The Doctor spent some time reading the last known words of some famous and not so famous people recently. It’s always interesting to read the final words spoken by someone because they give you a real insight into what each person was thinking and feeling as their lives were about to end.
For example, what do the last words of the following people tell you about their lives…
“Friends applaud, the comedy is over” (Ludwig van Beethoven, 1770-1827)
“Don’t let it end like this. Tell them I said something” (Francisco “Pancho” Villa, 1877-1923)
“How about this for a headline- ‘French fries'” (James French, who was electrocuted in 1966 for killing a prison cell mate)
“What an account I shall have to give to God! How I should like to live otherwise than I have lived” (Phillip III, King of France, 1396-1467)
Not very inspiring, huh? It’s really sad when someone’s last words are a sick joke or an expression of regret. How much better would it be if someone’s final words reflected a life full of purpose and meaning? How much better would it be if someone’s last words reflected hope and anticipation rather than a wasted, meaningless life.
As a youth, this should really give you something to think about. After all, how can you know that your life will really count for something in the end? How can you be sure that your life will really have meaning and purpose? How can you live the kind of life that will really have a lasting impact?
Well, the answer can be found in the following parable that Jesus once told. In it, we find some important tips that will help us to live the kind of lives that will really count in the end.
(Now remember, a “parable” is a short story that illustrates a spiritual truth or moral lesson. As you read through this parable, see if you can guess what each character and feature in the story represents…)
“A nobleman living in a certain province was called away to the distant capital of the empire to be crowned king of his province. Before he left he called together ten assistants and gave them each $2,000 to invest while he was gone.” (Luke 19:12-13)
So our story begins with a high ranking official who calls a meeting of his staff assistants. This official (called a nobleman) gives his each of his aides a large sum of money and one simple instruction: put this money to work until I come back. Notice that he doesn’t give a detailed set of instructions on how to invest the money; he simply gives them the money to invest and then he takes off.
However, there’s a little subplot in the next verse…
“But some of his people hated him and sent him their declaration of independence, stating that they had rebelled and would not acknowledge him as their king.” (Luke 19:14)
We’ll get back to this part a little later, but for now, let’s continue on with the story…
“Upon his return he called in the men to whom he had given the money, to find out what they had done with it, and what their profits were.” (Luke 19:15)
So now it’s report card day for the staff members- it’s time for them to report on what they had done with the nobleman’s resources while he was gone. Now you might think that the nobleman in this story would deal first with the group of rebellious people who have rejected his leadership but that’s not the case. Notice that he deals first with the people who were supposed to be working for him while he was gone.
The first guy brings an excellent report…
“The first man reported a tremendous gain– ten times as much as the original amount!” (Luke 19:16)
This is a terrific job by the first assistant. The nobleman (who is now a king) is very impressed and rewards him handsomely…
“‘Fine!’ the king exclaimed. ‘You are a good man. You have been faithful with the little I entrusted to you, and as your reward, you shall be governor of ten cities.'” (Luke 19:17)
Because he faithfully invested the resources that were given to him, the first man was given authority to oversee 10 cities in the kingdom that the king had received.
Who’s next? Well, we find out in the next verse…
“The next man also reported a splendid gain– five times the original amount. “‘All right!’ his master said. ‘You can be governor over five cities.'” (Luke 19:18-19)
The second assistant also reports a good profit and is also rewarded. As with the first man, notice that the number of cities that he gets to govern is in proportion to his faithfulness in doing business with the king’s resources.
Next up is the third assistant who has chosen a very different approach…
“But the third man brought back only the money he had started with. ‘I’ve kept it safe,’ he said, ‘because I was afraid [you would demand my profits], for you are a hard man to deal with, taking what isn’t yours and even confiscating the crops that others plant.'” (Luke 19:20-21)
The third man did not bring any return on the investment that was given to him. In fact, he clearly disobeyed the King’s command to invest his money while he was gone by doing nothing. If you were to read this verse in the original language, you would find that it more literally says, “Here is your money which I have laid up in a napkin.”
You see, there were few secure places to keep valuables back in those days. Because of this, people would often wrap their money in a cloth and then bury it in a secret location. This is apparently what the third man did with the nobleman’s money. Listen, you don’t need to be a business major to know that taking money and burying it in the ground is no way to invest.
Now notice that this man didn’t misspend the money that was given to him- he just didn’t do anything with it. Not only that, notice that he also handled the king’s money very irresponsibly by wrapping it up in a cloth, the kind that you would use to wipe your face or blow your nose. Hey, if you had $2000, would you wrap it up in a tissue?
In light of this, it’s not surprising to see the king’s response…