OCCUPY TILL I COME
Dr. W. A. Criswell
10-19-75 10:50 a.m.
This is the pastor bringing the message entitled Occupy Till I Come. It is a text in the nineteenth chapter of the Book of Luke, verse 13. And the sermon is an exposition, an expounding of this Word of the Lord. Luke chapter 19, a story told by our Savior, beginning at verse 11:
And as they heard these things,He spake a parable . . . because they thought that the kingdom of God should apocalyptically, cataclysmically descend immediately.
And He said, A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return – talking about Himself, our Lord, gone away into heaven, abiding the day when He comes back to receive the millennial kingdom, the glory of God in heaven and in earth.
So, before he left, while he’s gone, He called ten servants, and delivered unto them ten pounds – to each one a pound – and said unto them, Occupy till I come.
Now his citizens hated him, and sent a message after him, saying, We will not have this fellow to reign over us.
And it came to pass – that little sentence is in there because of an expounded truth that we will look at this morning – it came to pass that when he returned, when the lord came back, when He comes back,,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, look, thy pound hath gained ten pounds.
And he said unto him, Well, good servant: because thou hast been faithful in a very little, have thou authority over ten cities, ten.
And the second came, saying, Lord, thy pound hath gained five pounds.
And he said likewise to him, Be thou also over five cities.
Then another one of them came, saying, Lord, here is your pound, I have kept it in a napkin.
I have feared thee, because thou art an austere man: you take up where you do not lay down, and you reap where you do not sow.
And he said, Out of thine own mouth shalt thou be judged, thou slothful, unprofitable, wicked servant. You knew I was an austere man, taking up that I laid not down, reaping that I did not sow:
Why then did you not give my money to 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 him, and 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 replied, I say unto you, That unto everyone which hath shall be given; and from him that hath not, even that he hath shall be taken away.
And as for those enemies, which would not that I would reign over them, bring them hither, and slay them before me.
Well, that’s about as terrestrial and mundane a story as you’ll ever hear. There’s not one repeated out of the business world, or the merchandising world, or the financial world, or the trading world that is more pragmatic than this.
So, we’re going to expound it from now until our time is spent. He called those servants, thus did the Lord. And he delivered into the hands of each one of them a pound and said, "Occupy, occupy till I come." "Occupy." There’s nothing wrong with that translation "occupy." We have in it the spirit of what the Lord meant. The word is pragmateuomai, translated here "occupy."
Let’s look at that word. Pragma is the word for mundane affairs, trading. Elliott, you have a store. Pragma refers to what you do. You have the biggest hardware store in the city of Dallas. That’s pragmatic work, pragma. Pragma is the substantive, the noun form and refers to a business. Pragmateuomai is the verbal form of the substantive, that is, it refers to doing business, trade.
Now, that’s what the Lord said, "Occupy." There’s nothing wrong with that, but just spelling it out exactly, what he said: pragmateuomai; take this that I’ve given you, and trade with it. Do business with it. Labor with it. Work with it. Make it count, until I return. To show you how the translation sometimes does, in this fifteenth verse, you have the word pragmateuomai translated "trading." Look at the last word in that verse, "That he might know how much every man had gained by pragmateuomai, trading, doing business." That’s the same word translated here "occupy." So, as the Lord went away and is in heaven waiting for the consummation of the kingdom, He gives to each one of us a substance, an amount, and He says with us, Pragmateuomai. Use it. Work with it. Labor with it. Trade with it. Do business with it, until I return.
Now, we begin with an expounding of the text. First, it is very obvious, foundational, that what we have somebody gives us. We don’t originate it or create it. It comes from God. We are none other than stewards, and what we have is an oikonomia, a stewardship. There is not any land but God’s land. There’s 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. It came from Him. If I bask in the light of the sun, that’s God’s sun and God’s light. If I breathe, it’s God’s air that I breathe; He made it. And if I live, it’s in God’s time that I live. The span of my life is from His gracious hands.
