And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, Occupy till I come.
This particular verse is part of what is known as "The Parable of the Talents", which appears in both Matthew and Luke. I have found that to receive the complete knowledge of what Jesus is trying to impart here, it is necessary to read both versions of the parable. This particular admonition to "Occupy til I come", does not appear in the Matthew version, yet it has everything to do with the lesson we are to learn.
First of all, it is important that we realize that this parable is ultimately about the Kingdom of Heaven on earth, which I believe is referring to the thousand year reign of Christ on Earth, known as the Millennial Reign, or the Millennial Kingdom. We could get in a complicated discussion about when that takes place, and indeed, there are those Believers who think it has already happened, or is happening now. But the purpose of this post is to discuss what this parable tells us about our position in that Kingdom.
In fact, in Matthew, Jesus is very explicit that this parable is about the Kingdom of Heaven, when He begins the parable with, "For the Kingdom of Heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them." In Luke, we are told that Jesus relates this parable because "they (the disciples) thought the kingdom of God would appear immediately". So THE KINGDOM is the focus of this lesson Jesus is teaching.
We are all familiar with the storyline of this parable ... the man goes away to receive his kingdom, having delivered "his goods" to his servants until he returns. Jesus relates this story to illustrate that He must soon go away, but will return to receive His kingdom on earth. Until His return, the disciples and other Believers will be left with His "goods" (the Gospel Message). They are to be occupied with increasing/spreading that Message. As the parable illustrates, they will be judged when He returns to see how they profited their task.
Most of the Bible interpretations have Jesus saying, "Do business til I come", but I think the truer meaning is revealed through the use of the words "Occupy til I come." The Greek translation of this phrase means "to be about the business of; to be occupied totally." Now the two versions in Matthew and Luke record different amounts of how much was left to each servant, but that's not the point. It's what they did with what they were given that is important to their Master!
This simple story is meant to illustrate that we, as the "called" or "appointed" ambassadors of Christ's message, have all been left with the same task -- to occupy ourselves (totally) with telling the world the Gospel of God. But look at how each of the servants handled their task. Depending on the version you are reading, a number of them increased the value of what they were given; they turned their allotment into a gain for the Master. But the last servant hid his portion, and produced nothing for his Lord. The result of doing nothing with what we've been given is devastating!
Yes, we have each been given various degrees of "talents" -- both literally and figuratively -- but we are expected to produce a return, comparable to what we have been given. When we do show that we have made the most of what we've been given, our Lord tells us in Matthew, "Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things. I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord." The Luke version actually records Jesus telling the servants they will have authority over cities.
So you see, it is not about the servants making more money for their master, and being commended for their great business sense. It is about diligently being about the business of winning souls for Jesus until He returns and establishes His Millennial Kingdom. At that time, He will reward us according to how much we "occupied" ourselves with this task -- and our results. If profitable, we will be allowed to rule and reign with Him in the Millennial Kingdom.
At the end of the Matthew version of the Parable of the Talents, Jesus tells the disciples, "To everyone who has, more will be given...". Therefore, it behooves us to "occupy ourselves" while we are waiting for His return. Who doesn't want to rule and reign with Jesus, and be given the honor of much authority in His kingdom? But that's only half the story! What happens to those servants who didn't produce anything?
Next week, we will continue with the implications of this parable, and what it means for the "unprofitable" to be cast into "the outer darkness". Get ready for a different meaning than the Church has communicated!