Common Pitfalls Of Man
Luke 19:11-26 is a very instructive Bible passage. In this passage, a king who represents our Lord and King of Glory gave ten minas to three servants. While two of the servants went and put the money they received to use, one of the servants did nothing with the money he received from the king. This Bible passage isn’t just about investing money wisely or utilizing one’s talents. The passage addresses our general attitude to life, our perception of God, and how we receive and treat the things of God.
If we take a close look at the servant that did nothing with the money he received, we can observe certain mistakes he made that are common to man. These mistakes or pitfalls are as follows:
1. Not valuing what God has given you
When the king came to settle accounts with his servants, he instructed that the money he gave the servant who did nothing with it, be taken away from him and given to the servant who had put the money he received to use and gained ten more. This astonished those standing by. They wondered why the king would order that the money of this servant be given to someone who already had ten. The king answered them in this way “I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what he has will be taken away” (Luke 19:26).
If someone has nothing, you can’t take anything from him because there’s nothing to take away. So why did the king talk about taking from a person with nothing? It wasn’t that the servant had nothing; it was that the servant saw what he had as nothing. The servant saw his ten minas as money that didn’t have much economic value, money that had no prospect of progressing or increasing. So he treated it as nothing. He didn’t value what was given him.
Without even realising it, a lot of us behave like this servant. We treat the things God has given us as nothing; we don’t value the blessings and mercies of God. Often times, we treat good health and divine protection as nothing. Going out and coming back safely home is seen as nothing important. We treat sleeping and waking up the next as day as one of those routine things. The breath on the inside of us that keeps us active and bubbly with life is seen as no big deal. To most of us, there’s nothing unusual or extraordinary about the fact that we are not lying helpless on a hospital bed. But if we read Psalm 91, we will understand that heaven fights so many unseen battles on our behalf to keep us alive and healthy. We see from Psalm 91:5-6 that there’s really no safe hour. Every moment of the day is filled with danger. At daytime evil arrows are flying all over the place, at midday there’s a plague that destroys, as it starts to get dark there’s a deadly pestilence, at night we have the terror of night; terrible things taking place in the covens and meetings of darkness that we are not even aware of. All day long, we are surrounded by evil, yet it doesn’t come near our dwelling place because God has averted and destroyed so many evil plans in order to preserve our lives. This, my brother and sister is something. It’s a big deal, it’s a super-duper blessing from God, it’s something substantial and meaningful heaven has taken time to give us. It is something to be appreciated and valued. It is something worth celebrating and giving thanks to the One who has done all these and much more for us.
The widow in 2 Kings 4:1-7 who was going through a serious financial crisis was asked a simple yet deep and interesting question by Elisha. Elisha asked her, “What do you have in your house?” what was her response? “Your servant has nothing there at all, except a little oil” (2 Kings 4:2). As far as she was concerned, the oil was really nothing, the quantity of oil she had was too small to make a significant difference. Yet, this was the oil God used to bring her out of debt and sustain her family.
Occupying till Christ comes starts with appreciating every little thing God has given you. What is that thing, person, skill, gift and ability God has blessed you with that you see as nothing important, nothing consequential? Start valuing it as it may be the key to your breakthrough. Start valuing what you have before it is taken away from you, and you discover it’s worth and potential when it’s too late.
2. Busy with the wrong things
There was a long interval between the time the king gave each of his servants’ ten minas and the time the king returned. All servants got involved with different things after the king left. Their lives weren’t put on hold. They weren’t sitting idly in a room just waiting for the king to return. They all went about their normal activities. They all got busy doing something. While the two servants that put their minas to work; were busy trying to use and grow the minas they had received, the other servant was busy doing the wrong thing. He was busy with things that had nothing to do with the minas he had received, busy with things that had nothing whatsoever to do with the assignment the king had given him.
Occupy till He comes doesn’t mean become a busy bee, get your diary full with one meeting or program after the other. It means put your time and effort into what God has entrusted into your hand. It means throw your life into what God has committed into your hands, make decisions, establish interests and relationships that will help you grow and develop your own ‘minas’.
1 Kings 20:38-40 is a passage that can help us understand how we can be so busy with so many “good” activities yet the one thing God wants us to be occupied with is neglected. It is a story of how King Ahab let Benhadad, the king of the Syrians, someone God wanted dead, to slip away. In the fictional example, the prophet gave Ahab an illustration to show the king how the thing God had entrusted to him, the thing God wanted Ahab to take responsibility for, to pay close attention to, slipped away from him because he was busy here and there; he was busy doing the wrong things.
When we are busy here and there, our relationship with God which is the main thing God wants us to focus on suffers. Martha in Luke 10:38-40 was busy here and there trying to get a good meal ready for Jesus, she didn’t have time to listen to the life-lessons Jesus wanted to pass across to her.
When we are busy here and there, too busy for the souls God has committed into our hands to reach out to and share the gospel with them, they slip away from our prayer and evangelism net and start heading to hell.
