Watching with purpose
Back in the dark ages – before we all had our phones constantly in-hand – I had to pick up my wife and boys from the airport. The three of them were returning home after visiting her parents for few weeks. I knew the flight number and expected time of arrival, and so I parked the car and waited in baggage claim. I was there early and with nothing to do – because nobody stared down at their phones back then – I decided to do some people-watching while I kept an eye out for them.
It doesn’t matter how eclectic your social circles are, when you’re at an airport, you will see all kinds of people you don’t normally run into. However, one cannot simply “watch people” when they are “people-watching”; there is a certain level of discretion that has to be maintained. The trick is to observe without others catching you doing what really amounts to some short-term staring. Locking eyes with an observee can be awkward at the very least, and depending on the person (or their companion), being caught could lead to an uncomfortable scene in a public place.
Between the clothing chosen, the style of walk, and the expression on their faces, each person was making some sort of statement about who they were and what they were about. There were fashion statements, financial statements, sports statements, political statements, attitude statements – a sweeping variety of stories were being told as I watched them all walk by me. Some people treat the airport like a catwalk runway, others do their best to go unnoticed. Some people obviously chose to wear too many clothes, but as this was summertime, many others decidedly wore too few.
As my eyes bounced from person to person and from story to story, I quickly became lost in this time-killing activity. I hadn’t forgotten why I was at the airport, but watching for my family was no longer my primary task. After some time, my situation dawned on me. What would happen if my wife and kids found me and walked up before I even saw them? Simply missing them because I was watching others would be embarrassing enough, but imagine the kind of reception if they walked up while I was distracted and observing someone who had chosen to wear as little as possible?
With that revelation, I quickly snapped back to the task at hand. I wasn’t unaware of the other people around me, but my focus was now on what was most important to me. A short time later, they came down the escalator and toward their baggage carousel. I was greeted with hugs from my boys and a kiss from my wife – and I was thankful that I had made the right choice before it was too late.
We, as Christians, also have a return to watch for. Jesus said He will be coming back, and He told many parables alluding to His future return. However, by our reckoning, it has been many years since He said that, and there are many distractions in this life – fashion, finances, sports, politics, attitudes, and numerous others. It’s easy to lose focus and start living selfishly.
So let’s take a look at something Jesus said about His return:
Blessed is that servant whom the master finds doing his job when he comes. Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But if that servant says in his heart, ‘My master is delaying his coming,’ and starts to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and get drunk, that servant’s master will come on a day he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unfaithful.
While being afraid of getting “caught in the act” should not be our main motivation to avoid selfish behavior, there are certainly consequences to how we spend our time while we wait for Jesus’ promised return. There are significant opportunities and honors available for those who continue to do the work God has given them; but there are equally dire punishments for the servants of God who neglect their responsibilities and abuse others.
Notice that the servant never forgot that His master was returning, but doing his job and watching for the master’s return was no longer his primary task. He convinced himself that his master’s delay would continue, so he selfishly took advantage of those around him. He probably believed he had plenty of time to clean up his mess before the master came back. He couldn’t have been more wrong – and there wasn’t a chance for a do-over.
We certainly don’t want to end up like that! We want to be like a soldier found at his post, faithfully trusting the promise of the one who said He would return. But with all the distractions we face, how can we keep our focus? Our best option is to take the Apostle John’s advice:
1 John 2:28
So now, little children, remain in Him so that when He appears we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming.
When we intentionally spend time with Jesus, we remain in Him and keep His priorities. Doing so means we will avoid the embarrassment and shame of the wicked servant. Instead, Jesus’ return will be a joyful occasion, one where we can be confident that He will approve what we have been doing while we watch for His return.