‘To every man his work’
Jim Voisey, Cardiff, Wales [SEE PROFILE BELOW]
Mark 13. 34
These words and the parable containing them are unique to Mark’s account of our Lord’s Olivet discourse. Each one of us has been given our work until the Lord returns, and we are also to watch and pray, for we do not know when He will come.
There is an obvious Jewish complexion to the discourse on the Mount of Olives, and the Lord warned His disciples of the conditions they should expect in their work for Him: false prophets, deceptions, warring nations, earthquakes, famines, persecutions and uncertainties. His servants would be arraigned before councils and beaten in synagogues. The ‘abomination of destruction’, foretold by Daniel, presumably an idol, certainly something alien to the Jewish people, perhaps identical to ‘the image of the beast’ who imposed his mark and his will upon men will signal a great time of tribulation for Israel ‘such as never was since there was a nation’, Dan. 12. 1.
The church will not be involved. Prophecy has distinct strands, which need to be understood in their dispensational contexts, but the warnings and encouragements still have relevance for us too, because coming events cast their shadows beforehand. We also need to be prepared for the upheavals, moral corruptions and spiritual degeneracy already marking our own times. The spirit of antichrist is at work in the world, wrote John referring to his own times, but the ‘falling away’, and the revelation of ‘the man of sin, the son of perdition’ is still future. Nevertheless, ‘the mystery of iniquity doth already work’, 2 Thess. 2. 1-11.
The lesson of the fig tree, flourishing as summer draws near, is for the Jewish remnant. It will be harvest time. ‘Then shall he send his angels, and shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from the uttermost parts of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven’. Jeremiah lamented that God’s people had not heeded the signs; they had not listened to the prophets; and they had not repented of their sins and provocations, so he declared: ‘the harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved’. We do not look for signs but we know our Lord is coming back, Jer. 8. 20; Rev. 22. 20.
We all have our responsibilities
We should attend diligently to whatever work we are called to do. The Lord gives our responsibilities to us and He never tells other men what we have to do. Peter made this mistake by asking the Lord the area of responsibility He had given to John, John 21. 21, 22.
In the parable of the talents, a talent, which was an exceedingly large amount of money, was given by the Master ‘to each according to his several abilities’. We are all different, and the Lord Himself assesses our capabilities, so He never gives us things that are beyond us. In the parable of the pounds a pound is a much smaller amount of money, but still significant in value. Each servant is given the same, so that they may show what each is capable of accomplishing. They have to occupy, that is trade, make use of it, until He comes.
We may think we have ability only to contribute a little, but that is just what our Lord wants from us. The universal principle is that ‘if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to what a man hath, and not according to that he hath not’. Perhaps we may be able to show hospitality, of which Gaius is a fine example, or perhaps we have ability to minister the word of God, not least being able to ‘speak a word in season to him that is weary’. Whatever it is we are to minister the gifts of God one to another. The servant who buried his talent or he who wrapped his pound in a napkin, something used to wipe perspiration from a labouring man’s brow, were slothful, lazy, useless servants, 1 Pet. 4. 9-11. We all have a responsibility for each other before the Lord. In the parable of the steward left in charge of the servants, who said in his heart, ‘My Lord delayeth his coming’ and proceeded to ill-treat the other servants he was judged by his lord and shamed, Luke 12. 42-48
There is much to be done. We all have to be careful lest we neglect the gift within us. ‘He that gathereth in summer is a wise son’, Prov. 10. 5; see also 2 Tim. 1. 6.
We must be ready
Will it be at even, or at midnight, or at the cock crowing, or in the morning when the Lord returns? The world will never be ready, but the children of light should live in the constant expectation and hope of His return. Every time we remember our Lord in the breaking of bread we testify not only to His suffering and death, but to His coming back. How easy it is for us to become too pre-occupied with the things of this life, and the demands that are made upon us, so as to diminish the solemn truth that we are awaiting the fullness of our salvation. The Lord reminded His disciples of conditions in the days of Noah. They were carrying on the ordinary course of their lives ‘until the day that Noah entered into the ark and knew not until the floods came, and took them all away’, such solemn words!
We must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ. It will be a time of reckoning. It will be too late then to think of time and opportunity lost. Our work will come before Him to be judged. Our sins have been forgiven, and God will remember them no more, but we shall be required to give account of ourselves. Perhaps we may unwittingly have accomplished more than we thought. All that we know is that the Lord will be thorough and fair. Always we reap what we sow. We must not speak carelessly, ‘for every idle word that men speak, they shall give account thereof’. Do we judge our brethren hastily and thoughtlessly, and set them at nought, while excusing ourselves? What have we sowed? Is it to the Spirit? Are we proving what is acceptable unto the Lord? All things are to be made manifest. We should also remember that ‘whatever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord’; for we ‘serve the Lord Christ’.
How easy it is for us to be lulled to sleep by the ordinary course of our lives to our Lord’s return! Even the wise virgins slumbered and slept like the others. Isaiah condemned the shepherds of Israel for being blind, ignorant, dumb, sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber and looking to their own way. Rather, we should be like men waiting for their Lord, with ‘loins girded about and lights burning’. Those who are elders among the people of God must take heed unto themselves, and to all the flock over which the Holy Ghost has made them overseers, to feed the church of God. Let us all ‘press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus’, Phil. 3. 14.