So our first fundamental teaching in the Word of God is that I am but a steward. I am but a debtor. The Lord hath given to me for a while the gifts that I have, the possessions that are in my hands. And I must render an accounting unto Him for how I do.
Now, number two: what is the purpose of God in doing this? He gave to each one a m-n-a, mna, mna. That word is a reference to a little amount of silver that is a hundred drachma, I gave you a hundred drachmas. How much is that? Well, before inflation, it is say, twenty dollars, twenty-five dollars; a mna, a hundred drachma. Let’s say, at the most, with all of the inflationary pressures that we know today, let’s say at the outside, at the largest, the biggest, the most expansive, it’s fifty dollars. What is the purpose of the nobleman in giving to these disciples, his servants, those little sums of money, saying, "Pragmateuomai. Trade with them. Use them. Do business with it." What is the purpose of the lord’s doing that?
Now look, do you think that the nobleman needed it, whatever increment that these disciples of his, these traders of his, these servants of his would do? Do you think he needed it? Do you think God has to have what I could give Him? Do you think so? Well, listen to what the Lord says. In the fiftieth Psalm He says, "If I were hungry, I would not tell thee. For the cattle on a thousand hills is Mine. The earth and the fullness thereof are Mine and the gold and the silver is Mine."
Do you think God has to have, God needs, what little that I could offer unto Him, when He has the whole creation, including us? Does He need us? Does He need what we have to,that we’re able to place in His hands? Does He?
Well, let’s look at it again. Do you realize that when the Jew in the Old Testament came before the Lord with an offering – let’s say he lived in the days of the tabernacle, or he lived in the days of the temple – and he came before God with an offering. Do you know – you do know, for you’ve studied the Bible – no small part of the sacrifices and the offerings that were brought before God were absolutely and completely burned up. They were set on an altar fire and were consumed in the flame. And not only that, but God said it has to be the best that is brought, the finest in the flock, without spot or blemish, and the firstfruits of the ground, of the field. And when it was brought to the Lord, burn it up.
There must be something that God is saying to us. What He asks of us is not because He needs it, that He’s hungry and we have to feed Him, that He’s poor and we have to bring Him gifts and offerings. There must be something else. Well, what could it be?
It is very evident in our exposition of this passage what it is. God is preparing us. God is building something great and marvelous in us. The Lord is leading us, He’s growing us. And the purpose of this stewardship, this oikonomia, is that He might train us to be great stalwarts in the kingdom of God.
You know, I can illustrate that exactly. There was a farmer here who had six boys. And there’s a neighbor over here who watched him. And the neighbor farmer, watching that man, his six boys – he worked those boys day and night. They slaved on that farm. And one day the neighbor walked over there to his friend and said, "You don’t have to work those boys that hard to raise a crop."
And the farmer replied, "Sir, I’m not raising a crop. I’m raising boys."
Now, that’s exactly what God is doing with us. He doesn’t need our little gifts, and what little we can bring before Him, which is inconsequential compared to the wealth of Him who made and possesses the whole universe. What He’s doing is, He’s raising us. He is establishing us. He’s building us.
Now, will you notice again how God does it? He says here, "You take what I have placed in your hands. You take it and pragmateuomai. Work with it. Labor with it. Strive with it. Trade with it. Do good with it." So it must be, here as in all the Word of God, that the Lord expects His people to work, to labor, to strive, to try, to do.
Oh, don’t you wish we could get the welfare-staters in New York City just to listen to the Word of God? Don’t you wish that? Don’t you wish you could get all of these Democratic liberals, who forever seek to plunge the government into greater debt, greater debt, by handing out, doling out – don’t you wish you could get them to listen to the Word of God? What does God say? That what He gives us, however it is, we’re to labor and to work and to pragmateuomai. We’re to trade and to do good with it. We’re to strive for it.
Well, let’s just look at God for a minute. He says to Joshua, in the second chapter of the Book of Joshua, He says to him, "Joshua, be strong and of good courage, and cross over this Jordan. For every piece of ground on which you place your foot, I have given it to you and to your people." So, Joshua gathers the armies of Israel together, and the people, and their families, and they cross over that Jordan into the Promised Land. And what? They had to fight for every foot of it, strive and labor for it.
