What Did He Mean, Occupy Till I Come?
Nathaniel J. Wilson
“And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, occupy till I come.” Luke 19:13
Once it is clearly established in the mind of the apostolic preacher that he is called of God, and he has a clear understanding of what his purpose in life is and once he understands that it is a position of sober responsibility, then he must recognize that with responsibility God always gives authority. It is at this point that it is very important that the man of God understand what is expected of him as far as “bearing fruit” in his ministry is concerned.
Does God expect everybody that preaches to be successful in whatever his ministry is? Am I not successful if I simply defend the faith and maintain my walk with the Lord? What is the minimum requirement that God makes of me?
The title of this chapter is a general all-inclusive statement, made by our Lord, which gives us instruction as to what the man of God is expected to do while Jesus Christ is not here in person. This saying, “Occupy until I come,” is found in a parable in the 19th chapter of Luke, verses 11 through 27. If you are not will acquainted with the parable, it will be very helpful to you to stop here and read it carefully before going on.
Verse 11 gives us the purpose for the parable. Apparently the apostles and other disciples felt that Jesus Christ was going to set up His kingdom at this time as He went close to the city of Jerusalem. Verse eleven tells us that they thought that the kingdom of God would immediately appear. They believed that Christ was going to literally and actually set up His millennial kingdom, or physical rule on earth, right at this very time in His ministry. Obviously, this was a mistaken concept. They did not understand what he was doing or His immediate purposes, nor did they understand fully His plan of the ages. Christ knew that they were confused as to what God was doing next, and consequently, He gave them this parable to clarify God’s actions in their minds.
By use of the parable, He explains to them that He is going away and that while He is gone, He has called His servants and delivered them authority to take care of that business of His which remains on earth. It is at this point that He says, “Occupy until I come.” It is obvious that this is a very important statement of the purposes of God’s Church on earth while He is gone to Heaven, for He reiterates the theme of this parable in numerous other parables in His teachings.
In verse 12, He identifies Himself as being the nobleman or landowner who goes to a far country to receive for Himself a kingdom and informs them that He will return. In verse 13, He calls His servants to Him and delivers to them the authority and equipment necessary to care for His kingdom until He comes. Again, we note that He uses the phrase to describe this action as “Occupy until I come.” In verse 14, He informs us that He considers the whole world as belonging to Him—that all “citizens ” belong to Him. But He also points out to us that while He is gone, “His citizens hated Him” and sent a message after Him saying, “We will not have this man to rule over us.” In other words, He lets us know that everyone will not receive the message of truth, that there will be those who will rebel against the purpose of God during this present age in which we live.
Verse 15, gives us the picture of Jesus returning, just as He promised that He would. We notice that while He is gone, He has received the Kingdom which He had gone to obtain and when He comes back, the first recorded action is His command that those servants to whom He had given money be called unto Him that He might know how much every man had “gained by trading.”
The term “Occupy until I come” has been given many definitions by preachers over the years. Many times in periods of self-pity and apparent defeat, saints of God and preachers alike have used this statement to justify the attitude of simply “holding their own.” This logic goes something like this, “I have done my best. It seems that nothing works. Perhaps, I was not meant to be successful in working for God in this world, therefore, I will simply attempt to ‘hold on’ and be faithful to Him until He comes. It is evident that I cannot go forward, so I will just determine to hold on and at least not go backward, until He comes. Like Noah of old, even though I may not win converts, at least I will be faithful in witnessing and in preaching and in stumbling along and humbly doing the best that I can. Even if I cannot do anything else, at least I can hold on and occupy until He comes.”
Let us forever settle it in our minds that this attitude is absolutely not the perfect will of God for anybody in His kingdom. “Occupy until I come,” was never meant just to “hold on,” and “protect what you have” until Jesus comes. In fact, both the statement, “Occupy until I come,” and the correct definition of “occupy until I come,” comes out of this very parable which we are now studying. Paul gave the definition of what a minister is in First Corinthians, 4 and verse 1:
“Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God.”
The responsibility of a steward is two-fold, just as the word “occupy” has a meaning that is two-fold. First, a steward is meant to protect that which has been committed unto him. Here Paul tells us that a man of God is to be looked upon by the church as a protector of the mysteries of God. A mystery, scripturally speaking, is any truth revealed by God to man. The man of God is to protect the revelation that God has given through His word to the human race. He is to do this in whatever way is necessary. He does it by imparting this truth to the human race through preaching and by defending this truth from errors taught by false preachers. It is a defensive posture. It is an “earnestly contending for” the things of God.
Whatever else the man of God may be, he is definitely projected in the Word of the Lord as a defender of the faith and a defender of its doctrines. One of the sad things which we see today is that the preacher, who may be very capable in some areas, but sadly lacking in this one, neglects the most basic sober responsibilities committed to him.
