You Had One Job (Luke 19:11-27)
Big Idea: Your one job until Jesus returns is to faithfully invest everything he’s given you.
One of the funniest Twitter accounts I’ve seen is @_youhadonejob. The description is “You had one job and messed it up, plus more funny pics and vids.” Some of them are PG, but a lot of them are funny. Here’s are some samples:
“You had one job” is a meme that calls attention to the blunders people make while on the job. It began with the movie Oceans Eleven, in which somebody bungles their job and ruins a heist. Since then, it’s taken off, as shown by Google Trends:
Here’s the point of the meme. When you have been given one job to do, don’t blow it. And if you do blow it, then prepare to be ridiculed or worse.
Suppose for a moment that this wasn’t just a meme. Suppose there is actually one job — just one — that’s been assigned to you, and you will be held responsible for how you’ve done it. I’d want to know what the job was. I’d want to know what was at stake, and I’d also want to put my best efforts towards doing that one job well.
That’s exactly what we have in front of us. In this story, Jesus is giving us the one job that we’re responsible to do. He gives us a story that helps us understand what this job is. And he gives us the three possible outcomes that are possible. There are only three, and no more. And then he tells us what we can expect based on these outcomes.
So let’s look at each of these.
First, there’s one job that we’ve been given to do.
The facts of this story are pretty easy to understand. A nobleman has to travel on business. While he’s away, he calls ten of his servants, and he gives them all a relatively small amount of money: about 100 days’ wages. He gives them simple instructions: “Engage in business until I come” (Luke 19:13). Everything that follows in this parable flows out of these simple details.
Of course, there’s always more than meets the eye at first glance. We read in verse 1 that Jesus was around Jericho when he told this story. Some think that Jesus was near the palace of Herod Archelaus when he told this story. Archelaus was a ruler who had lived right around there, and had traveled to Rome to receive the imperial blessing of his rights to rule over Judea. The Jewish embassy opposed him, and Archelaus took his revenge on them. This was part of their recent history. It would be just like if I said, “There was this president who bugged the White House, who tried to coverup the break-in of an office complex, and he had to resign in disgrace.” You would know what I was talking about.
Why does Jesus tell this story? It’s actually brilliant. The parallels really fit. As Jesus approaches Jerusalem, he realizes that people expect him to take the throne and become king. But Jesus knows that’s not what’s going to happen, at least the way that people expect. He is going to die. Then he’s going to rise again. Then he’s going to leave in order to be given a kingdom, and one day, eventually, he’ll return as the rightful king.
In the meantime, Jesus is gone for a long time. In his absence, we are his servants, and he’s entrusted something to us. Our one job is to use what he’s given us while waiting for him to come back, so that we can give an account to him when he returns.
If you hear only one sentence this morning, I want you to hear this: Your one job until Jesus returns is to faithfully invest everything he’s given you. Notice:
It’s all his. The nobleman gives each of the servants ten minas, or the equivalent 100 days’ wages. He asks them to use it to engage in business while he’s gone. Who owns the money? He’s given it to the servants, but it still belongs to him. In the same way, Jesus has given us many things, and he’s told us to use it to engage in business while he’s gone. But who owns what he’s given us? He does. We don’t own anything; it’s all his. In his excellent book Master Your Money, Ron Blue helps us understand this important idea:
God owns it all…God has the right to whatever He wants whenever He wants it. It is all His, because an owner has rights; I, as a steward, have only responsibilities. I may receive some benefits while maintaining my responsibilities, but the owner retains ownership…Every single possession that I have comes from someone else—God. I literally possess much but own nothing. God benefits me by sharing His property with me. I have a responsibility to Him to use it in a way that blesses and glorifies Him.
While this is true of your money, it doesn’t end there. It applies to everything else in your life too. It applies to “our gifts, our influence, our money, our knowledge, our health, our strength, our time, our senses, our reason, our intellect, our memory, our affections, our privileges as members of Christ’s Church, our advantages as possessors of the Bible” (J.C. Ryle). This is radical. You own nothing. You only manage it on behalf of God.
