And as they heard these things, he added and spoke a parable, because he was near to Jerusalem…
This part of the parable is meant to teach the necessity of developing our forces, and bringing them into use in Christian life. The duty of the development of power in one's self as a part of his allegiance to Christ is the main thought. So, also, is it wrong for one affecting to be a Christian to confine his development and increase simply to things that surround him and that strengthen him from the exterior. It is not wrong for a man to seek wealth in appropriate methods and in due measure; it is not wrong for a man to build up around himself the household, the gallery, the library; it is not wrong for a man to make himself strong on the earthward side; but to make himself strong only on that side is wrong. Every man is bound to build within. Indeed, the very one of the moral functions which inheres in all religious industries is that, while a man is building himself exteriorly according to the laws of nature and society and of moral insight, he is by that very process building himself inwardly. He is building himself in patience, in foresight, in self-denial, in liberalities; for often generosity and liberality are in the struggle of men in life what oil is in the machine, that make the friction less and the movement easier. So it is wrong for men to build themselves up simply for the sake of deriving more pleasure from reason, from poetic sensibility, and from all aesthetic elements; but it is not wrong for them to render themselves, through education, susceptible to finer and higher pleasures. Not only this, but we learn from a fair interpretation of this parable that men are not to be content with their birthright state. It is not enough that a man has simply the uneducated qualities that are given to him. Life educates us so far as the gift of the hand and the foot is concerned. In so far as secular relations are concerned, the necessities of business and the sweep of public sentiment are tending constantly to educate men to bring out all that there is in them. In the higher spiritual life it is not always the case. Men are content with about the moral sense that they have, if it averages the moral sense of the community; about the amount of faith that comes to them without seeking or education; about the amount of personal and moral influence that exists in social relations. But the law of the gospel is: Develop. No man has a right to die with his faculties in about the state that they were when he came to his manhood. There should be growth, growth. Going on is the condition of life in the Church or in the community just as much as in the orchard or in the garden. When a tree is "bound" and won't grow, we know that it is very near to its end: and a tree that will not grow becomes a harbour of all manner of venomous insects. Men go and look under the bark, and seeing them consorting here and there and everywhere, say: "That is the reason the tree did not grow." No, it was the not growing that brought them there. And so all sorts of errors and mistakes cluster under the bark of men that stand still and do not unfold — do not develop. This being the doctrine, I remark, in the first place, that one may be free from all vices and from great sins, and yet break God's whole law. That law is love. Many say to themselves, "What wrong do I do?" The question is, What right do you do? An empty grape-vine might say, "Why, what harm do I do?" Yes, but what clusters do you produce? Vitality should be fruitful. Men are content if they can eat, and drink, and be clothed, and keep warm, and go on thus from year to year; because they say, "I cheat no one; I do not lie or steal, nor am I drunk. I pay my debts, and what lack I yet?" A man that can only do that is very poorly furnished within. And in no land in the world are men so culpable who stand still as in this land of Christian light and privileges. You are not saved because you do not do harm. In our age — in no land so much as in ours — not doing is criminal. The means of education, the sources of knowledge, the duties of citizenship, in this land, are such that to be born here is — I had almost said to take the oath — to fulfil these things. You cannot find in the New Testament anything that covers in detail each one of these particulars; and yet the spirit of the New Testament is — Grow, develop according to the measure of opportunity. That being so, there never was an age in which we had so much right to call upon men for fulness of influence and for the pouring out of their special and various talents in every sphere of duty. There never was a time, I think, in which it was so well worth a man's while to live. In former days a man might say: "I know nothing of all these things; how can I be blamed?" but no man can say that to-day. No man that works at the blacksmith's forge can say: "Well, I was a blacksmith." A man may be a blacksmith, and yet educate himself. No man can say: "I am a carpenter; how should I be suspected of knowledge?" If you do not have knowledge, you are not fit to be a carpenter. It is not enough that a man should increase his refinement; he is to increase it under the law: "It is more blessed to give than to receive." It is not enough that a man should pursue, ploughing deeply and uncovering continually, the truths of economy; he should seek for those truths that he may have that with which to enlighten and strengthen other men.
(H. W. Beecher.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And as they heard these things, he added and spake a parable, because he was nigh to Jerusalem, and because they thought that the kingdom of God should immediately appear.