Who is minding the store?
Yankel, a poor immigrant, came to the Land of Opportunity in search of freedom and a better life. With a mere handful of coins he bought a few basic necessities. Peddling soap, pins, needles and matches door-to-door, he managed to feed himself and make a small profit. Tirelessly he continued to buy and sell until he acquired enough to open a small store. He married, and his wife toiled endlessly alongside him, leaving the store only long enough to prepare their meals in the sparse back-room apartment or to snatch a few hours of sleep. Then God blessed them with a son.
As soon as the young wife could leave her childbed, she brought the infant to the store in a basket. There she fed and cared for him as she waited on customers, and he took his first toddling steps among the crates and barrels of merchandise. When other children came along, it was the same.
Yankel dreamed fondly of the time his children would take over the inheritance he had painstakingly built for them. It was their legacy, the best he had for them. The children grew to adulthood and did become partners in the family business. They expanded the inventory. Then they bought a larger building, and the store continued to prosper.Yankel, no longer physically active, continued to take an interest in everything that transpired.
One day Yankel became gravely ill. Knowing that his hours were numbered, he sent for his loved ones. As the grieving family gathered at his bedside, he spoke to them one last time.
"Rebekah, my dear wife, are you here?" he asked weakly. Tearfully she sobbed, "Yes, Yankel, I am here."
"David, my son, you are here to tell me goodbye?" "Yes, Papa, I am here."
"Irving, you are here?" "Yes, Papa," came the reply.
"Isaac, my boy, you are here, too?" he whispered hoarsely. "Right here, Papa!"
Suddenly, with a herculean effort the old man sat up and demanded, ‘Well, if all of you are here, who is minding the store?"
This is just a story, a sample of Jewish humor, but it contains a thought-provoking lesson. At great personal sacrifice, Yankel provided his family with a legacy. It was the very best he could give, and now that he was about to depart, he wanted them to carry on. He expected them to cherish their duty to the business and do their part to make it succeed.
I think of another story–not a joke but a true story. It also describes a gathering around a loved one who was about to depart from this world. Unlike Yankel’s fictitious deathbed scenario, that gathering was not a mournful scene. The loved one was Yeshua, and he was not dying. He had already died, and to his followers’ joy had come back to life. Now he was going away, and the disciples had gathered around him at the Mount of Olives to hear his last words of instruction (Acts 1:6-9).
They knew now that death could not hold him, and that he really was the promised Messiah. But realizing that, they expected him to reveal his identity and his divine power to the whole world. They anticipated that now he would culminate what he had begun and fulfill all prophecy by establishing God’s kingdom on earth.
Eagerly they blurted out, "Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?" implying, "Isn’t there an important detail you have not completed? Who is going to run the business if you leave?" In the past Jesus had called them his friends, even his brothers. He had treated them like partners. He had even washed their feet as though he were their servant instead of their Lord. But now with great authority he told them, "It is not for you to know the times or the seasons…" (more bluntly: "What God intends to do is none of your business"). But then Yeshua went on to tell them the part that was their business. He said, "But ye shall receive power, after the Holy Spirit is come upon you; and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth" (Acts 1:7-8).
If Jesus had completed the Father’s business at that time as the disciples expected, he would have instituted his reign of righteousness right there at Jerusalem. The disciples all would have become princes and judges. But it was not yet time for that part of the Father’s plan. First Yeshua’s followers faced some difficult work. Before that final expansion and extension of the Father’s business, many others were to hear about his love and the returning King who deserved their allegiance.
Instead of ruling over countries and provinces, the disciples were to be ambassadors for the King. Public Relations for the Kingdom was the assignment the Father had set out for them, and they were to be faithful in carrying out that task.
Since Yeshua gave those orders to his followers he has not yet returned with other instructions. We can be sure, then, that they are still in force. For us who have committed our lives to Yeshua, proclaiming the good news of Messiah is still the Father’s business, and we ought to be diligent in carrying out what he has left for us to do.
Unfortunately, as Yeshua’s followers today we often want to run the Father’s business our own way. Many of us want to work at our own convenient speed. Even in getting down to some serious work, we would rather establish mini-kingdoms in the body of Christ than be ambassadors to a lost world.
Some of us prefer to have our own following rather than to be followers. At times the spheres of influence we build are merely Bible studies; other times they are large congregations. Granted, the church does need leaders, and some who are gifted pastors and evangelists are called for that purpose. They will gather a following, and that of itself is not wrong. But we cannot all be leaders. If we were, there would be no followers for us to lead.
Yeshua never said that we were to establish domains for ourselves on this earth. This is not the time for us to be reigning monarchs. It is a time for us to relate the gospel to others and to build the Father’s business–his body of believers.
By Yeshua’s death we have become adopted children of the heavenly Father–heirs of God through Christ (Galatians4:4-7). That means we are partners in the family business. Yeshua, our elder Brother, is the prototype of the many sons God is bringing to glory (Hebrews 2:10). He is our senior partner and our living example of how to run the Father’s business. Even as a youth Yeshua recognized his obligation (Luke 2:49). He embraced it unreservedly, though it took him to the cross, and he left us that example of giving our all for the Father’s business.
As Yeshua was single-minded in his purpose, we believers also have an obligation to be single-minded. We too must be about our Father’s business. When the going gets tough, we must remember that we have not yet resisted unto death as Yeshua did. We are not merely partners in the gain, but in the cross, inasmuch as we are to reckon our former sinful selves crucified with Christ.
In Yeshua’s final instructions to the disciples about carrying on the Father’s business, he admonished them to testify of what they had seen, heard and experienced of God’s salvation. They were to broadcast it to the uttermost parts of the earth. They were to embrace tirelessly and faithfully what Yeshua had sweated and bled and died to accomplish, and they were to make it grow and prosper for the glory of God.
We who are blood-bought believers have benefited from the labors of those early disciples and those who followed them. If they had not taken their legacy of hard work in the gospel seriously, we might never have heard God’s good news and come to salvation. Now it is our turn. God wants us to give wholehearted attention and energy to our legacy in Christ. He wants us to be willing to go out and tell others that they also may become his adopted children and partakers of the inheritance.
God is seeking out sons and daughters for his name’s sake. He wants–expects–us, his children, to tell those who are dying in sin that the Father loves them. He wants us to invite them to join his family through faith in Yeshua. If we fail to do this to the best of our ability, we fail to fulfill what God has commanded us to do.
God needs us, his beloved adopted children by faith, not only to be faith-filled , but also to be faithful in carrying out his mandate. What will it profit us as individuals or the church-at- large if we do not do the works of faith and of the Spirit? The world is dying, and we are to be about the work of publishing the message of rescue and redemption. So, as we contemplate the Father’s business, let me ask you:
Who is minding the store? Is it you?
Editor’s note: This article evolved from several messages by our missionary staff at the 1990 West Coast Ingathering.