“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 19:12, 13
When man was created, all the laws of the universe were incorporated into his being, and he had thus the faculty of learning of his Creator and of gradually emerging from the darkness of the ignorance of his infancy into the intelligence, wisdom, and love of his maturity.
The parable of the pounds is familiar to us all. It is one of those passages in the Word which should continually be in our minds, for it continually applies to us. The pounds represent all our talents and capacities. They are given us to use. We were not created to live alone, but to be of service one to another. The miser who hoards his wealth, keeping it to himself, the scholar who thinks of his learning as a means to self-advancement and has no wish to use it to help others are not truly human. Every angel is in the constant effort to give to others, and hence comes his happiness.
The Divine love is the desire to bless others and to give them of its Divine nature as far as possible. This is the actual cause of the creation of the world and of men in the world. And in creating the world the Lord filled it full of objects which might help man in the improvement of his mind by calling forth its various faculties, and might help him in learning of his Creator and coming to love Him. So again all the laws that govern the world look to this same end.
Thus was the Most Ancient Church, which is represented by Adam and his descendants, established. In course of time this church reached a degree of love and wisdom so pure and deep that its renown has come down to our times through the writers of ancient Greece and Rome, who called it golden to indicate its purity and blessedness. But in course of time these early people turned away from the Lord, the only source of life, and came to believe that they lived from themselves. Then the twilight shadows came and finally dark night rested upon the souls of men.
The pounds are all our faculties. They are given us by the Lord when we are born. Then, as stated, He apparently goes away leaving us in freedom, that we may become rational, spiritual beings, intelligent recipients of His life. And He says to us, “Occupy till I come.” Take possession of these talents; use them. They are our means of growing up into His image and likeness.
The Lord has richly endowed every human being. He has given us everything that infinite Love and Wisdom could bestow upon us. Our bodies are formed to find development and delight in the things of the world. In developing and using rightly the good things of nature we develop ourselves. But great as are the possibilities for man outside of him and around him, still greater are the possibilities within him, and – as with any other good – to turn these into blessings requires effort, labor, and time.
Man carries within himself possibilities almost unlimited. On the plane of the natural there are limitations and also sometimes miscarriages of justice. But in the realm of the spiritual the law is absolute and has no exceptions. Material riches, wrought out and collected from nature, may be stolen from those who produced them, or they may be received from parents or friends. But with the riches of the spirit it is not so. No parent can bequeath to a child wisdom or goodness. These can be acquired in only one way, by one’s own labors. It is true that a child may inherit talents or faculties from his parents, but if he does not develop and use them, they will wither away and die. We hear it said, for example, that one is a born musician. One may indeed be born with this faculty, but every musician becomes such only by patient study and practice. Paderewski said, “If I miss one day’s practice, I know it; if I miss three days’ practice, the audience knows it.”
Man is indeed a gifted being as to his natural life and surroundings, but in the development of this plane his happiness is limited. There is, however, a better and higher good possible, a good which will endure forever. Life here is transient. In a few short years it passes away. At birth we are farther from the goal of life than at any other time. The attainment of this goal will come only as the result of effort, labor, and training. The goal is salvation.
There is a teaching abroad in Christian lands that this greatest good of which man is capable, this greatest of his possible blessings, is within such easy reach that he may attain it instantly, or at least in a very short time. That doctrine teaches that salvation is a gift so free and easy that to obtain it requires only the belief that the Lord in His life in the world overcame the evils of men for all time, appeasing the wrath of God, and that all we need for salvation is to believe that Christ died for us. It is true that the Lord came into the world to overcome evil and make it forever subject to Him, and that His work was complete and perfect. By His work in the world the Lord did bring salvation within the reach of man. But salvation is not attainable apart from the effort of man to cooperate with the Lord.
We make our lives what we want them to be. An evil man loves himself. All his desires look to his own selfish gratification. All his thoughts are for his own advancement. He loves others only as they can be made to serve him. A good man on the other hand loves the Lord and His laws above every personal consideration. He would not willingly injure another for the world and all that is in it. He finds his happiness in usefulness. An evil man cannot be converted into a good man by merely removing the consequences of his sins. This would only confirm him in them, removing all checks to evil. The ways of the wicked and the ways of the righteous are different ways, as different as are the ways of wisdom and the ways of folly, the way of life and the way of death.
In the past men have thought that the way to heaven lay apart from the world, in the solitude of the desert, through the hermit’s cell, in the suppression of natural affection. There never was a more pernicious error except the belief that there was no road at all or that the way was by faith alone.
The word translated “occupy” in our text is in the Greek the word meaning to engage in business, to trade with, to make use of. All of us are engaged in some kind of work. The particular employment does not matter if it is not one which caters to vice. One may be a servant or rule a kingdom; he may be a merchant or till the soil. The same faculties are used. It is the purpose that determines the result. Selfishness is selfishness, pride is pride, envy is envy, covetousness is covetousness whatever the external circumstances may be. Likewise the love of use, love to the Lord, and love to the neighbor can exist and be expressed in any good occupation. The same faculties are employed.
First there must be obedience to the commandments. This implies the study of the Word that we may know the will of God. Secondly the way of salvation requires that we prepare ourselves for some useful employment and engage in it for the service of the Lord and our fellow men.
“Occupy till I come.” The nobleman in the parable is the Lord. The time of His coming is the time when He comes to take us into the spiritual world. Salvation means the cultivation in ourselves of the Divine virtues: humility, gentleness, purity, truthfulness, industry, unselfishness. Even if it should take all of one’s life to acquire these, that is what this life is given us for. When we are born, we are started on the way of life which leads to heaven. That it ever ends elsewhere is not our Heavenly Father’s will. To everyone is given freedom of choice and the ability to accomplish the Divine purposes for him in being of use to others, and there is no situation into which we can come in which we shall not have an opportunity and the ability to be of some use to others. As we do this, a new world opens to us. The natural world becomes more delightful to us, but a higher realm is also opened through which we come into the love of the neighbor, and finally into the love of the Lord.