Occupy Till I come
October 19th, 1975 @ 8:15 AM
OCCUPY TILL I COME
Dr. W. A. Criswell
10-19-75 8:15 a.m.
We welcome you who are sharing the service on radio. You are listening to the First Baptist Church in Dallas and to the pastor who is bringing the message entitled Occupy Till I Come.
Now, if you will open your Bible to the nineteenth chapter of Luke, we are going to expound an unusual story of the Lord Jesus. Luke 19, beginning at verse 11. Luke 19, beginning at verse 11: "And as they heard these things, He spake a parable, because He was nigh to Jerusalem, and because they thought that the kingdom of God should," apocalyptically, cataclysmically, "immediately appear." And He said, "A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return" [Luke 19:11-12]. And that nobleman is our Lord, who is exiled in another place and is coming back someday to receive a kingdom here in this earth. "And that nobleman called ten servants, and delivered unto them ten pounds, and said unto them, Occupy till I come" [Luke 19:13]. And that is the text.
But his citizens hated him, and sent a message after him, saying, We will not have this one to reign over us.
But it came to pass, that when he was returned, having received the kingdom, he commanded these servants to be called unto him, to whom he had given the money, that he might know how much every man had gained by trading.
Then came the first, saying, Lord, thy pound hath gained ten pounds.
And he said unto him, Well, thou good servant: because thou hast been faithful in a very little, have thou authority over ten cities.
And the second came, saying, Lord, thy pound hath gained five pounds.
And he said likewise to him, 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 layedst not down, and reapest that thou didst not sow.
And he said unto him, Out of thine own mouth will I judge thee, thou wicked, slothful, unprofitable servant. You knew that I was an austere man, taking up that I laid not down, and reaping that I did not sow:
Why then did you not give my money into the bank, that at my coming I might at least have received mine own with interest?
And he said unto them that stood by, Take from him the pound, and give it to him that hath ten pounds.
(And they said, Lord, he has got ten pounds already.)
But the Lord answered, I say unto you, That unto every one which hath shall be given; and from him that hath not, even that he hath shall be taken away.
And those enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me.
Now that is about as mundane and terrestrial a story as you will ever hear from the business world, and it is a business parable.
The word "occupy," "Occupy till I come" [Luke 19:13], there’s a Greek word pragma, pragma, and it refers to a trade or a business, something that has to do with this mundane world. And from that word we get our English word pragmatic or pragmatism. Pragmatism is a doctrine that concerns this world, the materialities of this life. And one who is pragmatic is one who is practical. Pragmatism, referring to the affairs and the business of this life; and that’s the word translated in verse 13, "Occupy." Now I think that’s a good translation in the sense in which the Lord is telling the parable. Actually what the Lord says, pragmateuomai, the verbal form of it, "trade, do business until I come." In the fifteenth verse, the same word is translated "trading"; "He called the servants that he might know how much every man had gained by pragmateuomai" [Luke 19:15], the same word translated here "occupy," by trading. So the story has to do with our mundane business affairs.
Now, looking at it, this nobleman called in his servants, and he gave to each one of them a sum of money, and said to each one, in the text, "Occupy till I come, pragmateuomai, do business until I return" [Luke 19:13]. So the first thing I see in the teaching of our Lord is that what I have, I have received it from His gracious hands. I am a steward, I am a receiver, I am a debtor, I did not create or originate what God has given me. I am just a steward, using it until the Lord comes. There is not any land but God’s land. There is not any sunshine but God’s sunshine. There’s not any air but God’s air. And there’s not any time but God’s time. If I plow a field, it’s God’s field; if I breathe air, it’s God’s air. If I bask and am blessed in the sunlight, it’s God’s sunlight. And if I live, it is in God’s time. So we receive from His gracious hands everything that we have, all of it. And the Lord says, "Trade with it, use it: the air, the sunshine, the vernal showers, the rich fertile fields, the days and the time, the span of life, use it until I come."
Now there must be a tremendous purpose of God in thus placing in our hands these things, and asking us to pragmateuomai, to use them, to trade with them until He comes back. What could that be? Well, maybe God is in need. Oh? I might think so were it not for the amount that the Lord gave to each one of the servants. You have it translated here, "And he gave to them each one a pound" [Luke 19:13]. Now the Greek word is "m-n-a" and it’s kind of hard for us to pronounce it; "He gave to each one a mna, a mna." And a mna referred to a little weight of silver that equaled one hundred drachmae. Now if I could use it in our speech today, he gave each one something like, say, twenty dollars, twenty-five dollars. Or if we inflated it, he gave each one of them fifty dollars, let’s say. Now did the nobleman need those little sums of money? This is a great man, and he is coming back to receive a vast kingdom; and we’re talking about each one was given twenty-five dollars. Did the nobleman need the money? No, it was a tip almost to him. There must be some purpose in God’s goodness toward us in what little that we have. It certainly isn’t that God needs our little sums, our little possessions.
