Parable of the Minas (Luke 19:11-27)

Submitted by admin on Mon, 2008-07-14 17:50.

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It appears that among the many who followed Jesus on his way to Jerusalem messianic expectations were high. To show that the kingdom of God would not be immediately manifest as being in power and exercising authority without the presence of competing rulerships (as many then supposed), Jesus related a parable. (Luke 19:11)

To obtain royal authority, a nobleman traveled to a distant country. Before leaving, he had summoned ten of his servants, giving each of them a “mina” (the equivalent of 100 drachmas, according to ancient Greek sources; approximately three months’ wages for a common worker). He instructed them to do business with the money until he returned. The citizenry hated the nobleman and sent a delegation to the distant country to make it clear that they did not want him to reign over them. (Luke 19:12-14; see the Notes section for an illustration from history.)

Upon his return, the nobleman, vested with royal authority, summoned the slaves to whom he had entrusted the minas to find out what they had accomplished in business activity. The first slave reported, “Lord, your mina has gained ten [more] minas.” His master commended him, “Well done, good slave. Because you proved yourself trustworthy in what is little, take control over ten cities.” (Luke 19:15-17)

The second slave rendered his account, “Your mina, Lord, made five [more] minas.” His master then put him in charge over five cities. (Luke 19:18, 19)

Another slave came with the mina he had been given, telling his master that he had wrapped it up in a cloth. He went on to excuse his inaction, “I feared you, for you are a severe man, taking what you did not deposit and reaping what you did not sow.” “[By the words of] your own mouth,” said the master, “I condemn you, bad slave. You knew, [did you], that I am a severe man, taking what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow? So why did you not put my silver [money] in the bank? Then, on my return, I could have collected it with interest.” (Luke 19:20-23)

The master then told those standing by to take the mina from the worthless slave and to give it to the one with ten minas. They objected, saying that he already had ten. The master, however, stated the principle, “To everyone who has more will be given, but from the one who does not have [much], even what he has will be taken away.” As for the enemies who did not want him to be king, he decreed that they should be brought before him and executed. (Luke 19:24-27)

Jesus’ parable indicated that time would pass before the kingdom would be revealed in power, which would be when he returned in glory. At that time, all who professed to be his disciples would have to render an account as to how they furthered his interests respecting all that had been entrusted to them. Circumstances and abilities vary, and disciples of God’s Son correspondingly would differ in what they would be able to do in advancing his cause. The manner in which Jesus had the two good slaves express themselves did not stress their individual efforts. Their report focused on the end result. Possibly this served to show that the advancement of his interests comes about when his disciples actively cooperate as God’s fellow workers. Human effort is not the determining factor. The variation in rewards based on performance may indicate that even a favorable judgment may result in differences in privileges and blessings.

Inaction constitutes working against Jesus and will lead to serious loss. He represented the bad slave as having a negative view of his master. This suggests that a failure to appreciate the Son of God for who he is and what he has done leads to serious neglect.

While trustworthiness will be greatly rewarded, unfaithfulness will lead to severe punishment. All who persist in opposing Jesus as the king by his Father’s appointment will merit the severest judgment.


In the days of the Roman Empire, men of royal descent traveled to Rome to receive the emperor’s official appointment as kings or lesser rulers. Jesus’ listeners would have been familiar with developments involving Archelaus and his brother Antipas, sons of Herod the Great.

To sail to Rome for appointment as king, Archelaus (according to the account of Josephus) “went down to the sea with his mother, and took with him Nicolaus and Ptolemy, and many others of his friends, and left Philip his brother as governor of all things belonging both to his own family and to the public. There went out also with him Salome, Herod’s sister, who took with her her children, and many of her kindred were with her; which kindred of hers went, as they pretended, to assist Archelaus in gaining the kingdom, but in reality to oppose him.” (Antiquities, XVII, ix, 3)

Regarding Antipas, Josephus wrote: “At the same time also did Antipas, another of Herod’s sons, sail to Rome, in order to gain the government; being buoyed up by Salome with promises that he should take that government; and that he was a much honester and fitter man than Archelaus for that authority, since Herod had, in his former testament, deemed him the worthiest to be made king; which ought to be esteemed more valid than his latter testament.” (Antiquities, XVII, ix, 4)

In Rome, Caesar Augustus (Gaius Octavius [later Gaius Julius Caesar]) arranged to hear from both sides. “Antipater, Salome’s son, a very subtle orator, and a bitter enemy of Archelaus,” spoke first. After Antipater finished presenting the case against Archelaus, Nicolaus pleaded for Archelaus. Although Caesar Augustus thereafter indicated that Archelaus deserved the kingdom, he did not make a final determination. (Antiquities, XVII, ix, 5-7)

Later, a delegation of 50 Jews from the nation came to Rome, with the permission of Varus (the Roman governor of Syria), to make their case against Archelaus and to petition that he not be made king but that the nation be made subject to Roman governors. This delegation had the support of more than 8,000 Jews who were in Rome. After hearing the case of the Jewish accusers and the refutation Nicolaus presented, Caesar Augustus rendered his decision a few days later. The account of Josephus continues, “He appointed Archelaus, not indeed to be the king of the whole country, but ethnarch of one half of that which had been subject to Herod, and promised to give him the royal dignity hereafter, if he governed his part virtuously. But as for the other half, he divided it into two parts, and gave it to two other of Herod’s sons, to Philip and to Antipas, that Antipas who disputed with Archelaus for the whole kingdom.” (Antiquities, XVII, xi, 1-4; War, II, vi, 1-3)