"...OCCUPY TILL I COME."
(St. Luke 19:13)
Text: St. Luke 19:1-28
What does it MEAN to "OCCUPY"?
A Singular StoryThis parable is particular to St. Luke’s gospel. The contemporary point of the story was that Herod the Great and his son Archelaus had actually gone from Jericho – where the parable was spoken, and where Archelaus had just rebuilt his palace – to Rome to receive his sovereignty, his kingdom. And just as the nobleman in the parable meted out funds to each of his servants, Archelaus actually left money in trust with his servants. This allegory is often confused with the parable of the talents in Matthew 25; however, that parable was delivered on the second day preceding the last Passover, later than this one.
The parabolic, or hidden meanings were several: the "nobleman" is a person of high birth, one who actually accomplishes nothing of his own to receive his fortune, received by inheritance. Jesus likened Himself to the nobleman in this parable, and although His accomplishments are indeed most innumerable and wholly wondrous to comprehend – the fact that "...all things were made by Him..." (St. John 1:3 ) being only a part of His considerable record – He always defers to the Person of the Father, stating plainly that He does only those things which He sees the Father doing. ("Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done in earth, as it is [already done] in heaven [the heavenlies]").
Notice also that the "nobleman" leaves his own well-furnished and comfortable abode to journey to a "far country" in order to receive his "kingdom"( his sovereignty, his sovereign power). Thus he departs as a wealthy landholder and returns as king. The symbolism is remarkable: Jesus left His First Estate, a position He has held for all eternity – without beginning or ending – purposely humbling Himself to take on the form of His crown jewel of creation, the form of the Adamite! The man Adam had been first entrusted with a district of planet Earth which we know as the Garden, or Eden.
As representative of all who would follow him, Adam proceeded to hand over the lease for this district to the mysterious serpent, who was the embodiment of sin – that which separates the Adamite from fellowship (as opposed to relationship) with the Father. Since the lease was obtained lawfully – that is, it was within Adam’s power to transact business concerning the lease – the predestined plan was set in motion to repossess the lease by dispossessing the new leaseholder. Even though the lease was obtained -- in effect stolen -- through fraud and deceit, the Eternal Plan called for a most Righteous Repossession!
A Righteous Repossession
Possession of the lease on the Garden district gave the evil one a toehold in a realm which was intended to be progressively dominated completely by the Adamites. The basic intention has never been abandoned: Through the supernatural principle of dominion, the occupation of conquered territory must certainly follow. By a deliberate series of Sovereign Acts, the Father continues to unfold His Plan in His time so that the Repossession – which has taken place "at Law" between Calvary and the First Resurrection, when Jesus reclaimed the Keys to Hell and Death from the evil one – will be complete at the predetermined Moment when all things are restored. (Acts of The Apostles 3:21). In the same respect as the work of Redemption is a continuing work: we were redeemed, we are redeemed, we are yet to be redeemed; then so is the Restoration and Repossession a continuing Process. Not one small detail has been overlooked, and those who press in to know the Word of God intimately will recognize the Process with increasing clarity.
The basic intention has never been abandoned: Through the supernatural principle of dominion, the occupation of conquered territory must certainly follow.
The work of Redemption, Restoration and Repossession is a Sovereign work of the Father: the smallest of details and the precision of the timetable are completely in His control. The only problems we have are found in not understanding His ways and means of accomplishing that which He has promised to perform. Yet we realize, despite our often present anxieties, that He does all things perfectly as He gathers His nation together for the conclusion of this present age.
The Commission to the Servants
As the nobleman departed to the far country, he gave a most important commission to his ten servants: he delivered ten pounds to all of them, and we are left to conclude from the subsequent reckoning that each of them was allowed one pound. The word pound, in the Greek text is rendered as mna or mina, which Strong’s Concordance defines as "a certain weight". The margin of my 1972 Nelson reference Bible values a mina at "about fifteen and a half dollars"; perhaps someone could calculate the approximate present-day value, but the relative value is really not essential to understanding the significance of this parable.
There are ten servants in the nobleman’s household, a number corresponding with the number of tribes of the ancient nation of Israel which were dispersed throughout the world following their captivity in the sixth century BC. The nation of Israel was designed to be a servant nation, further confirming the analogy. Each servant, or tribe, was given the same responsibility: to " ‘occupy’ till I come" [while I go and then return]. This clear and solemn command emphatically requires each of the servants to engage themselves in the business of the household while the nobleman is away. This clearly points to this present age between Christ’s ascension and His coming to assume His certain place on the earthly throne of David, at which time His Kingdom will have come in Fullness.
