Why do most of Jesus Parables involve business? Seriously. If it mattered that much to Jesus, maybe it should matter to us. The answer may provide clarity to why God cares about your work, particularly if you are a business owner.
More than 60% of Jesus Parables involve business
Have you ever heard a pastor preach that simple truth? I haven’t and I’m a pastor’s kid who has rarely missed a church service in nearly 52 years!
A parable is a short story told by Jesus for a deeper purpose. Some are told slightly differently in parallel gospels. Some people don’t agree on whether a story by Jesus is an allegory or a parable. So the range is somewhere between 37 and 54 parables. Out of the 37 identified parables, 22 involve business. Of the 54, 37 involve business. Either way, MOST of Jesus parables involve business.
God’s word recognizes the importance of business
One of the greatest lies of the Devil is that work is divided into secular and sacred. Hogwash. From the beginning God created work, and it was good. Gen. 2:15. Adam was a caretaker of creation. He oversaw a major farming enterprise. But his rebellion against God resulted in a curse making work more difficult. Gen. 3:17-19. While we share in that rebellion and curse, the profound truth is that ALL work that is lawful and moral is GOOD. We were created to work and will work in God’s future Kingdom.
Paul recognized this, telling us that at the final Judgment, each person will “receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad” (2 Cor. 5:10). Jesus will provide work for us in His Kingdom and for eternity, based on how we stewarded our time and resources.
Jesus recognizes the importance of business
We should not be surprised that since work was at the center of creation, Jesus spoke so often about business. We should also not be surprised that Jesus used business as a deeper illustration of the Kingdom of God.
From purchasing property for a pearl of great worth or a treasure (Mt. 13:44; 45-46), to cultivating land as a farmer growing seed (Mk. 4:26-29), sowing seed (Mt. 13:3-9; Mk. 4:3-9; Lk. 8:5-8), facing challenges of weeds (Mt. 13:24-30), challenges of workers (Mt. 20:1-16), and wicked tenants (Mt. 21:33-41; Mk. 12:1-9; Lk 20:9-16). Jesus also used business to talk about wise and foolish builders (Mt. 7:24-27; Lk 6:46-49), unjust servants (Lk 16:1-13), unforgiving servants (Mt. 18:23-35), forgiving debts (Lk. 7:41-43), fishermen (Mt. 13:47-50), judges (Lk. 18:1-8) and much more.
Why business matters
Beyond the volume of business parables, lies much deeper truths. Like a parable, work is the story but advancing God’s kingdom is the deeper purpose. Jesus came to restore all things that are broken. That begins with us in relationship with him, but it extends to our work.
How do we view work? Is it a drudgery to bear as we race toward retirement? Is it all about me and building MY kindgom? That is Jesus parable of the rich fool who lost everything and spent eternity separated from God (Lk. 12:16-21).
Or is our business a gift from God to steward for His Kingdom? This is Jesus parable of the talents and minas (Mt. 25:14-30; Lk. 19:12-27). Jesus parables root us in the recognition that we are not owners but stewards of all that is entrusted to us.
Two business parables that summarize everything
The parable of the talents is part of a series of related stories about Jesus return as King. He begins by telling them to be ready – live your life and conduct your business knowing His return is imminent. That is the parable of the ten virgins (Mt. 25:1-13). He moves directly into the story of the talents telling us to be wise. The servant who buried his talent was not wise resulting in being put out of the Kingdom. The servants who wisely worked what was entrusted to them, doubling the impact, were welcomed into the Kingdom,
“Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” Mt. 25:21,23.
Jesus is referring to His Kingdom and telling us he has work assignments for us based on how well we steward what He entrusts to us. We should want to grow our business to the glory of God and the advancement of His Kingdom!
Sheep, Goats and a Good Samaritan
The parable of the talents is part of the series – be ready, be wise, be generous. These three go together. The purpose of business is NOT to gain the greatest toy. The purpose is to bring the greatest joy. And joy comes in giving to those in need.
Jesus concludes Mt. 25 with a parable on His return and judgment. Entirely in keeping with the parable of the talents, Jesus makes explicit that the growth of business is to serve as His agent ministering to others in need – “the least of these”. Ignoring those needs is the same as burying one’s talent.
Jesus used a traveling business man to illustrate this point. Some people don’t like business. They think it is secular and a necessary evil so you have money to give to the real work of God in the church. Jesus chose a despised Samaritan merchant to turn that thinking upside down. The church leaders walked past an injured neighbor in need of help. They had more pious matters to attend to, but the Samaritan stopped, used his equipment, resources, time and two days wages to see the neighbor restored. Jesus directly tied that demonstration of mercy to entry into the Kingdom of God (Lk. 10:25).
I use the Good Samaritan in the book Gospel Justice to illustrate this truth. Jesus is not contradicting that entrance to the Kingdom of God is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. But he is saying that true faith bears fruit through sacrificial service to others.
Ignite your passion to grow your business to advance God’s Kingdom
I hope you will join me at Ignite on May 9-10 in Rolling Meadows. This is a business conference to ignite your passion to accelerate your business to God’s glory. I will be speaking on the business parables of Jesus.
For too many years I got this wrong. I built business to my own glory. I slapped the label “Christian” on my law practice as we grew to multiple locations, staff, and success. But I viewed myself as the owner of that business. When God revealed these truths to me, He called me to set aside my business and invited me into His business. He invited me to use my law degree in the service of the least of these. How about you?
I love business owners who see the opportunity to open their facility to serve vulnerable neighbors in need of legal help. I love business owners who invest wisely in the Kingdom through a one-time gift of $5,000 that makes it possible to open a gospel justice center which brings the gospel and justice to hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people in need.
Be part of God’s Kingdom work. Grow your business to advance that Kingdom. Look at Jesus parables, see the importance of business, and let your work go deeper in the service of others.