Before the nobleman of the Parable of the Pounds went off to a far country to receive a kingdom, he gave to each of his servants a mina, which in previous studies we have found to mean faith. It is the currency of the Kingdom of God. Nevertheless, one of the nobleman’s servants never used the mina (G3414) that his master had given him to carry out his business (Luke 19:20). Rather, he saved it by wrapping it up in a napkin to give to his master upon his return. In the language of the Kingdom of God, this servant never acted in faith, never used the Kingdom’s currency.
If the man never used the currency of the Kingdom of God, God had never entered into his labor. Whatever the man thought he had gained was done through his own ability, not faith in the power of God to move in others. The napkin he used in which to wrap the master’s mina was normally used to wipe the sweat from one’s brow. The Greek word is soudarion (G4676), transliterated from the Latin sudarium, which is derived from sudor (sweat). So, rather than laboring through faith in the business of the Kingdom of God, it is implied that he labored through “the sweat of his face” (Genesis 3:19), trusting only in his own ability (the flesh).
The problem with this servant is that he lived by sight, not by faith (cf. 2Corinthians 5:7). He trusted in the flesh (the sweat of his face – Genesis 3:19) to do the work he was commanded to do (Luke 19:13). Yet, by not using the currency (faith) of the Kingdom of God, he was unable to produce fruit for the Kingdom of God. Rather, all the “sweat of his face” (Genesis 3:19) could produce was the “sweat of the face” of others. That is, he labored for God in his flesh, so those he was able to influence did the same, because like produces like, and kind produces kind (Genesis 1:11-12, 21, 24-25). This is the law of life, and this servant could produce only others who were like himself, not like Christ, which faith produces. That is, one who trusts Christ and tells others about him will produce others who trust Christ, and in submitting to Jesus, they desire to be like him.
Does this mean that this servant was no better than the nobleman’s enemies in the parable? I don’t think so. While it is true the nobleman’s enemies didn’t trust him, it is because they had no mina / faith (cf. Mark 4:40-41; Deuteronomy 32:20) to begin with. On the other hand the wicked servant had a mina / faith but didn’t use it. The difference seems to be that the nobleman did deliver a mina (faith) to his fruitless servant. He was a believer and embraced Jesus as the Messiah, but he had trouble acting that out in terms of trusting Jesus for the end result. Even the Apostles had problems similar to this in the beginning. It seems this believer’s problem is that he never matured in Christ. He may have had great human ability, and he continued to do things as he had always done through his physical talent, thinking he was serving Christ. Nevertheless, without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6).
Matthew 7:21-23 comes to mind as I consider this man. There the servant says he had done many wonderful works in the Lord’s name. Yet, Jesus said he never knew (ginosko – G1097) the man. This Greek word gives the sense of “getting to know” another through experience. That is, Jesus never knew him, because the man never walked with Jesus. He didn’t behave like a disciple. Although this nobleman’s servant may not have been lazy, that is, I don’t think the text implies the man did nothing at all, but he certainly didn’t perform according to the nobleman’s expectations. In other words, the servant misrepresented his master, allowing those who hated him and didn’t want to submit to the nobleman (Luke 19:14) to continue in their ignorance.