For example, in the fiftieth Psalm, the Lord says, "If I were hungry, I would not tell thee: for the cattle on a thousand hills are Mine, and the gold and silver are Mine" [Psalm 50:10, 12; Haggai 2:8]. Isn’t that an amazing thing? Look at it again: did you know, I’m sure you know, that no small part of the offerings that were brought to Jehovah God in the tabernacle and in the temple were wholly burned up [Leviticus 1:3-17, 6:8-13]. Isn’t that an astonishing thing? And yet, the Lord demanded that if any man came with his offering, it be the best of the flock or the first of the increase; and then God burned it up, completely burned it up. Is it because God is poor, or He is hungry, or He is needy, or He lacks that He demands an accounting of these stewards, and asks them to work and to trade and to produce? [Luke 19:13, 15]. Is it because God lacks? That’s impossible, it’s unthinkable; and it is not of course in the Word of God. Well, then why does God give us these possessions and asks us to trade with them and to use them for Him? The reason lies in us, not in God. God is trying to develop something marvelous and wonderful in us. Let me illustrate that.
There was a farmer on this side watching his neighbor farmer on this side; and this farmer had six boys. And he worked those boys day and night raising crops. And upon a day, this farmer said to his friend, he said, "Neighbor, you don’t have to work those boys so hard to raise a crop." And the farmer replied, "My good friend, I’m not raising a crop, I’m raising boys!" That’s exactly what God is doing with us. He doesn’t need what little I have or could bring before Him. He says, "If I were hungry I would not mention it to you. All the cattle, and the gold, and the silver in the earth, and the stars, and the whole creation are Mine" [Psalm 50:10, 12: Haggai 2:8]. What God is doing is something in us: He is developing us.
Well, just look at how God wants to develop; what kind of a thing is it that God does with us? The first thing I notice in it is God expects us to work, He expects us to trade, He expects us to do business for Him. God expects us to labor [Luke 19:13, 15]. Now that’s a strange doctrine in this welfare state. And that’d be a strange message for a man to preach in New York City. And that’d be an astonishing thing to say to these liberals that lead the Democratic Party, that God expects His people to work, and to strive, and to labor. But that’s God, that’s the Almighty; and He never changes in that. For example, in the first chapter of the Book of Joshua, the Lord says to Joshua, "Joshua, be strong and of good courage, and go over this Jordan. And every place that your foot shall tread upon, that have I given to you." The Lord said, "Joshua, I will give you the whole Promised Land, all of it" [Joshua 1:1-7]. So Joshua went over, and he crossed with his people and the army of Israel; and every inch of the land he had to fight for [Joshua 1:1-12:24]. Now tell me, couldn’t God with a gesture of His hand, with a sweep of His arm, couldn’t God have given to Joshua and to Israel the whole Palestinian country, couldn’t He? God doesn’t do it that way. "I give it to you," says the Lord God, "but you fight for it, every inch of the way."
Now let’s take a word out of the Lord Jesus. He says in the sixth chapter of the Book of Matthew, out of which we just read, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, "Now you look at these birds, you look at these fowls of the air. Does not your heavenly Father feed them?" [Matthew 6:26]. That’s right; the heavenly Father takes care of them. But you know how He takes care of them? They get up at four-thirty o’clock every morning, and they work, and scratch, and fly around, and hustle, and stay with it all day long. How many of you get up at four-thirty o’clock every morning and stay with it? Even Mary doesn’t do that. But that’s the Lord God. What the Lord God asks of His people is that they labor with what they have, that we work with what we have. And it is that labor and it is that work that makes it precious in the sight of the Lord God.
David said, when Araunah offered him the place and the sacrifice and the wood and the altar, "Take it, my lord and king, take it"; David replied, "Nay; but I will buy it of thee at a price: for I will not offer to God that which doth cost me nothing. I will not do it" [2 Samuel 24:22-24].
I went to Oberammergau long time ago. Antony Lang who had played the Christos had just died. I never got to see him; wish I could have. He was one of the great actors and one of the great Christians of all time. While I was there just walking around the little village of Oberammergau, waiting for the play, somebody said, "You know you American tourists, I’ll tell you a story about you. There was an American tourist with her husband, and she said, ‘Hubby, between acts, go up there and pick up that cross, and let me take a picture of you.’ So Hubby went over there to pick up the cross, and sweet wife to take a picture of him, and he couldn’t lift it. It was so heavy he couldn’t lift it. And his wife there, can you imagine his embarrassment? Wife there waiting to take his picture carrying that heavy cross, he couldn’t even lift it. About that time, Antony Lang came by. And the man turned to him and said, ‘Antony Lang, isn’t this a play? This is a dramatic presentation, why do you have this cross so heavy?’ And the great actor and Christian replied, ‘Sir, if I don’t feel it, I can’t play my part.’" It has to be something of me if it counts before God. And that’s why God asks us to work with it, and to trade with it, and to do business with it.
