As a kid, I lived in a perpetual state of anxiety about Jesus coming back and with the fear of not being ready. This was largely due to my church being a little obsessed with the second coming. So, if for any reason I called out to my parents and they didn’t respond, I’d run through the house panicked, sure I’d find my mom’s clothes fallen neatly into a pile on the floor as she ascended to be with Jesus—meaning I’d been left behind.
We may have gone a little overboard back then, but my church did have something that I think many Christians lack today: the earnest expectation of Jesus’ return. After all, if Jesus’ return could happen today—at any moment, even—why wouldn’t we want to be ready at all times?
Jesus instructs his disciples in Luke 12 on how to take on a posture of readiness by using four images.
1. “Stay dressed for action” (Luke 12:35 ESV).
Unfortunately, our English translations don’t fully explain the Greek here because what Jesus says is so much more colorful in Greek, which literally reads, “Keep your loins girded.” In those days, men wore robes, which were comfortable and stylish and breezy but not ideal if you were going to work, run, or fight. So, for those occasions, men would put on belts that would tighten things up down there so that they were ready for action. Jesus is telling his followers to let that be a metaphor for how we live.
Remember how the game musical chairs works? You set out one less chair than the number of people in the game. As you walk around the chairs, you have to be ready for the music to stop so you can scramble for a seat. It usually ends up in a comical shoving match!
Like musical chairs, if you’re walking through life leisurely, you’re going to be out. Musical chairs is based on the idea that the music will stop, but you don’t know when, and because of that, you’ve got to live ready.
Don’t live in a posture of leisure. Stay in fight mode. You never know when the music is going to stop.
2. Keep your lamps burning.
“… and 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. Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them. If he comes in the second watch, or in the third, and finds them awake, blessed are those servants!”
– Luke 12:35–38
In biblical times, when a rich man went to a wedding, none of the servants knew how long he’d be gone because they never knew exactly how long a wedding would last—it could be one day or several days. You would find out when you got there! There was no way for the master to tell the servants he was on his way home after the wedding, so they just had to keep the house ready at all times because the master didn’t want to return home to a dark, cold house with all the servants asleep.
We also should live like that, Jesus says, keeping our lamps burning, ready for him to return at any hour.
3. Keep watch for Jesus like you’re watching out for a thief.
“But know this, that 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. You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”
– Luke 12:39–40
Thieves, as a general rule, don’t schedule break-ins. Their goal is to surprise you. So, if you know a thief is coming sometime in the night, you’d better stay up all night to be ready for him.
Of course, Jesus is not some sinister, ruinous villain, but he will come when you’re not expecting him. And, if you’re not ready, you will be ruined.
4. Keep watch, as stewards who do not want to be caught idle (Luke 12:42–43).
Because these servants forget their boss is coming back, they start to commandeer their master’s belongings for personal use. They throw parties for their friends on his dime, drink his wine, wear his clothes, and even force the other servants to tend to their needs. When the master comes back, he’s going to say, “These things aren’t yours! I didn’t entrust them to you for your personal use.”
In fact, the word Jesus uses for the servant in verse 42, oikonomos, translated “manager,” communicates just that—it literally means “steward.” A steward is not someone who owns the assets but manages them for someone else.
Manage God’s gifts as if they are on loan to you because they are, and be ready to give an account at any time.
Jesus does not give this instruction lightly, and it’s evident by another image he uses in the same passage: If the Master returns and does not find you ready, he will “cut [you] in pieces and put [you] with the unfaithful” (Luke 12:46). You’re going to get the same judgment an unsaved person gets. Luke was concerned that a lot of people thought they were followers of Jesus but actually weren’t, and that was demonstrated by the fact that they didn’t live ready for his return.
Are you busy about your task, living in anticipation of your Master’s return? Your posture of readiness will reveal whether or not you are really Jesus’ disciple.