Varying Definitions Lead to Differing Actions
In this context, the word "occupy" appears only this one time in the entire canon of Scripture. The word in the Greek text is pragmateuomai [prag-mat-yoo’-om-mahee]. Strong’s defines this word occupy to mean "to busy oneself with" or to engage in "trade". Related Greek root words are pragma [prag’-mah] which is defined as a "deed", an "affair" and by extension a "(material) object", "business", "matter", "thing", "work"; and pragmateia [prag-mat-i’-ah] which means "transaction", by extension "negotiation" or "trade". All three Greek words are the root of our transliterated English word pragmatic, meaning "efficient", "functional", "practical", "realistic", "reasonable", "sensible", "useful", "utilitarian".
Webster’s defines "occupy" as "to take and hold possession of, as by conquest". This meaning is often associated with military operations, as in "occupational" forces which hold vanquished territory following a victorious campaign. Since Our Savior is the Conquering Hero Who has accomplished the victory for His own nation, it would be reasonable to conclude that there should be an "occupational force" which would both hold the conquered territory as well as transact the business of His Kingdom within that realm. Many of the treasured hymns of the Christian Church take up the general theme of the Church Militant; and even though militancy might be taken to fleshly extremes among some groups, the importance of this force must never be diminished. Only when we are fully submitted to the leadership of the Holy Spirit will we recognize and properly assume our assigned post in His occupational force.
Locating the Present Day Church
There is yet another definition in Webster’s for the word "occupy": "to fill or take up (space or time)". Perhaps this one best mirrors the reality of the present condition of the Church worldwide. Sadly, too many present day Christians have been seduced by doctrines of devils which have so many falsely expecting to "fly away" to some nebulous destination they call "heaven". With no sound Scriptural evidence, lies have been built upon lies until the Father Himself would fail to recognize their concept of Paradise. Millions of dollars are being wasted every year in the spread of these damnable fables, and the vast majority of those who call themselves "Christians" are oblivious to the command to "occupy till I come".
Immediately following the command to "occupy", the parable continues with the statement, "But his citizens [subjects] hated him". It is certainly simple to recognize the analogous situation in the pathology of the modern Church. Whole denominations have ceased to defend the sanctity of life itself, the greatest of all gifts which God has given. Many of these lifeless religious corpses no longer withstand the most grievous sins, they perhaps only debate the amount which they might allow. Homosexuals are not only welcomed in with open arms in a "come as you are" appeal, but many are being openly appointed to ministerial positions throughout the world. The sacred vows of marriage are being openly scorned by a growing majority of selfish humanists who foolishly imagine that their irresponsible behavior could possibly be approved by God, even to the blasphemous point of rewriting and redefining the ancient and consecrated texts to suit their "deathstyles". Jesus says that as it was in the days of Noah, so it would be in the days of His coming at the end of this age. When my righteous soul is continually vexed by all the garbage we have foisted upon us in the name of the "Christian religion", I think of the words of the Master: "Lift up your heads, for your redemption draws nigh"! Even so, Come Lord Jesus!
Servants and Citizens
An important distinction must be made between the servants and the citizens. The servants were indentured, or it could be said they were slaves of the nobleman’s household. There is no scriptural account of the servants particular feelings toward the nobleman, except as we can discern from the later reckoning. The citizens, on the other hand, were the subjects of the nobleman’s realm. Just as it often occurs in our present day, these subjects were apparently greatly envious that this rich nobleman would become a king over them. The politics of greed and class-envy has always been present with us . . . the more things "change", the more they remain the same! ( see Ecclesiastes 1:9).
Both servants and citizens remain among today’s Christians. The servants are those who consider themselves indentured or committed to Christ as voluntary bondservants. One ancient practice provided for a servant or slave who was released from service, often after settlement of debt, to voluntarily become a bondservant. The ritual often included the ceremonial piercing of the servant’s earlobe with an awl, a pointed tool which would be driven through the earlobe into a doorpost. The resulting wound and subsequent scar would be the everlasting mark testifying to the voluntary loyalty and willing servitude of the particular slave. Our Lord, as we read in the Scriptures, retains His marks of torture and crucifixion as an eternal Testimony as Servant in the household of the Father.
Citizens, by contrast, qualify in most cases by birth into a particular country or jurisdiction. The Apostle Paul asserted his Roman citizenship at an opportune time to avoid what could have been a torturous -- as well as untimely-- death. Though citizenship has its definite advantages, often mere "citizenship" in the Church -- being "born into a Christian household", for example -- is often used as a lame excuse for the willfully ignorant to continue to "take up space" while producing no positive results for the Kingdom of God.