By the way, you can either see this is scary, or it can set you free. When you realize it belongs to him, it completely changes your attitude towards your entire life. I love the story of John Wesley, the circuit riding preacher back in the 1700s. A man frantically rode his horse up to John Wesley, shouting, “Mr. Wesley, something terrible has happened! Your house has burned to the ground!” Wesley thought for a minute and then replied, “No. The Lord’s house burned to the ground. That means one less responsibility for me.” Wesley got it. He understood that God is the owner of all things, and we are simply his managing it for him.
It’s not much. Ten minas wasn’t exactly a lot of money to invest. It was not enough to buy a house. Did you read this week of the dilapidated house in The Beach that sold for a million? This amount of money wouldn’t even cover the downpayment for that. If you won this amount of money in a contest, it wouldn’t be enough to change your life. And yet, the servants were expected to do something with it.
I love what Spurgeon said about this passage:
“Not much,” you will say. No, he did not intend it to be much. They were not capable of managing very much. If he found them faithful in “a very little” he could then raise them to a higher responsibility. I do not read that any one of them complained of the smallness of his capital, or wished to have it doubled. Brothers, we need not ask for more talents, we have quite as many as we shall be able to answer for…You say, “It is not much.” The Master did not say it was much, on the contrary, he called it “very little”; but have you used that very little? This should go home to your consciences. You have been treated as confidential servants, and yet you are not true to your Lord. How is this?
Let’s never complain that God hasn’t given us much, or think we’re off the hook because we only have a little. You’re responsible to use whatever he’s given you, no matter how little it is. The stakes are high, even for the little amount he’s given you.
Notice another thing:
He’s given us freedom in how we use it. I love this. The nobleman says, “Engage in business until I come.” There are no detailed instructions, no binding instructions. There’s only one simple principle: make a profit. Do you realize that God has given you this freedom as well? He’s given you everything that you have, even if it’s not much, and he’s given you one job to do: make a profit with what he’s given you on his behalf. Invest everything you have to bring returns to Jesus. You have almost complete freedom on how to go about doing this. I love the advice that John MacArthur gives in his book Found: God’s Will. He says you can know what God’s will is for your life with absolute clarity. Do you want to know what it is? Be saved, Spirit-filled, sanctified, submissive, and suffering. After that, do whatever you want! You have freedom in how you invest what he’s given you, and whether you want to become an artist or a teacher or a pastor or an accountant. That’s up to you. The only binding instruction is that you use everything he’s given you to make a profit for Jesus. That is the one thing that you’re supposed to do with your life.
This is really the most important message of the sermon today, so I want to be as clear as possible. Your one job until Jesus returns is to faithfully invest everything he’s given you. God has been generous to us. He’s entrusted us with resources. He’s given us families, education, careers, possessions, and time. But none of them belong to us. All of it belongs to God. Jesus has gone away, but he’s coming back. In the meantime, he expects us to wisely use whatever he’s entrusted to us, and to make a profit with it for him.
Let this sink in. You have only one job: to faithfully invest everything he’s given you to bring a profit for Jesus. It’s all his anyways. You’re just a servant managing what’s his. Your job is to engage in business while he’s gone.
So that’s our one job. Let’s look at the three outcomes that are possible in our lives.
Second, there are only three possible outcomes.
So we have only one job: to faithfully invest what he’s given us. And there are only three possible outcomes. Not four, not two. Every one of us is in one of three categories today. Here they are, and here’s what Jesus says about each of them.
Category One: Rebellious — “But his citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to reign over us.’” (Luke 19:14). This category isn’t hard to figure out. Some people refuse to bow to Jesus as king. This is the category of outright rejection of Jesus, and the results are deadly. When the king returns in verse 27, look what happens. “But as for these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slaughter them before me” (Luke 19:27).