When we are busy here and there, the assignment, people and issues God wants us to address and keep our eyes on like our youths, the family, our educational system, health system, the level of the word, prayer and holiness in the church, deteriorates because nobody has time to give close attention to these things. A day doesn’t last forever. It’s just for 24 hours. A significant part of our day should therefore be spent on the ‘minas’ God has put in our care. Haggai 1:7-11 explains what happens when we push aside the ‘minas’; push aside Kingdom needs, plans and projects to pursue and focus on our own personal needs and projects. God’s house ends up in ruins; there are spiritual cracks in the body of Christ. Sinful habits and lifestyles start to weaken the voice of the church. Furthermore, our financial resources don’t in anyway match the time and effort we have spent trying to take care of ourselves and make more money. After all the running here and there, being busy here and there trying to get contracts, job openings, business deals, we don’t even make so much; we have little or nothing to show for all our labours. May God give us the wisdom to know what to do, what to occupy our time with and how to do what He wants us to do, so we don’t end up working like elephants and eating like ants.
Don’t be too busy for God. You don’t have to do everything; you don’t have to be everywhere. While you are busy here and there, divine instructions God wants to give you that can move you to the next level, change your life, and put an end to labour without results can glide past you.
3. Using your own hand to limit your potential and progress
For the servants who put their minas to work, who occupied till the king retuned, there was progress and promotion in their lives. You can’t be genuinely occupying for the Lord and your life will remain on the same level.
The problem with many of us is that when God gives us an assignment or responsibility, we don’t see the potential in that assignment to bring about progress and promotion to us. The king told the servants to occupy with ten minas but he never told them upfront what would happen if they occupied with the ten minas. He left it to them to discover by themselves what they would gain, how richly they would be blessed. The king left it to the servants to discover on their own how putting those ten minas to use could make them gain ten or five more minas, he left it to them to discover how by occupying with what they had received, they would be put in charge of ten or five cities; they would be made great leaders with great responsibilities. Greater opportunities, greater responsibilities were given to the servants who occupied. Stagnation found its way into the life of the servant that didn’t occupy, that didn’t allow himself be groomed, trained and prepared for a greater assignment and responsibility.
Don’t wait to see the whole picture before you obey God. Serve Him in that place, serve Him where you are at the level you are. Obey and then watch His great and beautiful plan for your life unfold.
It wasn’t his ancestors, members of his household, wicked and arch enemies that kept the third servant from progressing in life. He used his own hands to hinder his progress, to put a lid on his potentials by not doing anything with the minas; the resources, gifts and talents he was given. In the case of the third servant, there was no enemy at work. He simply was lazy. That’s why the king didn’t tell him well-done when he returned like the king did for the other two servants. There’s a thin line between enemy attack and human error. We must be sure we are walking in obedience and not just blaming demons and evil spirits for our own negligence and laziness.
4. Occupying your hands with many good activities but not allowing God occupy your heart
In Luke 19:15-20, when the king returned, all three servants addressed him in the same way. They all called him Sir. They all addressed him like he was their master, someone they had respect for. However, even though the third servant addressed the king as Sir or Master, someone the servant saw as his lord, he really didn’t have good thoughts in his heart towards his master. In his heart he saw the king as a hard man, a wicked man, an opportunist. In the same vein, we can call God all kinds of nice names like my Master, Lord and Friend but what really matters isn’t what we say with our lips but what is in our heart. Are our hearts occupied with loving thoughts about our God? Is our heart right with God?
Several people, churches and organisations today are engaged in a number of good activities such as helping the poor, missionary work and community service. It is not everyone who has their hands occupied with commendable projects and activities that have their heart occupied with the person that matters the most. God wants to fill our hearts. He wants us to make our hearts His dwelling place (Ephesians 3:17). Salvation is about having Christ dwell in us and occupy our hearts.
Solomon in Ecclesiastes 12:4-6, 11 addressed the issue of occupying our hands with activities for the good of mankind yet our hearts aren’t occupied with the Lord. Solomon undertook great projects such as the building of parks and reservoirs, he acquired great wealth and wisdom but when he surveyed all his hands had done; all he had occupied his hands with, it was all meaningless. There was still emptiness within, a deep vacuum, a lack of fulfillment because the heart wasn’t fully occupied with the Lord. No wonder Solomon rightly said in Ecclesiastes 12:13 that the conclusion of the matter is to fear God and keep his commandments. In other words, let God occupy your hearts so on the last day you aren’t saying I provided scholarships for poor children, built hospitals in several rural areas, set up reservoirs and bore hole water in my village, provided street lights for my neighbourhood, organised crusades and outreaches, prophesied, healed the sick and generally had my hands occupied with so many good activities, yet the Lord will say “I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!” (Matthew 7:21-23).
In Matthew 12:43-45, Jesus brought another dimension to what happens to a heart that is not occupied with the Lord and that is that you open yourself up to satanic invasion and infiltration, you expose yourself to different levels of spiritual wickedness. Jesus said when demons are cast out from a person, they look for a house, life or heart that is unoccupied, that isn’t filled with God so they can not only live there but bring seven other wicked spirits to inhabit that house, life and heart.