So much attention has lately been given to teach men how to administrate and orchestrate the minds of people to produce numerical growth, that not nearly enough attention has been given to the inner life of the man of God—the deep, deep, prayer—which drives into his own heart the importance of the convictions that God’s Word has committed to him in trust. The preacher who sarcastically down-plays the importance of repentance, or the importance of water baptism in the Name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sin, or the importance of the infilling of the Holy Ghost as evidenced by speaking in other tongues, or the importance of holiness and living a life separated from the world and all that goes with it, including modesty of dress and order as established in God’s Word—regardless of his age—he is a novice. He may have numerical growth and impressive credentials in the areas of administration, but this is certainly not enough to commend his work. In fact, what good is it going to do to have 10,000 in attendance if a minister has failed in the very basic of all his responsibilities, which is-to be a protectorate and a projector of God’s divine truths as recorded in His Word?
While some of the things in God’s Word may look unimportant to the mind of the favor-seeking, young, aspiring minister, it is nevertheless true that if God had not thought them important, He would not have put them in His word. Things that have to do with social order and standards of holiness which are “pooh-poohed” by the suave, slick, psychology-oriented, young minister are nevertheless absolutely essential to the spiritual success of a God-ordered local assembly. If precious verses in God’s holy, anointed, eternal Word were used by the great men of God of old to give us instruction and governmental precepts, then certainly they must be needed, and they are not open to debate.
God would not have spent time putting things in His Word which are frivolous or unimportant. The accusation of those men who claim that “majoring on minors” may be justified where men do not understand the “first things first” of the gospel. But, on the other hand, this certainly does not justify straying from what God’s word absolutely and clearly projects to us as part of God’s revelation. And we must never forget that the man of God in one of his very first responsibilities is responsible to protect the revelations that God has made available for the human race. We must remember that in I Corinthians 4:2, Paul tells us,
“Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.”
The second responsibility of a steward is to enlarge the holdings of his master or owner. He is not only a protector but also an investor. The word occupy has two meanings. In a passive sense, occupy does mean to protect that for which we have been made responsible. However, as we shall see in this parable, the primary meaning of occupy is not to protect, but to invest. One of the great challenges to the man of God is to be both a protector and investor simultaneously. If there is anywhere the responsibilities of the man of God can be divided into general classes, perhaps it is in this area of protectors and investors.
Many men would never dream of forsaking the truths revealed in God’s Word. However, as called men of God, they are very poor spiritual investors and are going to have very little profit to show at the Lord’s return. On the other hand, there are those of whom we spoke previously who are good investors but have forsaken (and fatally so) their duties of protecting truth. Hence, all of their investing is purposeless hi that the kingdom that they are building no longer is accepted of the Lord anyway.
This next portion is written on the assumption that the man of God who is the reader is already a steward in the sense of being a protector. It is imperative that before a man be a good investor—steward in God’s kingdom—he must first be a good protector-steward. The protector phase of stewardship must precede the investor phase of stewardship. A man must first know what the boundaries of the kingdom of Jesus are. He must know the circumscribed perimeters of the truths that he is attempting to give to the human race. It is impossible for him to be a proficient investor if he does not understand the “stuff” he is investing. But once a man knows the Owner well, and knows the material to be invested, and picks up the spirit and conviction necessary to protect the things to be invested, then he is responsible to begin to invest.
This side of stewardship is not defensive but rather offensive. It is not a passive stewardship. It is not the cautious, conservative eye of protectionism, but rather the care-less, abandoned, risk-taking that is necessary to enlarge the borders of the kingdom. It requires that the active best be brought out of a man. It requires planning, perseverance, and determination, boldness, and willingness to sacrifice. This aspect of apostolic stewardship must be strongly emphasized to each of us, whether or not it is a pleasant thought.
It is a fact that most men live a long way from the exertion of their best. It is something that is preached about and idealized and dreamed about in the minds of men who vicariously live it through the lives of others, such as the apostles. However, this is not the way that Jesus Christ meant for it to be. Jesus meant for every man of God to take personally God’s admonishments to work to his highest potential. He meant for His men to be as diligent in their fulfilling of the perfect will of God as was the Son of God. He fully intends this call to be an all-consuming, lifetime, all-encompassing occupation. He not only desires us to have success—He demands it. He not only promised the possibilities of producing gain but requires it as an absolute necessity to be pleasing to Him as a responsible steward in His kingdom on earth.
Most men seldom, if ever, exert their best in a lengthy concerted way. In fact, many men do not realize what they are capable of. They have never “jumped in” faith and wrestled their way through with no thought of failure or defeat. Somewhere, to really break through, a man must invariably come to that place.