Rejecting the Rulership of Righteousness
It apparently wasn’t enough for the citizens to merely hate the nobleman, for the parable continues: "and [his citizens] sent a message after him, saying, ‘We will not have this man to reign over us’ ". Ironically, this actually happened to Archelaus as well: the Jews of that day appealed to Augustus, describing the cruelties they had experienced under Archelaus and the Herodic dynasty in general, which ultimately led to Archelaus being deposed by Rome.
In the case of the present day Church, Christ has long been deposed from leadership in the vast majority of assemblies. The widespread accepted practice of state incorporation -- a heinous rejection of the providence and provision of Almighty God through our Lord Jesus Christ, neutering the local church into becoming a business organization rather than a living spiritual organism -- has usurped both the authority and the protection of God, Who certainly allows His own to make their own decisions, even when those decisions prove to be fatal. Many of those who would qualify as servants have regressed into being mere citizens who, like the citizens of the parable, stubbornly refuse the leadership which God Himself has ordained. Sundays and Wednesdays in many church buildings purport a form of worship, but certainly there are no Godly powers or gifts of the Holy Spirit in manifestation. What remains after the removal of the benevolent authority of the Godhead and the Scriptures is merely a putrifying corpse, no different than the condition of those Pharisees whom Jesus describes as "whited sepulchres, full of dead men’s bones". At a time when the absolute rulership of our God and His Christ are so vital and in dire need of being fully restored, it appears as though the tide is toward the death of Christian civilization as we know it.
The overthrow of Christ’s rulership by His people is certainly as ancient as Adam himself. A certain stiffnecked resistance has always followed the casting off of His authority; the greatest consequences are present within the household of God. For this reason, judgment must come first to His house. There are many present day assemblies which appear to manifest the gifts of the Spirit and which engage in intense forms of demonstration of what is called "praise and worship", yet the spirit of the congregants remain largely untouched amidst the flexing of the soul: the mind, the will, the intellect of the natural man. Although this will often feel satisfying to those who attend, the effect is quite similar to a drug addict’s "fix – a temporary "high". As good as it might make one feel, it is a counterfeit to the genuine deep inner work of the Holy Spirit. Just as Elijah found the voice of God; not in the wind, in the earthquake or in the fire, but in a still, small voice (1 Kings 19:12); so too must we seek His direction in the intimate fellowship with His Spirit.
Results of Rejection
While some spectacular events may seem to occur in the raucous assemblies, exercises of soul alone must always come to no lasting benefit. The true victims are those who sincerely hunger and thirst after righteousness, who find themselves caught up in the intensity of the feelings but who lack the Scriptural knowledge to rightly divide truth from error. Then there are those who cannot seem to get beyond having to understand the workings of the Holy Spirit by their intellect, where the natural man cannot discern the things of the Spirit, so these workings appear as foolishness to him. In any case, those who are continuing to sincerely seek that intimate spiritual relationship with the Father through His Son, our Lord Jesus the Christ will always be satisfied, for God is always willing to reveal Himself to those who seek him in Spirit and in Truth. (St. John 4:23-24). It is both tragic and regrettable that so often a major life crisis becomes the impetus for this sincere search, nevertheless those who seek Him shall surely find Him!
The record of Scripture reveals a God Whose mercy is extended continually to sincere seekers of Truth in any age. The misery of sin and separation, when brought under the authority of the Blood of Christ, is done away and gloriously transformed into an intimate fellowship which is truly indescribable.
The Return of Christ as King: The Day of Reckoning
The parable continues: "And it came to pass that when he was returned, having received the kingdom, then he commanded these servants be called unto him, to whom he had given the money, that he might know how much every man had gained by trading". The nobleman returns, having been given the complete authority over his kingdom, and it is both prudent and reasonable that he should demand an accounting from the servants who have been entrusted with his wealth. Only three accounts are noted in the parable: perhaps three examples were sufficient to make the point, but more likely there is a deeper significance to this trio. We are left to assume that the remaining servants would have been similarly examined.
The first servant to appear announced that he had used the "pound" he had been given to increase its value in the marketplace to eleven pounds – a ten pound gain – , or an 1100% return. The text does not insert a time factor, nor is it clear from the context as to whether this profit was gained by passive investment or actual physical and/or intellectual labors, but the word "gained" as used here would tend to imply that the profit was made by labor.
The second servant came forth with his account of having increased the value of his "pound" by five pounds to six pounds. The implication is again clear that this profit was made by labors. Although the gain was smaller than the first, a 600% return is nevertheless a respectable showing indeed!