What is Jesus teaching? Some people will openly reject him. There is no neutrality; you are either for him, or against him. Jesus offers forgiveness for those who are opposed to him, but if they spurn that opportunity, there will be judgment. The essence of sin is the rejection of God’s authority. In his grace, Jesus offers to forgive rebels, but if we refuse that forgiveness, the consequences are dire. God will judge those who rebel against him and refuse the grace that is offered by Jesus.
Category Two: Faithful — Then there’s a second group of people. In verse 16, one servant reports that his mina has made ten minas more. He’s made a 1000% profit. Impressive! The nobleman says, “Well done, good servant! Because you have been faithful in a very little, you shall have authority over ten cities” (Luke 19:17). The nobleman’s response comes in three ways: commendation (“Well done, good servant!”), reason (“Because you have been faithful in very little”), and promotion (“you will have authority over ten cities”).
This is repeated with a second servant. He comes and reports that he’s made five minas more, a 500% profit. He’s put in charge of five cities.
Here’s the principle: When Jesus returns, he will judge our faithfulness. Those who are found faithful will be rewarded generously. This is an interim period in which we are called to serve him, and how we handle what we’ve been given now will determine what’s entrusted to us in eternity. Again, Charles Spurgeon comments:
Jesus has made us kings and priests, and we are in training for our thrones … If we are faithful here, we may expect our Master to entrust us with higher service hereafter; only let us see to it that we are able to endure the test, and that we profit by the training. … If you live wholly to him here, you will be prepared for the glories unspeakable which await all consecrated souls. Let us go in for a devoted life at once!
So those are the first two possible outcomes. Those who reject Jesus will be judged; those who are faithful will be rewarded.
I think we can live with that, but what’s surprising is that there is a third category of people.
Category Three: Negligent — “Then another came, saying, ‘Lord, here is your mina, which I kept laid away in a handkerchief; 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’” (Luke 19:20-21). This guy played it safe. The nobleman told him to engage in business and make a profit, but he just kept the money in a napkin. He probably figured that if he made a profit, the nobleman would keep it; if he lost money, he would be held responsible. He was so paralyzed by fear that he did nothing. No risks, no initiative. He had one job, but he didn’t do it. He thinks, “I can’t be active, but I can at least be a conservative. I can preserve the Christian tradition. I can submit to a church wedding and send my children to Sunday school. I can take a Christian point of view. I can wrap my religion in my handkerchief and conserve it” (Helmut Thielicke).
I have to be honest: this third category scares me the most. It’s possible to read the Bible everyday, go to church every week, and live for yourself. It’s possible to take everything that God has given us and basically live as if we are the point of life.
I quoted Ron Blue earlier, who said that everything we have is God’s, and that we are supposed to use it all for him. Let me tweak what he said now and give you the perspective of this negligent servant:
I know God owns it all…but God is not here right now. I may as well use it as I see fit. Sure, God is the owner, but it’s in my bank account, right? I may as well live for today, because time is short. God benefits me by sharing his property with me, so I may as well use it to make the best life for myself now, because you only go around once.
Listen to what the nobleman says to him:
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? Why then did you not put my money in the bank, and at my coming I might have collected it with interest?’ And he said to those who stood by, ‘Take the mina from him, and give it to the one who has the ten minas.’ And they said to him, ‘Lord, he has ten minas!’ ‘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. (Luke 19:22-26)
Jesus says: use it or lose it. Your one job until Jesus returns is to faithfully invest everything he’s given you. Don’t blow it, because the consequences for you will be disastrous.
I want to spend a few minutes and think about what this means for our lives.
I was thinking about how to apply this. This is weird, and it’s going to tell you how my brain works, but I was thinking of an egg sorter I saw at the Canadian National Exhibition the other week. The eggs run on a conveyer, and then they’re put down on a scale that weighs each egg. If it’s heavy enough, it goes down the chute. If not, it goes to the next scale, where it’s weighed again — extra large, large, regular, and so on.
What I found interesting is that the eggs aren’t measured by size. They’re measured by weight. An extra-large egg doesn’t mean that the shell is large. It means that the insides are large. Each egg is weighed, and at egg is sorted according to its substance, not just its looks. An egg that looks extra-large may end up being regular, because you can’t measure the weight of an egg by the size of the shell.