Isn’t that a strange thing about God? Why didn’t God – and could He not? – why didn’t He just take the gesture of His hand, the sweep of His arm, and say, "Joshua, here it is. It’s yours. I give it to you"? That’s not God. God says, "Joshua, I give it to you, but you have to strive for it and work for it, labor for it." And they had to fight for every piece of land that God had promised them in Canaan.
Now, let’s take the Lord Jesus Christ. He’s God, manifest in the flesh. Let’s listen to Him for a minute. In the chapter that we just read, sixth chapter of Matthew, the Sermon on the Mount, He says to us, "Look at the birds. Look at the birds. Your heavenly Father feedeth them." "Look at the birds. Your heavenly Father feedeth them." So, I look at the birds, and the heavenly Father feeds them, but they get up at four thirty o’clock every morning, and they start scratching and working and flying and hunting, and do it all day long. Isn’t that just something? Yeah, the heavenly Father feeds them. That is, they work at it twenty hours a day, and the heavenly Father feeds them.
I read, one time, the beatenest thing I ever heard in my life. There were a bunch of seagulls that sat on a wharf, where the shrimp fishermen came in. And those shrimp fishermen fed the seagulls. You know, some of the shrimp wouldn’t be suitable for human consumption, so they just gave it to the seagulls. And the seagulls didn’t have to work. They didn’t have to fly. They didn’t have to scavenge. They didn’t have to ruminate and they didn’t have to seek. They just sat down and ate fish, ate shrimp.
Well, the story said the shrimp played out, and the fishermen didn’t come anymore, and those seagulls sat there waiting for the fishermen to feed them, and finally starved to death. Isn’t that the beatenest thing you ever saw? Reminds me of some Americans that I know.
Somehow, it is in the purpose of God that we strive, that we work, that we labor, that we pragmateuomai, trade, stay with it, work at it.
Do you remember one of the sweetest stories in the Bible, I think? Araunah, who owns the top of Mount Moriah, where that temple is, the Mosque of Omar, the Dome of the Rock. It was owned by Araunah. And David came and said, "God has told me that I am here to build an altar, to placate the vengeance of heaven that is destroying the people."
And Araunah said, "My Lord," and the Book says that he bowed himself to the ground, "My Lord, nay, not to buy it. I give it to you. Here is the land. Take it. And here are my oxen for sacrifice. Take them. And here are my plows for wood. Cut them up. And here’s stone for the altar." As you know, the Dome of the Rock, it’s a great stone. "It’s yours, King David. Take it. I give it to you." And David replied, "No, no, no. I will not offer to God that which doth cost me nothing."
Somehow, in all of our service for the Lord there is to be an element of meat in it, blood in it, striving in it, praying in it, tears in it, labor in it, toil in it, work in it. Something of me must go in it. Sacrifice.
I was over in Oberammergau a long time ago. One of the most picturesque little Bavarian villages you ever saw. And every ten years, you know, they have that famous story of Christ. I wish I could have gone earlier, before the great Christus player, Anton Lang, died – You know we have a boy in our, he’s the first violinist, are you kin to that family? I can pray so – Oh, he was a great actor and a great man of God! And for thirty years he played the part of Christus.
Well, as I was meandering around over the village, before time came for the presentation of the all-day drama, the life of our Lord, I heard this story. There was an American tourist, just like me. And he had his wife with him, and she thought between acts it would be a very unusual thing if she could take his picture bearing the cross.
So, she said to her hubby, "Now, you go over there and lift up that cross. I’ll take your picture." So she got her camera all set. And hubby went over there to pick up the cross so she can take his picture, and he couldn’t lift it up. It was too heavy, too heavy.
So while he was there standing by that heavy cross, why, Anton Lang came by. And the American tourist said, "Sir, this is inexplicable. This is just a play, a dramatic production. Why do you have this cross so heavy?"
And humbly, the great Christian actor replied, "Sir, if I don’t feel it, I can’t play my part."