The third and final account comes from the lips of one who came, apparently in fear and trembling, before the nobleman to merely return the "pound" which had been entrusted to him, having wrapped it in a handkerchief and hidden it away for the term of the nobleman’s absence. Not only had he no profit to show for the trust which was placed in him, the value of that pound had likely somewhat diminished during the nobleman’s absence.
These three reckonings are symbolic of the accounting which will be required of God’s servant nation at the time of the judgment. Each of us has been entrusted with both natural talents and spiritual gifts, and we will be called to declare that which we have gained from this "treasure in earthen vessels". As the saying goes, "Finding God’s will is life’s greatest Treasure, doing God’s will is life’s greatest Pleasure". There is always gain to be made in His Kingdom, therefore we must be about the Father’s business in everything we set out to do. Of course, this clearly means that we avoid those thoughts, words and deeds which are non-productive; and as we allow ourselves to be used as His instrument to produce fruit in the Kingdom, we shall find the attraction toward non-productive things will grow weaker as we become more intimate with Him.
Commendations, Compensations and Consequences
In each case, certain declarations were made concerning the responsibility of each servant in the business of managing the talent he received. Accolades were lavished upon those whose ability and efforts had produced a measurable gain, while condemnation was heaped upon the fearful and the lazy.
The first servant, who had used the "pound" he was given to gain another ten pounds was highly commended as having done well, and as a reward was given the authority as a governor over ten cities in the nobleman’s kingdom.
The excellent performance of his responsibility clearly showed that he was qualified to assume this leadership position.
The second servant, although perhaps not as highly commended was also lauded and given authority over five cities. He too had displayed the requisite diligence which made him worthy to take on added responsibilities.
The third servant, after making his trembling confession was likely expecting punishment, and he got it! Not only does he shirk his responsibility, but he has the audacity to criticize the nobleman for what he perceives to be a miserly attitude. As if that wasn’t enough, this wicked and slothful servant adds an accusation which is tantamount to calling his master a thief when he accuses the nobleman of "taking up" that which he hadn’t "laid down" and "reaping" what he did not "sow". It is truly incredible to witness such blame-shifting offered as excuses for the lack of diligence and performance.
Rightfully so, this lazy servant inadvertently pronounced his own judgment, as the nobleman decided to let the servant’s own words be the standard by which he would receive his punishment. While not giving the accusations any credibility, the nobleman proceeds to repeat the servant’s own words back into his burning ears, reminding him that at the very least he could have put the "pound" to work at the money exchange where it would have drawn modest interest. Then the nobleman ordered that this servant’s pound be taken from him and given to the servant who had gained the most profit. The text does not describe further punishment, but it is clear that the servant was humiliated and disgraced, and was probably given the most undesirable assignments among all the servants of this kingdom.
It is well to note that even the giving of this one pound to the servant who had gained ten pounds was met with jealousy by those who whined, "[But] he has ten pounds". The implication is that one of the other servants who had less of an amount would benefit more by the extra pound. If that was true, then why didn’t these other servants make a better profit to begin with, seeing as they all started with the same amount and supposedly had equal access to the marketplace?
The Lord’s Own Application
Jesus proceeds to conclude the parable by a direct salvo upon His enemies; and by extension, His enemies are become our enemies. There is nothing concerning His enemies which has changed from that day to this: the hateful descendants of those who sought to tempt and sorely test him at every turn, who incited the crowds against Him, who stood in the mob assembled at Christ’s trial before Pontius Pilate yelling, "Crucify Him! Crucify Him!" and "His Blood be upon us and upon our children", those who doggedly and relentlessly pursue His disciples to this very day to persecute and confound us in every way.
Jesus says, "For I say unto you, that unto every one which has shall [more] be given; and from him that has not, even that which he [thinks he] has shall be taken away from him. But those mine enemies, which should not [desire] that I should reign over them, bring [them] hither, and slay them before me."
This final statement hardly requires any comment. Let none of us be numbered among the Lord’s enemies, for their judgment is certain! Let us rather be most diligent in all that we do, redeeming the time we’ve been allotted, being fervent in spirit, serving the Lord with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength.
I cannot think of any finer conclusion to this lesson than to consider this passage from the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans, Chapter 12:
"I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service [worship]. And be not conformed [fashioned, molded] to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; or ministry, let us wait on [serve] our ministering: or he that teaches, on teaching; or he that exhorts, on exhortation: he that gives, let him do it with simplicity; he that rules, with diligence; he that shows mercy, with cheerfulness. Let love be without dissimulation [hypocrisy]. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honor preferring one another; not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality. Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not. Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits. Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lies in you live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, vengeance is mine; I will repay, says the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: For in doing so, you shall heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good."
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