...Occupy till I come."
from Luke 19:13
As the global protest movement "Occupy" slogs into its fifth month, I'm reminded of another command to do the same. Only this "occupy" has a much different meaning, and was issued nearly two thousand years ago. The command was given through a parable told by our Lord Jesus Christ, while lodging in Zaccheus' house in Jericho, en route to His triumphal entry into Jerusalem. It is recorded for us in Luke 19, vv11-27, and is often called 'The Parable of the Ten Minas, or Pounds'.
Aside from Jesus' command for us to "Occupy till [He] comes", my recall of the parable was a bit weak. Actually, pretty rusty. So, I thought I'd better revisit the whole chapter (see previous link). Why was this parable told? More to the point, how exactly should we as believers occupy till He comes? Am I 'occupying' according to Jesus' command, or more like that of the current protestors?
The term "occupy" is used in the KJV. Some others use the full definition of the word as it was commonly used at the time of translation of this version. Strong's G4231 [Greek] for this verb, "occupy", lists the transliteration as 'pragmateuomai', and in this passage means to 'carry on a business' - further, 'the business of a banker or trader'. Therefore, some versions will have this verse read as, "Do business till I come", or "Trade till I come".
Jesus told this parable to correct a misunderstanding His disciples and followers had about His purpose for entering in to Jerusalem. They thought His establishment of the kingdom of God on earth was imminent, despite having been told directly by the Messiah that He had to go away to receive this kingdom, and then return to rule and reign in all power and glory.
Luke 19:11-13 reads:
11And 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. 12He said therefore, A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return. 13And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, Occupy till I come.
This parable is so rich. An amazing analysis of how grace operates. At the same time, it's sobering. I'm certain I can't do it justice in this post, for so many reasons. Not the least of which is, I need to study it further myself. There are so many good commentaries written on this passage...
Briefly, the nobleman represents Jesus Christ. The ten servants are believers who are given ten minas (a mina is said to have been about 4 months wages). They are dispensed equally among them; one each. The nobleman instructs them to "occupy", or do business, with that sum of money until his returns. No date of return is given to his servants. The ten minas, or pounds, represent the gift of the Gospel freely given to each believer.
In the parable, there are other citizens of the nobleman's country who hate him and don't want him to be the ruler of their country. They send a "delegation" to the far country to protest the crowning of the nobleman over them. Some commenators tell of an interesting historical parallel to this story which involved Archelaus, Herod the Great's son. These citizens represent non-believers who do not want the Lordship of Jesus Christ. They actively rebel against him, rejecting His gift of salvation.
When the nobleman king returns, he calls the ten servants to give an account of the business, or trade, they did when he was absent. There are three of the ten servants who give an account and are featured in the parable. Two servants increased the money from investing wisely, while the third did nothing but keep the original mina in a handkerchief/piece of cloth. All three receive 'rewards' proportional to their service. In another sense, as one commentary states, the rewards for the first two who faithfully 'occupied' in the nobleman's absence "far exceed the service".
The third servant, however, had excuses for why he did not invest the mina in the nobleman's absence. It seems he blames it all on the nobleman for not only being a 'harsh' master, but a thief as well. His attitude is not much better than those rebellious citizens. He had carelssly kept the mina in a handkerchief, not even burying it as was the custom in the Jewish culture back them for keeping gifts of great value safe. He was so lazy, he didn't even bother to put it in a bank (lender's table) where it could have earned some interest. In essense, he told the nobleman that he didn't think it fair to have to do the all the work and then have the nobleman reap the benefits of his hard work upon return. This third servant is said to represent false believers.
The nobleman then judges that third servant "by [the servant's] own words". He takes away his one mina and and gives it to the servant who increased his to ten. The false servant is stripped of everything. Such a powerful example of what happens when one who is faithless abuses grace.
Then, the nobleman deals with the rebellious citizens - His enemies who hate him. They are slain in His presence.
As John MacArthur wrote in his sermon Fitting Rewards From the Returning King:
There it is in one story...rewards for the faithful, rejection for the false, retribution for the foes. Where are you? What group is your group? All under the sovereignty of the King.
~So, I have to ask myself...how am I going about 'occupying' until He comes? Am I taking His gift of grace - God's Riches At Christ's Expense - and using it for His glory alone? Am I exercising faith in Him, in all things? Do I ask Him for opportunities to share the good news about our Savior?
Or, am I just operating under false pretenses, like the third servant - or many of the Occupy protestors, who set up tents in town squares and give the appearance they will remain for the cause - only to go home to a hot meal and a warm bed at night?
This parable gives me so much to consider. I hope it does the same for you. If you get the chance, and care to do so, please share your thoughts and what you are doing to "occupy" until He comes.
I pray that we as as believers will be found as the first two servants upon the Nobleman's return - having been faithful to our Lord Jesus Christ, going about His business for as long as He tarries.