This past week I had one of those moments where what appeared to be a random comment sparked a wave of inspiration and maybe even some revelation. It began with a statement from one of the young men we are coaching in the S.E.E. program that came from a discussion he was having with his boss about a difficult work situation involving a fellow workmate who was selfishly hogging most of the new customers coming into their store and preventing others from having sales opportunities. His boss said “When your turn comes around, I give you permission to invade the space at the front of the store to ensure you get the next opportunity.” I immediately sensed it was no random comment.
At this point I will likely date myself by saying the the comment immediately brought back memories of my first video game experience – Space Invaders. If you are old enough to have played video games in the early 1980’s, you’ll remember this game. This screenshot will bring back memories. This game was everywhere in those days. Remember the big, monster, coin operated games in bowling alleys, shopping malls and other public places? Space Invaders eventually found it’s way into the early Atari and Nintendo game consoles. It is now considered a classic. A relic of many days of our mis-spent youth.
After reflecting further on this game and the workplace statement that triggered the near-ancient and happy memories, I contemplated how those with the Kingdom of God within them are called to be “Space Invaders” on this earth. Consider these words of Jesus:
“And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, Occupy till I come.” Luke 19:13 KJV
In recent years we have had the unusual experience of witnessing a unique phenomenon in various cities and towns in the world known as the “Occupy Movement”. Initially started in New York and branded as “Occupy Wall Street” it rapidly spread around the world to approximately 951 cities in 82 countries. It’s stated purpose was to protest the growing inequality of wealth being concentrated in the hands of “the 1%” of the very rich while “the 99%” struggle to survive.
Dictionary.com defines the word “occupy” as follows:
1. to take or fill up (space, time, etc.): I occupied my evenings reading novels.
2. to engage or employ the mind, energy, or attention of: Occupy the children with a game while I prepare dinner.
3. to be a resident or tenant of; dwell in: We occupied the same house for 20 years.
4. to take possession and control of a place, as by military invasion (Space Invaders?)
5. to hold (a position, office, etc.).
It would seem the “Occupy Movement” emphasized definitions #1 through #3 and for the optimistic members of the movement, occasionally #4 although I would argue that the authorities in various cities simply tolerated them until either poor weather, court injunctions or police efforts moved them along, leaving behind a nasty mess to be cleaned up at taxpayer’s expense. In Vancouver, BC (the city where I work), the city land where Occupy Vancouver was camped out was a total mess. Garbage, human waste and trampled parkspace was what was left to be cleaned up by city crews. This certainly did not leave a good impression on observers of the movement and in fact destroyed what little credibility they may have built over the protest period.
The bible passage I opened with is from the King James Version and was part of the parable of the Ten Minas in Luke 19:11 – 27 which is very similar to the parable of the Talents in Matt 25:14 – 30. The word “Occupy” in the KJV is better translated “engage in business” ESV, “put this money to work” NIV and “do business” NASB. It is an active word with a far more assertive sense then the typical use of “occupy” noted in the dictionary definition. If anything, definitions #4 and #5 would be the closest to the biblical intent.
Let’s look at Luke 19:11 – 27 and read the entire parable to get a better sense of what Jesus was trying to communicate and how different it is from the stated intent of the “Occupy Movement”.
“While they were listening to this, he went on to tell them a parable, because he was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once.
He said: “A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return. So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas. ‘Put this money to work,’ he said, ‘until I come back.’
“But his subjects hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, ‘We don’t want this man to be our king.’
“He was made king, however, and returned home. Then he sent for the servants to whom he had given the money, in order to find out what they had gained with it.
“The first one came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has earned ten more.’ ” ‘Well done, my good servant!’ his master replied. ‘Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.’
“The second came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has earned five more.’ “His master answered, ‘You take charge of five cities.’
“Then another servant came and said, ‘Sir, here is your mina; I have kept it laid away in a piece of cloth. I was afraid of you, because you are a hard man. You take out what you did not put in and reap what you did not sow.’
