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What To Do While You Wait

by Stephen Davey Scripture Reference: Luke 12:35–48

The expectation of Jesus’ return is not a motivation to just sit back and await His coming but to watch for it with excitement and joy and to work all the harder in His service. We need to be faithful stewards of the time and opportunities He has given us.


In our chronological study through the Gospels, Luke has shown us in chapter 12 what it looks like to live for ourselves. He described a younger brother who tried to get Jesus to help him acquire his inheritance. Evidently his older brother was moving too slowly. Jesus challenged him instead to beware of greed. With that, the Lord delivered a parable about a man whose barns were full, but he coveted more.

So, we have here a greedy young man whining about what he does not have, and we have a greedy older man wishing for more of what he already has. And Jesus is effectively issuing a warning to both His hearers and us: Don’t whine about what you don’t have. Don’t wish for more of what you already have. In fact, don’t worry about what you are going to need to have.

So, what do we do?

Well, the Lord now answers that question by delivering two imperatives—two commands. You could put an exclamation point in your Bible after each one of them here in verse 35: “Stay dressed for action (!) and keep your lamps burning (!).”

“Stay dressed for action” literally means to keep your loins girded. In this culture, both men and women wore long tunics. When a man needed to run or climb, he would gather the material in the back and pulled it forward and up between his legs and tucked it into their belt.[1] He was then ready to move.

The second imperative is “keep your lamps burning.” The Lord is about to describe two nighttime scenes where readiness is portrayed by keeping oil lamps burning. So, with these exclamation points, we’d say today something like, “Keep the porch light on, and keep your sleeves rolled up.”[2]  

The immediate context here is alertness and readiness in light of the Lord’s return. So, Jesus is saying we are to live for Him, always anticipating His soon coming.[3]

The Lord gives two illustrations of readiness. The first is here in verse 36:

“Be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks.”

Jewish wedding feasts lasted well into the night, so faithful servants were determined to stay alert and awake until the master arrived.

Now verse 39:

“If the master of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have left his house to be broken into.”

With this illustration, the Lord is emphasizing that His arrival will at an unexpected time.  

Peter asks a question in verse 41: “Lord, are you telling this parable for us [the disciples] or for all [the whole crowd]?” He wonders if this is going to be on the final exam—should he be taking notes?

Instead of directly answering Peter’s question, Jesus describes two kinds of stewards, or household managers. These stewards will represent believers and unbelievers—so the Lord is indeed speaking to everybody here.

The Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom his master will set over his household, to give them their portion of food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions.” (verses 42-44)

The Lord basically is asking what kind of stewards we are. Are we faithful stewards of what He has assigned to us?

Let me ask you a question: What has the Lord assigned you today? A sink full of dishes or a laundry basket that seems to stay full? Is it a Bible study or children’s program? Is it long hours at a job where you are living out your testimony of excellence and integrity?

My first secretary at the church—in fact, the first person I hired after planting the Shepherds Church—was a woman named Caroline. She served in various roles for around twenty-five years. Well, when her health was failing and she was in the hospital, I went to see her. She was troubled with being bedridden and didn’t like it at all. The Lord impressed on my heart to say, “Now Ms. Caroline, as long as I’ve known you, you’ve faithfully fulfilled your assignments. And now—well, this is your assignment from the Lord.” She put her head back down on her pillow and said with some determination; “Yes, this is my assignment from the Lord.” She went home to be with the Lord a few days later.

I do not know what your assignment from the Lord is, but the question is, will you accept it and fulfill it as you wait on Him and trust Him?

Jesus goes on here to describe three unfaithful stewards in verses 45-48. One steward is violently rebellious against his master. The second steward knows his master’s will but ignores it. The third steward acts in a manner that does not please his master. Jesus’ point here is that all three are punished according to what each one knew of the master’s will.

I think this parable communicates the truth that there are varying levels of punishment when unbelievers are judged in that final judgment. The same principle applies to believers: there will be different levels of rewards in heaven one day. Some believers will receive greater rewards than others according to 1 Corinthians 3:10-15. We are all going to be happier than we can imagine, but at the same time, some believers will be given greater responsibilities in the kingdom than others. And I have to tell you, I personally think we are going to be surprised at how generous the Lord is in rewarding us. We do not deserve any of it, frankly; and that is why the Bible tells us we will cast our crowns—our rewards—at His feet (Revelation 4:10).

We tend to think the Lord rewards all the great things, the great influence, those great steps of faith—and He will. But the devil is happy to make us think those are the only things God rewards because it will discourage us if we don’t do some great thing for God. And consequently, we miss doing some “small” things for God.

What Jesus is describing is being a steward who is rewarded for faithfully doing the small things as well as the great things, as we wait for the Lord to come for His church.

Sam Gordon tells the true story of a tourist who was exploring the beautiful estates in northern Italy. He arrived at an old castle; and even though it wasn’t open for tourists at the time, he opened the ornamental front gate and went inside.

He saw beautiful flowers blooming with extravagant color and shrubbery perfectly manicured. He noticed a gardener on his hands and knees, clipping blades of grass near the castle wall. He ventured over and said, “I hope you don’t mind a visitor having a look at your gardens.” The gardener replied, “I’m glad to have a guest.” 

The visitor walked around the beautifully kept grounds and eventually returned and asked, “Is the owner here today?” “I’m afraid not,” the gardener replied. “He’s been away now for twelve years.” 

The visitor said, “You mean, he hasn’t been back here for twelve years?” The gardener said, “That’s right.” 

“Well, then, who tells you what to do?” the tourist asked. The gardener explained that the owner had an agent in a town nearby who communicated with him.

When asked if he ever saw the owner personally, the gardener, still clipping the grass, replied,

 “No, he just sends instructions through his agent.”

The tourist was amazed, “You have everything so well kept. It’s beautiful here—it looks like you’re expecting him sometime tomorrow.”

The gardener paused and said, “Oh, no, not tomorrow; I expect him sometime today.”[4]

We should think and act the same way, beloved: “I’m waiting for Him, I’m watching for Him, I’m working for Him; and just think, He could come for us, sometime today.”

[1] Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Luke (Zondervan, 2012), 336.

[2] Dale Ralph Davis, Luke: The Year of the Lord’s Favor (Christian Focus, 2021), 229.

[3] Swindoll, 336.

[4] Sam Gordon, Hope and Glory: The Timeless Message of I & II Thessalonians (Ambassador International, 2005), 56.

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