When Jesus wanted to teach something, he usually told a story. He used the stuff of everyday life in Israel—a country of shepherds—for his parables. It’s hard to improve on stories for making a point clear.
The longer I live and think about these stories, the more I am struck by how they favor action and initiative, creative thinking and problem-solving. In one parable, he commends a dishonest property manager for being creative in making for himself a soft landing place with some old clients when he is fired for incompetence. He regards his initiative and problem-solving, if not his loose bookkeeping.
In one of his stories, a landowner gives portions of his goods to different people with the command “occupy until I return.”
The phrase “occupy” these days is freighted with all sorts of meanings and nuances. Occupy Wall Street. Occupied territories. But what did Jesus mean when he used this particular verb?
His parable paints a picture of the kingdom of God. And his command is to occupy—do business, be industrious, generate a return on investment. Those who lazed about and did nothing got it in spades when the master returned.
There is a time to pray and a time to act. That’s axiomatic. But there are moments when to be on a kneeler is to miss the mark entirely. When you are supposed to be hitting the pavement and drumming up business, your act of “occupying until I come” becomes an act of worship, even prayer. I often wonder if God isn’t waiting for us to be the answer to a lot of our prayers.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Am I being passive in the pursuit of my goals? Do you wait around for God and people to do for you what you are really supposed to do for yourself? As one has said, you can’t hire another to do your pushups for you.
- Am I quick to give up when I encounter resistance in the pursuit of my goals? Sometimes we flag and cave, thinking that “it wasn’t meant to be” simply because the goal we pursue doesn’t come easy. Stuff that is valuable costs time, effort, money…blood, sweat and tears.
- What would happen if I gave another hour or two a day to the pursuit of my goals? We tend to plateau in our skills and objectives for lots of reasons. But one is simply that we don’t give that extra effort to really master a thing. It is the difference between dilettantes and professionals. Professionals stay at it until they own it.
Enough now. You get the picture. Go occupy.