Note that when the nobleman came back from his far journey, he came back to find out how much every man had “gained by trading.” The first one to whom God had committed a portion of His kingdom while He was gone came to the Lord, saying, “Lord, thy pound hath gained ten pounds.” Then notice the Master’s reply. He said unto him,
“Well done, thy good servant: because thou hast been faithful in a very little, have thou authority over ten cities.”
What a multiplied reward God gives for just a little faithfulness in fulfilling the position of steward! And a second came saying,
“Lord, thy pound hast gained five pounds.” And the Lord said unto him also, “Be thou also over five cities.” And another came, saying, “Lord, behold here is thy pound, which I have kept laid up in a napkin; for I feared thee, because thou art an austere man: thou takest up that thou layest not down, and reapest that thou didst not sow.”
Please notice that this third man, recorded in the parable, did more talking than the first two put together.
Some people have a real penchant for making excuses. This man had a well-thought-out list of clear-cut reasons why he acted as he did. There is no doubt that he felt absolutely confident that, even though others may not have good reasons for not having gained by investing that which they were given, he did have good reasons, which would surely stand up before the Lord. After all, had he not successfully protected that which had been given to him? Did he not keep safely that portion of the kingdom which had been committed to him? Oh, friend, if there is any passage of Scripture that ought to make the apostolic preacher tremble lest he be non-productive, it is this one! For out of the very words of his excuse, Christ replies to him,
“…Out of thine own mouth will I judge thee, thou wicked servant. Thou knewest that I was an austere man, taking up that I laid not down, and reaping that I did not sow: Wherefore then gayest not my money into the bank, that at my coming I might have required mine own with usury?…Take from him the pound and give it to him that hath ten pounds.”
And they said unto him, “Lord, he hath ten pounds.” It is at this point that Christ gave that great, seemingly paradoxical statement concerning the apportionment of the goods of his kingdom. In verse 26, he says,
“Unto everyone who hath shall be given: and from him that hath not, even that he has shall be taken away from him.”
Have you ever wondered why it is that it seems like some men just constantly continue to be blessed? Has it ever occurred to you that it seems as though some people have special favor with God? We know that God treats everybody and respects all human beings equally as to their innate value. However, has it ever occurred to you that some people seem to be at “the right place at the right time,” to receive the richest of God’s best?
Well, this is no accident. It is God’s way. On the other hand, have you ever seen someone who is not blessed of God, and notices that others are, and constantly becomes more disgruntled with his own position? And as his complaints get louder and his bitterness goes deeper, it seems like his life becomes even more devoid of the blessings of God, until finally, at long last, he has worked himself into a rut of defeatism and excuses from which he never will extricate himself? Or worse yet, he loses out with God and backslides and blames his failures upon everything and everybody except himself.
Some lay the blame upon the “politics of the brethren.” They lay the blame on the fact that “I don’t have the right family name to be anything.” Others insist that they fail because they have not been blessed with education, or natural talent, or gifted abilities to speak, or a hundred other mundane reasons. The real fact of the matter is that they are completely blinded concerning the reasons for their lack of blessings. In the parable, notice that from him who did not have was taken even that which he had! And it was given to him who had the most!
This is how God works. If you want more of His blessings, you must first invest what you have. And the more you invest and gain, the more He gives to you. God will never commit Himself to a servant who is not willing to invest what he already has. The Apostle John made this same observation in his day when he stated in John 2:24, 25, “But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men, and needed not that any should testify of man; for he knew what was in man.”
God expects and demands production. In the church age Christ did not set up His ministry to simply “hold its own,” but rather to go forward and win the lost. To enlarge His kingdom, to further the growth of His Church. To push back the frontiers of Satan. To permeate this world with light. To lead lost men to truth and hope. In fact, Jesus teaches us that being productive brings both the minister and the saints real joy. John 15:5,
“the same bringeth forth much fruit. ”
(8) Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.”
(11) “These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.”
It is clear from this portion of Scripture that God’s glory abounds only as we bear much fruit. Some would say, “But that means fruit of the spirit, not fruit of winning souls.” This is an invalid argument. Any time the true fruit of the spirit is manifested, souls will be won. Soulwinning is a natural outgrowth of a fruitful spiritual life. We must simply face it—Christ expects and demands of us to bear fruit. However, He never expects us to do anything that He has not empowered us to do. If we are not bearing fruit, we are simply not where we ought to be with Christ. It is time to act! Let us do so now!
This article “What Did He Mean, Occupy Till I Come?” by Nathaniel J. Wilson was excerpted from the book Plain Talk about the Man of God and His Work. March 2011. It may be used for study & research purposes only.