And so I began to think about our lives being sorted one day. I began to imagine standing before Jesus and having our lives weighed — how we used what he gave us. I imagined being sorted into three categories — faithful, negligent, and rebellious. And here’s the scary part. I pictured us being placed on the faithful scale, waiting to see if our lives tipped the scale. And I imagined the scale not tipping at that point, and us being passed on to the next scale, where we finally tripped the weight: negligent. Yes, a believer in Jesus Christ. Yes, someone who lived a good life, and wasn’t openly disobedient and rebellious. But, at the same time, someone who lived pretty much for themselves, who didn’t live as if they had one job: to faithfully invest everything that God has given for God, not just for themselves.
And then I imagined what we’d hear. Not “Well done, good servant!” Not words that indicate that we’ll get a promotion from managing 100 days’ wages to managing cities. I imagined hearing Jesus condemning us, asking why we took what was his and used it for ourselves. I imagine him asking why we weren’t faithful; why we didn’t engage in business on behalf while he was gone. What has God given you? And how could you “engage in business” for Jesus until he returns?
What Jesus is talking about here is not salvation. He’s talking about a wasted life. Here’s what’s striking to me. This servant didn’t openly rebel. It wasn’t like he openly rejected the nobleman. But his priorities were no different from the rebels. His life wasn’t shaped by the mission of the nobleman. It’s possible to look like a faithful servant, but live like a rebel. In the end, Jesus warns us that it’s not just the rebels who will be judged. It’s also those who didn’t do the one job that he gave us to do.
Listen to these words from David Platt as we close:
God is the owner, and we are stewards.
This means every breath you breathe, the mind you have, every single thing you possess ultimately comes from God, and He has expectations for how your breath, your mind, and your possessions are to be used. Which means we must be focused. We’re stewards. We must work diligently and responsibly with every single thing God’s entrusted to us. We want to be faithful to do what He calls us to do with the resources He’s given us to do it. We want to work hard. We want to work wisely with everything we have—our time, talents, our mind, our money—everything, knowing that He’s coming back soon, and we want to be ready. We want to be ready for the day.
When you and I—just think of it, this is sobering—you and I will stand before God to give an account for how we have stewarded all that He has entrusted to us. And on that day, it will not matter at all what anyone in this world thought of us. It won’t matter how many people called us great. It won’t matter if 10,000 people were at our funeral, or no one was at our funeral. It won’t matter what the newspapers or history books say or don’t say. The only thing that will matter, the only thing that will matter, is what God—who gave these things to us—says on that day.
Father, everything we have is yours. We don’t own anything. We don’t own our time, our money, our jobs, or anything. It’s all yours. And we realize that one day soon we will stand before Jesus and give account for everything he’s entrusted to us. On that day it won’t matter what anyone else says to us. We want to hear from Jesus: “Well done, good servant.”
Today, Jesus has reminded us that there are only three categories of people. For anyone who recognizes themselves as a rebel today, who hasn’t bowed the knee before Jesus and acknowledged him as king, may they do that today. Jesus is the only king who died for his rebels, who joyfully gave his life so that rebels could be forgiven, not judged. The essence of sin is rebellion. Thank you for sending your Son for rebels like us so that we could be forgiven, and become his servants.
Father, help us to realize we have one job until Jesus returns: to faithfully invest everything he’s entrusted to us. The greatest danger is that we look like servants, but live like rebels; that we don’t engage in business until he comes. So help us. Right now, reveal areas of our lives in which we are not engaging in Jesus’ business until he comes back. Thank you that you haven’t given us detailed instructions. You have given us a lot of freedom to figure out how to invest what we have. There’s no cookie-cutter approach, but there’s a clear mandate. Help us as we think about how to do this in our lives.
Help us to use everything we have in your service, to live for you, not us; for then, not now. I pray for the Spirit’s help as we do this. In Jesus’ name, Amen.