Success and Failure

From Gary North’s Christian Economics: Teacher’s Edition

Chapter 16: Success and Failure

This parable [on the ten minas – AP]  focuses on political rulership. The parable tells the story of a nobleman. He possessed political power. He was not a businessman. He had ten servants under his authority. They were stewards. He trusted them with his money. In his kingdom were citizens who hated him. He turned one coin each over to his servants. Then he departed. At his return, he demanded an accounting One servant had produced a profit of ten to one, which was huge. Another had produced five to one, which was large. One servant had buried his coin. He returned it. The other servants are not mentioned. The first two received political authority over cities. The man who made ten to one ruled over ten cities. The man who made five to one ruled over five cities. The man who buried his coin was condemned. But so were all of the citizens who had rebelled. This is clearly about the final judgment. The nobleman’s condemnation of the coin-hoarder involed a transfer of wealth.

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. But as for these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slaughter them before me’” (vv. 23–27).

The crowd was aghast at this command: “Take the mina from him, and give it to the one who has the ten minas.” This was not fair, they believed. The most successful steward was being elevated over the less successful ones. “And they said to him, ‘Lord, he has ten minas!’” The nobleman explained why: “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.” There is a modern phrase that expresses this thought: “The rich get richer, and the poor get poorer.” Jesus made it plain that this summary of economic cause and effect in God’s kingdom is covenantally mandatory. This is the process of inheritance, which necessarily involves disinheritance. “But as for these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slaughter them before me.” The nobleman minced no words. Neither did Jesus. This ending made it clear that this version of the parable is also about the final judgment.

So, why the demand for high returns on investment?

The reason is that God has placed quite a lot of resources under our command… and He rightfully demands a good return on investment.

To give God no return on investment is to show utter contempt for His authority, His command, and His gifts… and God will not put up with that, not in the slightest.

Nor should He.

Why should the rich get richer? Because of their superior service, as manifested by the most successful steward’s high rate of return. Why should the poor man lose whatever he had? Because of his inferior service. His attitude regarding the nobleman was the same as the attitude of the citizenry. He said as much: “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” (vv. 20–21). He accused the nobleman of being the recipient of unearned wealth, reaping what he did not sow. The nobleman recognized the underlying attitude: envy. The steward was under his authority, yet he decided to do nothing of value with the coin. He was unwilling to serve faithfully, just as the citizens in general were unwilling to serve faithfully. They were in rebellion against lawful authority. So was he. As a result, he lost whatever he possessed. The coin, which had been entrusted to him, went to the most profitable of all the nobleman’s servants. He was cast out of the office of steward to join the masses of losers, who were about to lose all that they had enjoyed. They were all covenantally fit for the slaughter. They were all unprofitable servants.

Note that this parable is not primarily address to God’s explicit enemies, like Muslims or Secularists.

It is primarily intended for people who consider themselves God’s servants: Christians.

The decision to give poor/no service to either God or man… a refusal to place God first no matter what: such behaviour among Christians merits hell.

Perhaps it would be a good time to consider the pointed refusal of Christians to serve God — the refusal to pay ANY price for obedience to Him, the refusal to suffer ANY cost in order to put Him first — from, say, the rise of the Welfare State in the 1940s onwards…

…and the reward God has sent to His disobedient and unprofitable servants.

(Incidentally, when I look up at the stars, I can make a pretty good guess as to why God would need servants who can generate a great deal of wealth, quickly. Even the very basics of an interstellar society needs A LOT of money to get things going… and the need for more resources won’t decline over time, but only increase.

And if I’m wrong, if the workfield God has in mind aren’t the heavens… I’m certain that there will be other fields of endeavor that needs a great deal of capital to master.

But when I recall that Mars most likely had water and perhaps even a decent atmosphere at Adam’s time, and that Adam’s sin lead to a curse on Creation (and a dead, uninhabitable Mars)… and that Christ, the Second Adam, will restore the good things we had lost… I grow more reasonably confident in my hypothesis: that the heavens cry out to live, and we, the Servants of God, directed by the Holy Spirit and under the command of Jesus Christ (who made the heavens and the earth) are the ones to bring life to the heavens.)

Covenant breakers are in rebellion against God. They see God as an unfair monarch who reaps where He has not sown—an exploiter, in other words. He expects obedience. He gets rebellion. He expects production. He gets nothing. In contrast, faithful stewards multiply God’s wealth. They understand the nature of the hierarchical relationship between God and men. They understand that whatever they possess is a gift from God (James 1:17). They serve as trustees, not as autonomous owners.

Be a covenant keeper.

Refuse to join the masses, who are covenant breakers.

Submit to God’s definition of fairness – which is grounded in this truth: “God the Son made everything and everyone, heaven and earth, and has lawful ownership rights to all we have and all we are.

By good service, we gain lawful authority.

The nobleman understood that he could gain an above-average rate of return for himself by letting these two stewards retain authority over his capital. He gave the coin of the rebel to the steward who had made ten to one. This was rational. Why turn it over to the steward who had made only five to one? The owner wants to maximize his rate of profit. This way, he will possess even more capital to invest.

God thinks like a winner. Naturally, Christians should imitate their Master in this.

The owner of the capital expected to return as ruler of a kingdom. “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” (v. 15). He would need subordinate rulers in this kingdom. He left as a nobleman. He would return as a king. He used success in business as a success indicator of competence in future high office.

Serve in little things well, and you will be granted access to greater things.

I believe that this applies even to this life, as well as the next.

