‘Occupy till I come’, Luke 19.13
A. E. Long, Nutley
The Lord told two similar parables, viz. that of the talents, recorded in Matthew 25. 14-30, and that of the pounds, recorded in Luke 19. 11-27. Both illustrate the responsibility of servants during their master's absence abroad, in regard to money entrusted to them to trade with, that on his return he might be profited by their exertions on his behalf. Both parables relate to "the kingdom", but there are differences between them. In the parable of the talents, there are three servants who are given five, two and one talent respectively, "to every man according to his several ability". The first and second gained by trading a like amount to what they had received. The third "hid (his) talent in the earth" and consequently could not show any profit when he was called upon to account for its use. In the parable of the pounds, there are ten servants; each is entrusted with a pound, irrespective of ability. The first gained ten pounds by trading, another gained five pounds, but another failed to use his pound, which he "kept laid up in a napkin", thereby depriving his lord even of interest it might have gained.
The latter parable was designed to counteract a misapprehension "that the kingdom of God should immediately appear", a wrong impression which was given colour by the Lord's near approach to Jerusalem, when His disciples acclaimed Him as "the King that cometh in the name of the Lord". The parable concerns a "certain nobleman, (who) went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and to return". During his long absence, his ten servants were each given a pound and commanded, "Trade ye herewith till I come" r.v. Each was required, by trading with his lord's money during his absence abroad, to show a profit on his return, that he might derive the maximum benefit from their exertions.
Doubtless the parable was meant, firstly, to underline the fact that our Lord's absence from the earth "to receive for himself a kingdom" would be a long one, and secondly, that during His absence His servants have each been entrusted with a like amount, that each might show the maximum profit for the Lord upon H is return. In the parable, the servants were varyingly successful, save for the one who failed to trade with his lord's money, and thus made no profit. His neglect deprived his lord even of the interest which would have accrued had the pound been deposited at interest at the bank. According to their profitability, they were rewarded upon their lord's return, the first with "authority over ten cities" and the second "over five cities". The unprofitable servant was dispossessed of his neglected pound, which was given to the servant who had gained ten pounds.
During our Lord's absence, we have been entrusted with responsibility by Him, that we might use this for His glory. Paul writes of himself, Silvanus and Timothy as having been "intrusted with the gospel", 1 Thess. 2. 4 r.v ; cf. 1 Tim. 1.11. Jude writes of "the faith which was once delivered unto the saints", v. 3. Such a "trust" Paul regarded as "the good deposit", 1 Tim. 6. 20; 2 Tim. 1. 14; he and others were responsible to the Lord for its safe keeping and for putting it to the best possible use, for maximum profitability. Every Christian has a responsibility in the same matter. In John 17, the Lord prayed for the apostles and for those who would afterward believe on Him through their word. He said "the words which thou gavest me", "I have given unto them", "I have given them thy word", vv. 8,14. He also said, "As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world", v. 18, doubtless that they might disseminate the word He had given to them. Even as He came to bear "witness unto the truth" so would this be their responsibility during His absence. According to the degree of their faithful diligence in doing so, they will be rewarded, even as were the servants in the parable of the pounds.
None served the Lord better than Paul. When death seemed imminent he could write to Timothy, "I have kept the faith". His stewardship in the matter of the good deposit had not been at fault, but had been marked by faithfulness and diligence. He had well guarded the good deposit committed to him by the Lord. Although in the ultimate sense it must always be true that "We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do", Luke 17. 10, the Lord will graciously credit His faithful servants with what they have gained in the use of that which He has given them. In the context of "I have kept the faith", Paul was able to write "there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord . . . shall give me at that day", 2 Tim. 4. 8.
"Till he come" limits the time of our opportunity to trade with what He has entrusted to us; "the night com-eth, when no man can work", John 9. 4. Now is the day of such opportunity, which we should exploit to the full, "Redeeming the time, because the days are evil", Eph. 5. 16.