by Nick Peterson
12 He said therefore, “A nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and then return. 13 Calling ten of his servants, he gave them ten minas, and said to them, ‘Engage in business until I come.’ 14 But his citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to reign over us.’
15 When he returned, having received the kingdom, he ordered these servants to whom he had given the money to be called to him, that he might know what they had gained by doing business. 16 The first came before him, saying, ‘Lord, your mina has made ten minas more.’ 17 And he said to him, ‘Well done, good servant! Because you have been faithful in a very little, you shall have authority over ten cities.’
18 And the second came, saying, ‘Lord, your mina has made five minas.’ 19 And he said to him, ‘And you are to be over five cities.’ 20 Then another came, saying, ‘Lord, here is your mina, which I kept laid away in a handkerchief; 21 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.’
22 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? 23 Why then did you not put my money in the bank, and at my coming I might have collected it with interest?’ 24 And he said to those who stood by, ‘Take the mina from him, and give it to the one who has the ten minas.’ 25 And they said to him, ‘Lord, he has ten minas!’ 26 ‘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. 27 But as for these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slaughter them before me.’”
I felt like I was walking to my doom as I approached my professor’s office door. “Dr. Lewis,” I said as I stood in the doorway, “I cheated on one of your quizzes.” “Shut the door,” he said.
The only rule on our take-home Organic Chemistry Lab quizzes (there were only 4 and they made up the bulk of our grade) was that we could not work on them with a partner. I was struggling mightily on our first quiz in the library when I noticed my friend Mike working on the same quiz. Long story short, Mike gave me a lot of help (answers) and I did quite well on the quiz.
Much later in the semester I heard a message on integrity. When a man has integrity, he can be counted on not to be corrupted, to do what he says, and to do right in both big things and small. I was convicted about what I’d done. I knew what I had to do.
“Now explain this to me,” Dr. Lewis said as I closed his office door, feeling like I was sealing my own tomb. “Well…um…I’m a Christian and honesty is important to me,” I began. “You said we weren’t supposed to work on the quizzes with anyone, but I did for the first one.” His reply really surprised me: “What would you like me to do about it?” I figured he would have some sort of standard procedure for this. Something he did with cheaters. Or maybe he’d have mercy on me and let it go. “Well…probably give me a zero for that quiz?” I said it more like a question. Dr. Lewis opened my grade report. And where there had once been a solid 21 out of 25 possible points for the first quiz, he wrote a big fat zero. “Done,” he said. “Anything else?” “I don’t think so” I said, still a little in shock. “Well, go and sin no more,” he said with a just a hint of a chuckle.
Somehow I ended up with a B in that class. I have no idea how. But truthfully, it wouldn’t have mattered to me if I’d gotten a worse grade. Confessing that and making it right took a huge weight off my shoulders and was totally worth it.
In this parable, the master commends the first servant for having been “faithful in a very little.” Earlier in Luke’s gospel, Jesus says “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much” (Luke 16:10). Observe 3 things from what Jesus says here:
- What you do in seemingly little things indicates what you will do in seemingly big things. If you can’t be counted on to be honest on a little quiz, you can’t be counted on for bigger things down the road. If you want to grow in integrity, you need to practice faithfulness, doing what’s right, and following through on what you say in the small, seemingly mundane decisions of everyday life. Our lives consist mostly of those small things. That’s also where most of our discipleship happens.
- Whether things seem small or big to us, they all matter very much to God. When we were trying to teach our kids to stay in bed until it was time to get up, I found myself lying to them occasionally about what time it was so I could sleep. They were too little to tell time and had to rely on me. I figured they wouldn’t really care, I wanted extra sleep, and it was only a couple minutes off the time I told them. Again, the Spirit convicted me. It seemed small to me. But God says to let our Yes be Yes and our No be No, because that is what He’s like. God is always true to His Word whether it’s small or big.
- Things that might seem big to us here are actually small in comparison to what is to come. The servant was given 10 minas. about 40 months wages, so maybe $150,000 today. The master called this “very little.” Because the servant was faithful with those 10 minas, the master set him charge of 10 cities! In Matthew’s account of the parable, the first servant is given 5 talents, which might have been around $5 million today. Again, the master called this amount “little”. There is mystery here, but consider how it would affect what you do in your day to day life and how you steward the resources and talents God has given you if you were convinced that it was going to impact not only what God entrusts to you in future years, but in your future beyond this life!
1) Is there an area where you have compromised your integrity that you need to confess and make right?
2) Do you view the “small” things as being important to God? Do you believe integrity is built in the mundane, day-to-day decisions to be honest and do what is right?