As a businessman and entrepreneur I am encouraged by the number of Jesus’ parables that are set in the context of business and include modern ideas such as ‘Return on Investment’ (ROI). But then it is not surprising: Jesus spent most of his adult life as a businessman. As the oldest son in the family business he was not just making things, but dealing with customers and suppliers.
This parable is a challenge to everyone, especially leaders, to take a good look at our ‘ROI’, whatever that means in our particular context, as well as our compassion and generosity.
Using this parable, here are two practical areas for prayer and reflection.
- What is the opportunity cost of doing what I am doing? (i.e. if I stopped my current work or ministry to release my time and resources for a different task, would this improve my ‘ROI’?)
- Am I achieving the highest return on the resources entrusted to me? (i.e. are they having eternal consequences? See Matthew 6:19-21)
- What is the long-term impact of what I am doing?
- Is what I am doing sustainable? (i.e. can it continue in the long term without me or external resources?) If not, how could it be more sustainable?
- Can it be replicated (so that the initial resources achieve a higher return)?
- Is fear holding me back from what God is calling me to do?
- Is the magnitude of the task paralysing me with fear?
Early church leaders took big personal risks for the possibility of great gain. Am I prepared to look foolish, or take financial risk, or risk upsetting some who would rather maintain the status quo, than press forward?
Although this parable concludes with a strong warning, we should remember the words in verse 23, ‘Well done good and faithful servant … Come and share your master’s happiness!’ This should encourage us to work hard for God.
Jerry Marshall is General Manager of Transformational Business Network, a network of business and professional people who use business to alleviate poverty.