"Occupy Till I Come"
By J. C. Ryle
"And 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. He said therefore, A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return. And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, Occupy till I come" (Luke 19:11-13).
What is the present duty of all Christ’s professing disciples? When I speak of present duty, I mean of course their duty between the period of Christ’s first and second advents. And I find an answer in the words of the nobleman, in the parable, to his servants: "He delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, Occupy till I come."
I know few words more searching and impressive than these four, "Occupy till I come." They are spoken to all who profess and call themselves Christians. They ought to stir up all hearers of the Gospel to examine themselves whether they are in the faith, and to prove themselves. For your sake, remember, these words were written: "Occupy till I come."
The Lord Jesus bids you "occupy." By that He means that you are to be "a doer" in your Christianity, and not merely a hearer and professor. He wants His servants not only to receive His wages, and eat His bread, and dwell in His house, and belong to His family – but also to do His work. You are to "let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works" (Matt. 5:16). Have you faith? It must not be a dead faith; it must "work by love." Are you elect? You are elect unto "obedience." Are you redeemed? You are redeemed that you may be "a peculiar people, zealous of good works" (Titus 2:14). Do you love Christ? Prove the reality of your love by keeping Christ’s commandments.
Do not forget this charge to "occupy." Beware of an idle, talking, gossiping, sentimental, do-nothing religion. Think not because your doings cannot justify you, or put away one single sin, that therefore it matters not whether you do anything at all. Away with such a delusion! Cast it behind you as an invention of the devil. Think of the house built upon the sand, and its miserable end (Matt. 7:24-27). As ever you would "make your calling and election sure" (2 Pet. 1:10), be a doing Christian.
"Occupy Your Pound"
But the Lord Jesus also bids you "occupy your pound." By this He means that He has given each one of His people some opportunity of glorifying Him. He would have you understand that every one has got his own sphere – the poorest as well as the richest – that every one has an open door before him, and may, if he will, show forth his Master’s praise. Your bodily health and strength, your mental gifts and capacities, your money and your earthly possessions, your rank and position in life, your example and influence with others, your liberty to read the Bible and hear the Gospel, your plentiful supply of means of grace – all these are your "pounds." All these are to be used and employed with a continual reference to the glory of Christ. All these are His gifts.
But the Lord Jesus bids you also to occupy till He comes. By that He means that you are to do His work on earth like one who continually looks for His return. You are to be like the faithful servant, who knows not what hour his master may come home, but keeps all things in readiness, and is always prepared.
You are to be like one who knows that Christ’s coming is the great reckoning day, and to be ready to render up your account at any moment. You are not to suppose that you have any freehold in this world, not even a lease. The greatest and the richest of mankind is only God’s tenant-at-will.
You are not to neglect any social duty or relation of life because of the uncertainty of the Lord’s return. You are to fill the station to which God has called you in a godly and Christian way; and you are to be ready to go from the place of business to meet Christ in the air, if the Lord shall think fit. You are to be like a man who never knows what a day might bring forth, and, therefore, you are to put off nothing till a "convenient season." You are to rise and go forth in the morning ready, if need be, to meet Christ at noon. You are to lie down in bed at night ready, if need be, to be awakened by the midnight cry. "Behold the Bridegroom cometh." You are to keep your spiritual accounts in a state of constant preparation, like one who never knows how soon they may be called for. You are to measure all your ways by the measure of Christ’s appearing, and to do nothing in which you would not like Jesus to find you engaged. This is to "occupy" till Jesus comes.
Think, how condemning are these words to thousands of professing Christians! What an utter absence of preparation appears in their daily walk and conversation! How thoroughly unfit they are to meet Christ! They know nothing of occupying the gifts of God as loans for which they must give account. They show not the slightest desire to glorify Him with "body and spirit, which are His."
Think again how arousing these words ought to be to all who are rich in this world, but do not know how to spend their money rightly. Alas! there are many who live on as if Christ had never said anything about the difficulty of rich men being saved. They are rich toward their own pleasures, or their own tastes, or their own families, but not rich toward God! They live as if they would not have to give an account of their use of money. They live as if Christ had never said, "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35). "Sell that ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not" (Luke 12:33). Oh! if this message should by chance fall into the hands of such an one, I do beseech you, consider your ways and be wise. Cease to be content with giving God’s cause a little. Give far more liberally than you have done yet. Then, and not till then, I shall believe you are "occupying" as one who looks for Christ’s return.
Avoid Vain Amusements
Think again, how instructive are these words to all who are troubled by doubts about mingling with the world, and taking part in its vain amusements. The question we should ask ourselves is, "Should I desire Jesus to return suddenly and find me at the racecourse, or in the ballroom, or at the theater, or at the card table? Should I think I was in my right place, and where my Lord would have me to be?" Oh, dear reader, this is the true test by which to try all our daily occupations and employments of time. That thing which we would not do if we thought Jesus was coming tonight, that thing we ought not to do at all. That place to which we would not go if we thought Jesus was coming this day, that place we ought to avoid. That company in which we would not like Jesus to find us, in that company we ought never to sit down. Oh, that men would live as in the sight of Christ! Not as in the sight of man, or of the church, or of ministers – but as in the sight of Christ! This would be "occupying till He comes."
Live and Labor for His Glory
But think how encouraging are these words to all who seek first the kingdom of God, and love the Lord Christ in sincerity. What though the children of the world regard them as "righteous overmuch?" What though mistaken friends and relations tell them they pay too much attention to religion, and go too far! Those words, "Occupy till I come," are words which justify their conduct.
Let me draw from the subject an exhortation to all who know Christ indeed, and love His appearing. That exhortation is simply this – that you strive more and more to be a "doing" Christian. Labor more and more to show forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into marvelous light. Improve every talent which the Lord Jesus has committed to your charge to the setting forth of His glory. Let your walk declare plainly that you seek a country yet to come. Let your conformity to the mind of Christ be unquestionable and unmistakable. Let your holiness be a clear plain fact, which even the worst enemies of the Gospel cannot deny.
Above all, if you are a student of prophecy, I entreat you never to let it be said that prophetical study prevents practical diligence. If you do believe that the day is really approaching, then labor actively to provoke others unto love and good works. If you do believe that the night is far spent, be doubly diligent to cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Never was there a greater mistake than to fancy that the doctrine of the personal return of Christ is calculated to paralyze Christian diligence. Surely there can be no greater spur to the servant’s activity than the expectation of his master’s speedy return.
This is the way to obtain a healthy state of soul. There is nothing like the exercises of our graces for promoting our spiritual vigor. Alas! there are not a few of God’s saints who complain that they want spiritual comfort in their religion, while the fault is altogether in themselves. "Occupy," "Occupy," I would say to such persons. Lay yourselves out more heartily for the glory of God, and these uncomfortable feelings will soon vanish away.
This is the way to do good to the children of the world. Nothing, under God, has such an effect on unconverted people as the sight of a real thoroughgoing live Christian. There are thousands who will not come to hear the Gospel, and do not know the meaning of justification by faith, who yet can understand an uncompromising, holy, consistent walk with God. "Occupy," "Occupy," I say again, if you want to do good.
So living we shall find great joy in our work, great comfort in our trials, great doors of usefulness in the world, great consolation in our sickness, great hope in our death – leave great evidences behind us when we are buried, have great confidence in Christ’s return, and receive a great crown in the day of reward.