In my humble persuasion, the whole work of God is like that. If I don’t feel it, if it doesn’t cost me something, I can’t do it. There has to be something of me that is in it, blood and tears, toil and consecration.
We must hasten.
So, the kingdom comes and the lord returns. And he first calls his servants before him, which is exactly as God says in the Book. When the Lord comes, first He will call His servants before Him.
Now, how’s that going to be, when the kingdom comes and the Lord is here? Well, if we had hours we would just try to describe it. It involves a shining city, a beautiful glorious one. The foundations are studded with precious gems. The gates are of solid pearl. The streets are golden. Through it flows a river of the water of life. And on either side are the trees of life whose leaves are for the healing of the people. That is our home, a place, a mansion He’s preparing for us. That is our capital city.
But there’s something else beside the shining beauty of the New Jerusalem. There is also a redeemed society. There is an organization of dedicated, consecrated, redeemed people. Now I said, an organization. You see, the world twists the truth of God, and mostly makes it ridiculous. That’s Satan.
Did you ever see this? I know you have. Here’s a cartoonist, an artist, and he draws a picture of a man who has departed this life and is in the other world. How does he picture him? In the cartoon, he’ll always be like this. He will be a fellow who is seated on a cloud up there somewhere, and he has a robe on, a white robe. He has a halo over his head. He has wings on his back, and he’s playing a harp. That is the inevitable caricature of the truth of Almighty God, as though, in the world to come, there was nothing to do except sit on a cloud, under a halo, maybe flap our wings once in a while and play on a harp. Just the opposite of that is the truth of God.
My brother, the Lord says that we shall reign with Him. We have the whole universe of God to administer. How big is that? I can’t conceive of it, nor can the finest astronomer. There are millions and billions of Milky Ways. There are stars and planets. There are earths. There are the whole created works of God. And in it there are uncounted millions and millions and millions of God’s redeemed, who’ve been saved through the ages. And in that kingdom we shall live an intensest life, and the Lord is giving into our hands the administration of the whole creation.
So He says to this servant, "How did you do, pragmateuomai, how did you do?"
And this servant comes before the lord and says, "Look, lord. Look, lord, Thy mna, your one-hundred drachmas, with it as I labored and toiled and traded and worked, look, lord, it’s a thousand drachmas. It’s ten mna, ten of them." And the lord said, "Good. Good. You be the ruler over ten cities."
Isn’t that something? These cities; you see, the New Jerusalem is just our capital city. That’s our home. And out of it will we go, issue, to administer the whole creation of God. This one servant, humble as he was, is to be the administrator over ten of God’s cities in that new creation.
And the other one comes and he says, "Lord, look, your five, Your one mna has gained five mna, five hundred drachma."
And the lord says, "That’s great! You be the administrator and ruler over five cities." The intensest life that we shall live in that coming kingdom.
But oh, what weeping. There are some who say, "We’ll not have this man to reign over us." They’re the ones that will stand someday before the great white throne judgment of God. There are some people, as there are some nations I preached about last week, there are some people who have no destiny and no future, none. These are they who reject the Lord and His overtures of grace and mercy. "Bring them and cast them out." Oh, we could weep over a world and over a people that reject our Lord. And when He comes, there’s no destiny and no future for them.
But there’s another over which we can weep. One of them said, "Lord, here’s Your mna. Here it is. Here’s your one-hundred drachma. I didn’t do anything. I didn’t use it. I didn’t work with it. I didn’t try. I didn’t strive. I didn’t do anything, lord, and I’m just giving it back to you. Ah, how sad, how tragic, how pitiful, how full of tears and sadness and sorrow! What God has given us, maybe so little, and for us in the most part, it is so little, but for us to say, "It’s so little, it’s not going to do anything."