And then of course that day of responsive reckoning, the accounting of our pragmateuomai: so he calls them, and this is in the day of the great coming of the Lord, of the establishment of His kingdom. What’s that going to be like? Well, here’s one thing: it will involve a beautiful and shining city, the home of God’s redeemed [Revelation 21:2-3]. Oh dear, oh, oh! The walls are gem-studded, and the gates are of solid pearl, and the streets are golden [Revelation 21:14-21], and in it is the throne of our Lord and Savior [Revelation 21:5]. And through the midst of it is a beautiful river, and on either side of the river are the trees of life, plural, multiplied, and the leaves are for the healing of the people [Revelation 22:1-2]. But there’s something else, there’s something else. It is not only a beautiful and shining city, but it is in that coming kingdom, it is a redeemed society [Revelation 22:3-4, 14-17, 5:9-10]. It is an organization, a political commonwealth, an oikonomia, of God and these who have appeared now before the Lord. And what does God do? He says to them, "I have a vast universe to be administered. There are cities and there are millions and billions of people." Now you think how many God shall have in that kingdom, count them all from the beginning of creation, and all of these stars are remade, and the whole universe is purged and cleansed and purified and habitable. There’ll be cities out there on those stars. There’ll be great administrative corporations who are doing business for God all over this universe.
Let me tell you the sorriest caricature that I know in Christendom. It is this and you will see it almost every other day: there’ll be a picture, and a sorry one, of some fellow who has departed this life, and here’s the way the cartoonist will draw him. He’s seated up there on a cloud, and he has the halo over his head, and he has wings on his back, and he has a harp in his hand doing nothing forever: that is a caricature of what God intends for us in the world that is to come. When the kingdom comes, and the world and the stars in the universe are remade, when that kingdom comes, God has the whole universe to administer, and the billions of people who are going to be redeemed and parts of citizens of His kingdom. And here’s what God says He is going to do: He is going to call in these to whom He has entrusted these gifts to trade with, a stewardship [Luke 19:12-19]. And one of them comes, and he says, "Lord, look, look, I took Your mna, those one hundred drachma, I took that mna and look, Lord, I worked, and I labored, and I did it for Thee. And Lord, I give to You ten mna, a thousand drachmae. Look, Lord." And the Lord says, "Wonderful, good. I am going to give you the administration of ten cities." That doesn’t sound like sitting on a cloud. Man, if you had the administration and the care of ten cities, you’d have an assignment for the rest of your life; ten cities! And then another one came and said, "Look, Lord, look, Your mna. Look, look, these, look, I have five hundred drachmae, Lord. Look, five mna. I have labored, and tried, and Lord, look!" And the Lord said, "Good, good. Be thou over five cities." Well, what did I say in the beginning that God is doing? What God is doing is not needing what little we have and possess, He owns it all [Psalm 50:10, 12; Haggai 2:8], but what God is doing is developing us. He is growing Christians, stalwarts in the faith, faithful trustees and stewards.
Now look at these who come before Him. There are some who refuse the King. Isn’t that tragedy? They said, "We will not have Him reign over us" [Luke 19:14]. That’s one class that will appear before God someday; that’s the great white throne judgment [Revelation 20:11-15]. They have no future, they have no destiny. When a man dies outside of Christ, there is no future, and there is no destiny; there’s no tomorrow for him, just the darkness of the blackness of midnight. When a man rejects Christ, and in the day when the Lord returns, he has no future, no part, no tomorrow, no destiny. We weep over that.
Now there’s a second group. One of these servants came and said, "Lord, I put Your mna in a napkin, and I didn’t do anything for You [Luke 19:20]. I just let it lie. I didn’t try, I didn’t work, I didn’t labor, I didn’t do anything. And Lord, here it is. The breath You give me, I give it back to You. The body You give me, I give it back to You. The little possessions that I have, I give it back to You. I haven’t done anything for You, not anything at all." Wouldn’t you weep over that? Wouldn’t you? Wouldn’t you? "Haven’t done anything, haven’t done anything." Wouldn’t you weep over that? Oh, how many times do we think and do we say, "O Lord, if I were some great Pharos," that seventh wonder of the world lighthouse in front of Alexandria in the ancient world, "Lord, if I were some great Pharos, oh, I’d shine for Jesus, and I’d guide great navies safely into the port." But this little light of mine, this little light of mine, how nothing I am.
Do you remember why Bliss wrote that hymn, "Let the Lower Lights be Burning"? There was a ship in his day out in the sea and was guided into a harbor by a great lighthouse. And the light shined, and the ship was guided into the harbor by the great lighthouse. But, the lower lights, those little lights that twinkle along the shore to guide the ship safely in, were not burning. And the great passenger ship foundered. It ran on the rocks, and it sank, and the people were drowned! And Bliss wrote that song:
Let the lower lights be burning, send a gleam across the wave.
