Imagine if you will, that you own a home in South Florida that’s not your primary residence. One day, a person comes along and takes over the house out in the open, for all to see. They turn on all the lights, bake cookies for the neighbors and enroll their children in the school down the street. Maybe your neighbors assume that you’ve sold them the house, and they simply go on with their day.
The squatters residing in your property even pay your property taxes! And they do so for seven uninterrupted years. If this little dream sequence were true, the squatters could become the rightful owners of your home without paying you a cent under the common law process of adverse possession.
Perhaps you’ve heard of the term. Perhaps, the idea of adverse possession makes your head spin and leaves you wondering, “How can this be? Is our legal system now in the business of rewarding thieves?”
But, this process is actually linked to a spiritual principle.
Adverse possession is based on the doctrine of laches, which basically says that if you don’t use your rights, you lose your rights. When people lose their property through adverse possession, people say they’ve “slept on their rights.”
Jesus talked about a similar process in Matthew 25:14–30.
He said the Kingdom of Heaven could be compared to a man who went on a long trip and left some money with his servants. He left five bags of silver with one, two bags with another and one bag of silver with the last servant – according to their ability. You know the story two of the servants double the money they were given, and the last servant digs a hole and hides it in the ground for safe keeping.
When the man returned, he was pleased with the first two servants, saying “Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!” (verse 21).
But, his response was a little different with the servant who invested his money in the dirt.
Jesus said, “Then the servant with the one bag of silver came and said, ‘Master, I knew you were a harsh man, harvesting crops you didn’t plant and gathering crops you didn’t cultivate. I was afraid I would lose your money, so I hid it in the earth. Look, here is your money back.’ But the master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy servant! … Why didn’t you deposit my money in the bank? At least I could have gotten some interest on it.’ Then he ordered, ‘Take the money from this servant, and give it to the one with the 10 bags of silver. To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away. Now throw this useless servant into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'”
In a way, Jesus was talking about adverse possession.
The last lazy servant was definitely sleeping on his rights to grow and invest his master’s money.
Perhaps, Jesus was giving us a little economic lesson, but He was also trying to teach us something more through the Parable of the Talents.
He was trying to tell us to wake up and use all the things God has equipped us with for His glory, before He gives the job to someone else. Our Master may be on a long trip, but He’s coming back soon!
The only difference is that we’re not called to invest in dollars and cents, but, rather, we’re called to invest in people’s lives and lead them to Christ.
In this day and age, we have no excuse for not having a vibrant, powerful and “profitable” relationship with the Lord.
We have the Holy Spirit, the power of prayer, fellowship with other believers, His Word, freedom of religion, plenty of wonderful local churches and so many Christian resources at our fingertips that we couldn’t possible use them all in a lifetime. (Believe me, my husband has tried.)
Listening to the audio version of “The Pilgrim’s Progress” by John Bunyan always reminds me to wake up and get back in the game.
Seventeenth century believers like Bunyan had far less resources to use to share the Gospel and grow in their faith, but, somehow, it seems like they lived with more power and authority and did more for the Kingdom with their God-given rights.
The same is true of many biblical heroes and the ancient church.
The only excuse we have for not leading other people to the Lord or spending time in His Word is that we’ve become distracted and we’ve fallen asleep on our rights as believers.
It’s time to get up.