Jesus went on to tell a parable, because he was near Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately.
They are still on the road to Jerusalem, a journey whose significance Luke has built up carefully. Jesus is giving a teaching for the times to come, when he will no longer be with them. He tells the parable of the ruler who went abroad, leaving his servants to look after things. Its bearing is all too obvious.
The point of the story was: “To all those who have, more will be given.” It sounds very unjust; it is just like the way the business world operates. How could spiritual practice be just like business practice? The business world deals with things, property, money. How could the same rules apply to inner realities, mind, spirit?
The blunt fact is that they do, but the significance is quite different. To the one who loves (for example), more love will become possible; to the one who uses the intelligence he or she has, more will be given; to the one who prays, more prayer will be possible. It is by using what is given to us that we become capable of more.
We often tell ourselves that in the spiritual life everything is gift, or grace. But to say no more would be to make it a purely passive thing. In reality we know that nothing deep or ‘inner’ can ever be given to us without our effort. You would love to give your knowledge of, say, a foreign language to someone you love, but it cannot be done without their labour. How much more your understanding, your wisdom, your experience? Even God's gifts, poured out without measure, cannot really become mine unless I interiorise them myself. “Can I bring about my own enlightenment?” someone asked a wise man. “No more than you can make the sun to shine,” he replied. “But then, why do I have to work so hard with all these spiritual practices?” “To ensure that when the sun begins to shine you will not be asleep.”
(How do you read those last two lines of today’s reading? “As for these enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them – bring them here and slaughter them in my presence.” This verse is used by several Muslim commentators as proof that Jesus was a violent man. They ignore the fact that it was part of a story, a parable – not an order in real life, nor an incitement. This is how a text is mangled when it is ripped out of its context. Christian fundamentalists take note; you often do the very same thing.)
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