Some poor fainting, struggling seaman you may rescue, you may save.
We need the great light. We need the great lighthouse to shine for Jesus. We need the little lights along the shore. God’s kingdom is made so that I have a part in it. I may not count for much, but I count for something. God says so. I may not be able to do much, but I can do something. God says so.
Oh, weep over this: what little God gave him, he never used for the Lord [Luke 19:20-21]. But rejoice over this: the servants that tried, who worked, who strove, they came before the Lord and said, "Look, Lord, look." And though to us it isn’t much, in God’s sight it was wonderful, wonderful; faithful stewards who tried, who worked, and God did not forget in the blessing [Luke 19:16-19].
You know I’ve been here a long time, and I walk in and out among these people. And I see them, and I watch them, and I know them. There’s a man in this church, and you’ve seen him, there’s a man in this church, a humble man, he’s crippled. He works with his hands, he works with his hands. You know what he does? Outside of a little subsistence for him, for him, he gives everything that he has to the Lord, everything. Outside of what little it takes for his subsistence, for his living, he gives everything he has to Jesus, everything, one hundred percent. Once in a while I’ve had him up here. And I am frank to tell you, when he stands there, that I’m not worthy to loosen the latchet of his shoes. And he’s the humblest man in the First Baptist Church in Dallas. But in God’s sight, he’s a great man. Everything that he makes he gives to the work of the Lord.
As I walk in and out among the people, there’s a rich man in the church. That’s one reason I love the church: there’s just everybody in it, all kinds of people in it. There’s a rich man in the church. I was in his beautiful new office a few days ago; oh, it is so lavishly, beautifully appointed. Like these girls would decorate a home, it’s just beautiful. You know what I found out? Thirty percent of everything he makes he gives to Jesus, thirty percent. And I was in my office upon a day, he came to see me. And Mary, he laid in my hands a hundred thousand dollars for the Mary C. Building, and asked me not to mention it. I won’t say anything about it; gave me a hundred thousand dollars. And not only that, but he apologized for it being so small. He said, "One of my business deals didn’t carry through, so I’ll give this now, and I’ll add to it later on. I’ll be back." You know when you walk up and down among the people, and see their hearts, and their souls, I just think, "O Lord, O God, O blessed Savior." And that’s the wonderful thing about the kingdom of our Christ: some of us have just a little, that’s all right, in God’s sight what you do is great in His sight, like the light along the shore; some of us tower out there in the financial world, but whether it’s a light along the shore, or whether it’s a Pharos just shining before the world, in God’s sight it is a marvelous stewardship. And a man can be great in God’s sight whether he’s poor or whether he’s rich, whether he’s learned or whether he’s unlearned, whether he is mighty or almost unknown. That’s how God’s kingdom is put together.
It encourages me. I can have a part and you can too. And when the time comes, both here in this world and in the great bema of Christ in the sky [2 Corinthians 5:10], ah, Lord, may we hear that sweet and final word, "Well done. You did good! Well done, thou good and faithful servant: enter thou into the joy and into the kingdom of our Lord" [Matthew 25:23]. So may we begin now, this morning?
Somebody you to give his heart to Jesus; a family you to come into the fellowship of the church; in a moment, when we sing our song of appeal, as the Spirit of God shall press the appeal to your heart, make the decision now. And when we stand up, stand up coming. "Here I am, pastor, I make it now. I’m coming now. Write it in your book here, and may God write it in His book in heaven [Revelation 20:12, 15, 21:27]; number me among the people and with the family of the Lord. I’m coming now." In the balcony round, you, on this lower floor, you; on the first note of the first stanza, down one of these steps, down one of these aisles; "Here I am, pastor, I’m coming now," while we stand and while we sing.
OCCUPY TILL I COME
Dr. W. A. Criswell
A. "Occupy" – pragma – pragmateuomai
B. He gives each one of us an amount to use, do business with, till He comes
II. What we have is God’s
A. We are stewards
B. We will render an accounting to Him
III. Purpose of God: development of faithful trustees
A. Nobleman does not need these small sums
1. Cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50:10-12)
2. Old Testament sacrifices burned up
3. He is developing us
B. God’s purpose is that we work
1. Joshua had to fight for the land he was given (Joshua 1:2)
2. Fowl of the air – Father feeds them, but they work at it all day (Matthew 6:26)
3. David at the threshing floor of Araunah (2 Samuel 24:20-25)
4. Oberammergau passion play
IV. The coming King and Kingdom
A. A shining city
B. A redeemed society
C. Three classes
1. Christ-rejecting world
2. Those who do nothing with what they are given