman so clearly represents Jesus himself, this servant was motivated by the fear of God. Aren’t we commanded to fear God? Then why the biting criticism for him?

Proper fear of God does not fail to recognize his generosity and his love. Proper fear does not paralyze us from doing works for him. It does not lead us to hardness of heart, harsh words about God, or hatred of him. It does not paint a false picture of his character or acts. How many people today fear God the way that third servant did?

Notice that the nobleman in the parable gave ten minas. He took back the mina only from the servant who despised the giver and refused to do anything with the gift. And he did not keep that mina; he gave it to someone else. When God gives a gift, he does not take it back for himself.

In the very last verse of the parable, the nobleman commands the execution of those who had refused to accept him as king. That refusal is the only thing that can keep anyone out of the kingdom of God.

The unbelieving servant, the one who out if improper fear did nothing to exercise his gift, did not die, did not suffer exile, did not lose any of his rights as a subject of the kingdom. He only lost what he had already despised.

Until Jesus returns and asks for an accounting, we all have the chance to learn to act in the proper fear of God and cease from the paralysis of any improper fear we may have


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