“His master replied, ‘I will judge you by your own words, you wicked servant! You knew, did you, that I am a hard man, taking out what I did not put in, and reaping what I did not sow? Why then didn’t you put my money on deposit, so that when I came back, I could have collected it with interest?’
“Then he said to those standing by, ‘Take his mina away from him and give it to the one who has ten minas.’ ” ‘Sir,’ they said, ‘he already has ten!’
“He replied, ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what they have will be taken away. But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them–bring them here and kill them in front of me.’ “
The first important thing to note here is the introduction to the parable. In summary, Jesus told the parable in response to the people believing that the kingdom of God was “going to appear at once” and Jesus wanted to correct their thinking. In other words, they had the wrong worldview and in order for them to be effective to influence their generation they needed to shift their thinking.
Note that the servants who were praised took the money that the king gave them and “put it to work” or “did business” with it while the servant who “took up space” was punished. As you may know, the Parable of the Talents in recorded by Matthew concludes in essentially the same way.
Why is this relevant?
What do we have in common with those hearing Jesus parables?
Many believers or Jesus followers in this generation appear to fall into one of two camps:
1. Jesus will return at any moment to take full dominion over this wicked earth once and for all and we, His body, will rule with him in an everlasting Kingdom.
2. Jesus is already actively involved on this earth through us, His body, and is manifesting the rule and reign of His Kingdom through signs, wonders and miracles to draw more people to Himself.
Unfortunately, the first camp is waiting for the King to show up to settle accounts and establish His Kingdom while the second camp has too narrow a vision for the manifestation of His Kingdom on earth. I believe that there is a third option that also includes #1 and #2 and is a fulfillment of the true intent of “Occupy till I come” or being a Space Invader. Let’s go back to Genesis to begin our discovery of this.
In Genesis, God instructed Adam and Eve in this way:
“God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number, fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” Gen 1:28
In essence, God was instructing them to “Occupy the earth.” This was no “taking up time and space” or simply being a “resident of” the earth. This was an active commission to work the land and rule (take dominion, invade the space) of everything on the earth.
“The highest heavens belong to the Lord, but the earth he has given to man” Ps 115:16
Through the fall in Genesis 3, man handed the dominion of earth back to Satan (or Lucifer) through the disobedience of Adam and Eve. Furthermore, Satan offering the kingdoms of the earth to Jesus if he would only worship him, proving that at that time he had control of them. Matt 4:8–9. Jesus, of course, took this back through his defeat of Satan through the cross, hence his statement in Matt 28 “All authority on heaven and earth, is given to me. Go therefore…”
The key to understanding the third camp or way that I am referring to is to understand that our original commission in Genesis has been restored through Jesus’ victory. Yes, he is physically returning to rule and reign with us on this earth and yes, he wants to work through us to perform signs, wonders and miracles through us to demonstrate his Kingdom but he also wants us to “do business” of all kinds, in all walks of life now. Believers are to step into places of influence and rule until the king or master returns to re-assume his place of visible leadership. We are not to wait or “take up space” until that happens. In fact, he will see this as wicked. We are to act on his behalf, in his absence, until he returns. In other words, we are to be “Space Invaders”, actively engaging with the land, business and people around us as a representative of a heavenly kingdom that is not of this world.
This is the exact opposite spirit of what the Occupy Movement has been saying. Don’t protest the problem of the 1% ruling the 99%, get out there and take your God given authority. Invade your space and rule your sphere of influence.
This is also dramatically different from believers or Jesus followers who limit themselves to either waiting for Jesus to return to set things in order (camp #1) or those who limit the active expression of the kingdom to signs, wonders and miracles (camp #2). If we want to really see God move on the earth, we’ll have to bust out of both camps.
What will this take? How can we do this? Thank God we have many examples in scripture. In Part II of this blog we’ll look at two – Joseph and Daniel.
For now, consider this question – “Are you simply taking up space in this world or are you actively invading it to take dominion of it?”