One of the great songs in our book that we sing once in a while "Let the Lower Lights be Burning." Mr. Bliss wrote that. And he wrote it out of a tragic incident that came to pass in his lifetime. There was a passenger ship that followed a great lighthouse to the mouth of the harbor. And the shining lighthouse, the Pharos, the great shining Word and blessing of God. The lighthouse guided the ship, in the days of Mr. Bliss, to the mouth of the harbor. But the lower lights, that just twinkle along to guide the ship through the shoals and the rocks and the reefs and the bars, they weren’t shining. And that night, the ship foundered on a reef, on a rock, as it tried to enter into the harbor. And the people were drowned. They were lost in the bottom of the sea. And Mr. Bliss wrote that beautiful song,
Let the lower lights be burning!
Send a gleam across the wave!
Some poor fainting struggling seaman
You may rescue, you may save.
["Let the Lower Lights Be Burning," by Philip P. Bliss]
We need the great lighthouse, the great shining from God, but we also need the little light that guides into the harbor.
He had one mna. Didn’t use it. And it’s sad. When he comes to the great reckoning day of the Lord, and there is nothing, just to weep and to cry.
Now, the last: and there are these who came before the lord and said, "Look, lord, I took your mna. I took what you gave me." Maybe it’s two hands, or two eyes, or a heart that could pray, or a soul that could weep, or a hand that could knock at a door, or whatever God has given us, maybe a little possession, whatever. "Look, Lord, I did my best with it, look Lord, look." And God was delighted and pleased.
I walk among our people, and have for a generation now, and I see so many things among them. There is, in our church, the humblest of all poor men. He’s crippled. I’ve had him up here several times. He works with his hands, with his hands. And outside of a small substance that keeps him alive, he gives everything that he makes to Jesus; everything, everything. He works with his hands. He toils and labors with his hands, and everything that he makes he gives to the Lord, aside from a tiny bit just to keep him alive. When he stands up here, I don’t feel worthy to loosen the latchet of his shoes.
Peacock came to me and said, "Were you talking about so-and-so at the 8:15 service?"
I said, "Yes. Yes. I was talking about him."
And Peacock says to me, "Pastor, he’s not only that way as you see him; in every area of his private life he’s just like that." He’s great in the sight of the Lord. And he’s great in our sight. Though, he’s the humblest man in this church, and maybe the poorest."
Then, there are men in the church of ten talents, of great gifts. And to see a man of tremendous endowment accept as from God’s hand an oikonomia, a stewardship, and to feel responsible to the Lord for it, it’s just like glory.
A few days ago, I was in the offices of one of the men in our church, beautifully appointed. He said to me, "Thirty percent of everything I make I give to the Lord," thirty percent; and he’s a rich man. He came to see me over at my office, and placed in my hands a hundred thousand dollars for the Mary C. building, and asked me not to mention it, and apologized to me, saying, "Pastor, it isn’t as I planned, but one of the things that I’m involved in didn’t quite materialize in time. So, I’ll just give you this now and there will be more in the days to come."
You know, I don’t know how it is that God could choose me to be pastor of people like that. They are wonderful people. They are great people. And the Lord Himself says so. "And He said unto him, Good. Well done, you faithful servant."
Oh, to live as unto the Lord. Occupy till He comes; working for Him, till He comes; striving for Him, till He comes. Then when He comes, lay before Him what we tried to do. Maybe we didn’t succeed in it, but we tried. And He that searches the hearts will not fail in the love, appreciation, gratitude, and thanksgiving for those who maybe failed, but who tried. This is our blessed, blessed Jesus.
And that’s our invitation to you, to join us in that service of the great King. What happier assignment could one have than to say, "Lord, number me among those that love Thee. Write my name, Lord, in that Book of Life, of those who seek to serve Thee. And pastor, write my name in that church book. I want to be counted among the people of Christ."
"Pastor, this is my wife and these are my children and all of us are coming today." Or just you, as God’s Spirit shall press the appeal to your heart. Make the decision now. And on the first note of the first stanza, come. If you are in the balcony round, down one of these stairways, if you are in the press of people on this lower floor, down one of these aisles, there is time and to spare. Make the decision now in your heart. And when you stand up, stand up walking down that aisle. May the angels attend you in the way as you come, while we stand and while we sing.