Satan is on the lookout for hearts that are unoccupied so he can place them on a cycle of satanic oppression where they move from dealing with one demon, one problem, to dealing with more demons, more problems and afflictions. Satan is always scouting for hearts that aren’t occupied with God’s word, God’s love and presence so he can bring his seven wicked spirits to that life. These are:
1. The spirit of fear
2. The spirit of guilt and condemnation
3. The spirit of sickness and infirmity
4. The spirit of uncleanness (sinful desires and practices)
5. The spirit of worry and anxiety
6. The spirit of pride and arrogance
7. The spirit of the end times (following deceiving spirits and things taught by demons; the spirit of error).
God on the other hand is watching out for those whose hearts are panting for him as the deer pants for streams of water, those who want Him to fill their hearts (Psalm 42:1-2) so He can fill their lives with His own seven spirits (Isaiah 11:1-3):
1. The Spirit of the Lord
2. The spirit of wisdom
3. The spirit of understanding
4. The spirit of counsel
5. The spirit of power
6. The spirit of knowledge
7. The spirit of the fear of the Lord
Mary Magdalene is a typical example of someone whose heart wasn’t occupied with the Lord and the devil brought seven wicked spirits to contaminate her life and wreck her destiny (Luke 8:2). But thank God she met Jesus. She became a passionate follower of Christ (Matthew 27:55-56), and rather than seeing levels of spiritual wickedness as she had when demons filled her life, she started seeing levels of God’s glory. She was the first to see the risen Christ (Matthew 28:1-10), she became a carrier of good news, a useful vessel in the hands of God (John 20:10-18).
It really doesn’t matter how many demons have come into a person’s life, how far you have gone from God. What matters are right now where you are do you need and desire God? What are you ready to give up to allow God fill all of you, all of your heart? Do you want God to occupy your heart so you can see levels of God’s glory and anointing or would you rather just keep your hands occupied with “good” activities?
5) Using the wrong yardstick to determine and influence our involvement in the things of God and commitment to God
What was the reason why the third servant didn’t occupy; didn’t do anything with his minas? He felt his master was hard and unfair (Luke 19: 20-21). That was simply a personal opinion. The servant’s level of involvement and commitment to the assignment the king had given him was based on his own personal opinion. What it should have been based on was the instruction “until I come”. The king didn’t say occupy until you are happy with me, occupy until you get married, have a job, or occupy when you are in a good mood. The king didn’t attach or base the instruction on the servant’s moods and feelings. The servant was the one who made the mistake of attaching the instruction to his own personal feelings and opinion.
Everyone is entitled to an opinion but be careful that you don’t form opinions that keep you from being where God wants you to do, doing what God wants you to do. It is important to distinguish or separate our opinion from the truth of God’s word. Opinions are based on personal experiences or beliefs at a particular time; they are not the real and whole truth. For example, someone says God is unjust that’s why even those who don’t know him, those who don’t bother going to church do much better than Christians. That is just a personal opinion. The truth of who God is can be found in God’s word and no one’s personal opinion, experience or situation can change or alter that truth. If God’s word says God is just, He is fair and impartial, He hates to see people oppressed and unjustly treated (Deuteronomy 32:4, Hebrews 6:10, Romans 3:25-26), then irrespective of the degree of unfairness in the world, the number of Christians that presently haven’t been paid for jobs they did or the number of persecuted Christians that have been killed, God’s word is still supreme over these situations.
It was a big mistake on the part of the third servant to allow his personal opinion affect his level of commitment and involvement with the work his master had given him. If indeed what he felt was the truth, then the other two servants would have also had difficulty following the instruction of the king. When the king told him he would return, the king meant it. When God’s Word tells us Jesus will return we can count on that Word. We are to hold on to the Word not to personal opinions. If some people feel Jesus won’t return, they are just expressing a personal opinion. Your personal opinion can stop the truth, can’t stop what God has written. Irrespective of what people think, feel and say about God, God will still do what He has said He will do in His word. Whether you are single, still trusting God for the fruit of the womb, homeless or underpaid, these personal situations and experiences won’t stop Jesus from returning again. He will because God’s word, the authentic truth says He will.
The return of Christ is a certainty, a sure banker. So rather than moan, grumble and get bitter about all those things in our lives, family, country and the world at large we don’t like, we should go to the One who has said He will return and say Lord, give me the grace to be faithful no matter the situation that comes my way. Help me so my present pain or need doesn’t keep me from obeying and serving you. Help me not to form opinions that don’t tally with the truth of Your Word and can give me a faulty perception of who You really are and affect my relationship with You. Help me to see You as You are. Help me to occupy in the midst of problems and challenges of life, when I come across people who doubt and fault Your Word, or when I am tempted to think and believe Your Word doesn’t work. Help me O Lord so when you return, I will see You in glory, I will be rewarded for faithfully taking care of my “minas”.
PHOTO CREDIT: Olhar Angolano on Unsplash