The enforcers of the nobleman’s laws viewed this as unfair. After all, the steward who had made ten to one did not need the money. Their assessment rested on an assumption: the stewards who had produced nothing deserved the unproductive steward’s coin. They assumed that a wealthy man ought to use his money to subsidize men who had shown no ability to produce a positive rate of return. These people deserved another chance. This is the mentality of defenders of the welfare state. It assumes that high productivity is over-rated. It assumes that nonperformance deserves to be rewarded by those with money to invest.

The Welfare State is a lie, grounded in the idol of the God-State, that leads to a culture’s grave.

God has set up His kingdom on a very different foundation. In His kingdom, the most productive stewards receive even greater wealth and authority. A comparable practice in the world of competitive sports is the jockey who wins horse races. Owners of fast horses pay high wages to hire these jockeys, who then win even more races. The owners of fast horses are not interested in giving career opportunities to untried, inexperienced, or losing jockeys. They want their horses to win. The best way to do this is to hire winning jockeys. The fast get faster, and the slow get slower, whether horses or jockeys. The only way to rise to the top is for a jockey to win over horses that are regarded as faster. If a jockey can win with slower horses, he must be a superior jockey. He will then experience increased demand for his services.

Christians should always aim to be the best.

Steady, consistent obedience to the Commands of God is a fine road to excellence. I highly recommend it.

A buyer possesses money. In the parable, this is the nobleman. He wants to maximize the rate of return on his capital. He must go on a journey. He needs active managers of his capital while he is absent. He plans to return. He wants to return to a more prosperous kingdom.

Instead of whining and wailing and naval-gazing, Christians should be hard at work, expanding the Kingdom of God right now in this life, right here on earth.

The heavens await, but we are given small things on one living world to prove ourselves. Let’s do a good job of it, and please our Lord, Master, and King, yes?

Yes, and Amen!

This is also true of the righteous steward. He has a task: to make a profit. He wants to make an above-average rate of return. This is how he demonstrates to the owner that he is worthy of even greater responsibility.

Success in business is not necessarily a test of success in politics. The two realms are different. Business is government by supply and demand. There should be open entry. There should not be a state-granted monopoly. Civil government asserts a monopoly of violence. It operates monopolistic legislatures, police forces, and courts. But with respect to financial success in history as a representative test of success in the post-resurrection world, Jesus’ pocketbook parables made plain to His listeners that business success is not only legitimate, it is representative of success beyond the grave. This fact legitimizes business as a calling.

Business is not supposed to be the worship of mammon: more for me in history. It is the worship of God: more for God in history. Business is trusteeship, not rebellion. Here is the covenantal issue:

Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day (Deuteronomy 8:17–18).

Christians are not to worship the tools God has given them.

Instead, worship God who provides both the tools and the wisdom to use them well. By doing what is right, we gain greater blessings, and better tools.

The parable of the talents in Matthew emphasizes the final judgment. “ For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 25:29–30). The parable of the minas in Luke emphasizes the post-resurrection kingdom of God. “Because you have been faithful in a very little, you shall have authority over ten cities” (Luke 19:17). Both rest on these principles of success. First, economic success is a success indicator for success in history. Second, success in history is a success indicator for success in eternity.

This is not what most Bible commentators have believed. They have not taken literally the context of these parables seriously: economics. They assume that noneconomic success means success in history. Worse, they believe that economic success is a testimony to kingdom failure. They do not believe that this passage in Luke refers to economic success: “. . . give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you” (Luke 6:38). Their interpretation means that Jesus consistently misused language. He spoke of kingdom success as economic success, yet supposedly He really meant the opposite. He supposedly used pocketbook parables to teach that economic matters are not related to spiritual matters, and in fact are the opposite of spiritual matters. If such a principle of textual interpretation is correct, then how were Jesus’ listeners supposed to make sense of what He taught? Why did He use pocketbook parables to persuade listeners to understand principles of the kingdom of God? The parable of the minas begins: “A nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and then return” (v. 12). What kind of kingdom was this? Who was this nobleman? If this does not refer to Jesus’ inheritance of the kingdom, what else could it refer to?

The entire thrust of most Biblical commentators was to avoid the real-world application of Jesus’ words, to spiritualize them and gut their actual meaning.

Mystical naval-gazing is a lot more easy than actual labour in the real world, after all.

Less risky, less likely to make powerful enemies, and far more comfortable.

I grow weary of the contempt and rebellion Western Christians against the God they supposedly worship and adore… but, by their behaviour, show they have nothing but hatred, loathing, and contempt for.

I am tired of their love of any legal system, any authority, other than Christ and His Law-Word.

There comes a time when repeated, consistent failure is not a sign of immaturity, but a sign of punishable rebellion. An man who grew old in the church, but still demands the milk of the simple gospel, who never grew ready to eat the meat as the decades went by, would be wise to repent of his folly today.

Just as surely as God smashed the rebellious Jews in AD 70, so God will smash the rebellious, wealthy Western Christians of today.

(Obviously so.

I wonder just how many Christians had their children ripped to shreds in an abortuary today? More than I think, I’m sure!

And so, God’s enemies destroy their own future, in the name of today’s convenience and ease.)

However, since the Church is not limited to the West, the Faith as a whole will continue to grow. The destruction of Western European Christendom (and a large chunk of American Christianity, as well) will not mean the end of Christianity per se: instead, the lampstand of some churches will be removed, some apostate nations will vanish from the face of the earth, and some supposed believers will be revealed to be actually servants of Satan, and then cast into the flames.

The believers who shunned the easy road to hell will inherit the future.

And the seat of those Christians who hated their Master will be taken by new servants, people with names like Jesuorobo and Abdul. Men who decided to inherit the future, rather than kill it.

“Don’t think of a Post-Christian West… Think of a Post-Western Christianity!”

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