“Lest at any time”

Christ knew what the world would be like in the days preceding his return. He knew the way it could subtly deceive us from faithful service to him. Temptation comes at any time and particularly when we are most vulnerable. The temptation of the Lord is an example of this. Sadly, at times, we allow ourselves to be in an idle state spiritually and it is then that our hearts can be “overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness” (Luke 21:34). Let us remember that “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jer 17:9). Our heart can so easily deceive us and the scary thing about deceit is, that if we are deceived, we don’t know it at the time. Yahweh says, “I Yahweh search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings” ( Jer 17:10).

Now we can see why Jesus said “take heed to yourselves” but what does this quaint old English expression “overcharged with surfeiting” mean? It simply means to be weighed down with eating and drinking. Linguistic experts may wish to quibble about meanings but the Lord himself tells us what the world will be like when he comes. It will be like Noah’s days in which “they were eating and drinking” and carrying on with life “until the flood came, and took them all away”

We may rationalise this by saying that we all need to eat and drink so this does not apply to us. Let’s look a little closer. Remember the words of the Lord: “Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek): for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matt 6:31-33). What does the Lord mean here? Is it at all possible that he foresaw that some of his disciples might be infected with the mania that has swept the world over recipes and food, chefs and cooking and continual wining and dining out, so robbing disciples of sober discipleship? Just check your conversation some time to see if it does not include where we will eat next, what we will eat or what we will have to drink with this or that. Thank God if you have not been caught up with this way of life that in Noah’s day, cost most of the world’s population their very life itself. Let us, having food and raiment, therewith be content and devote our mental energy to serving and trusting our God as we wait for our Lord’s return.

“The cares of this life”

This is not the first time the Lord used this expression. It was used in the parable of the sower. The soil that was capable of bringing forth vegetation brought forth weeds, even though the Word had been planted there and was steadily growing: “That which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection” (Luke 8:14). One does not need to be a gifted horticulturist to picture what was happening here. The seed represents the Word of God and in this soil it took root and was beginning to grow well. To the outward observer, the same was happening in the “good ground”. However, the difference between the two was the extra quality that was in this good ground. And that difference was “an honest and good heart”, so that they “having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience”.

We are all of the dust of the ground and since the fall of Adam and Eve, that dust has the seeds of “thorns and thistles” embedded in it. How easy it is to let the gardening go! If we play the part of the slothful man, our field will be “all grown over with thorns, and nettles” (Prov 24:30-31). Similarly, if we relax spiritually, the old man of the flesh will bring forth those destructive weeds that will choke any growth in us. Rather than being overburdened with the mundane cares of this life, let us follow Peter’s guidance: “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you” (1 Pet 5:7).

To the slothful servant, the advertising of this world is a remarkable fertiliser for the weeds of the natural man. It will point out all the cares you should be anxious about, ranging from your looks, your clothes, your food and drink, your home…the list is endless. The weeds all around us are limitless and those who are not of an “honest and good heart” will foolishly allow them to thrive, thus choking the spiritual influence of the Word of God so that they “bring no fruit to perfection”. Our Lord did not allow the pleasures of this life to attract him and so derail him from the path he had chosen to follow, for he who was the “word made flesh” daily sought his Father’s guidance. The pleasure he looked for is clearly stated in the Psalm, “In thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Psa 16:11).

“Watch ye therefore and pray always”

The Lord was very clear in describing the conditions that would prevail in the world at the time of his return. We are foolish not to “take heed” to ourselves as he urged (Luke 21:34). The ESV states that the day of the Lord’s return will come “suddenly like a trap” to “all who dwell on the face of the whole earth” (v35) and, sadly, this will happen to those saints who are distracted by the cares and pleasures of the world. In other words, it will catch both the world and the worldly disciples alike and no disciple in that day will be able to say, “But Lord, you should have told us”. He has clearly and repeatedly described the days we now live in and warned us to be vigilant and awake to its dangers.

The antidote to becoming a “slothful” servant is clearly stated – “Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man” (Luke 21:36). Here is the key. Jesus told his disciples then – and we do well to take heed today – “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matt 26:41). Let us then daily “set our affection on things above and not on things on the earth” and, crucifying the flesh with the affections and lusts, let us walk in the spirit, so that we will be prepared to “stand before the Son of man” when he appears. Today is our day of opportunity to “take heed to ourselves”.