“Blessed are those servants whom the master, when he comes, will find watching. Assuredly, I say to you that he will gird himself and have them sit down to eat, and will come and serve them…. Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” Luke 12:37ff

Watchfulness concerns fidelity rather than faith. That is the point of the parable our Lord gives as a follow-up to our passage. Faith is foundational for those who would be watchful saints. Without faith it is impossible to please God, therefore faith is the absolutely necessary prerequisite for watchfulness. But fidelity is the motivation for being watchful.

Some English words, said often enough, begin to sound a bit funny to our ears. Watch is one such word. It comes from an Old English word, waecce, meaning watching, state of being or remaining awake. As mechanical clocks came upon the scene, the clock kept watch of the time, and with the passage of time, the wristwatch kept watch for a man everywhere he went.

Keeping watch is what the night watchman does. It is the haunt of the sentinel. It is also reminiscent of the day before a funeral, in days gone by, as close family honored the dead. Keeping watch in the military world relates to the duty of keeping an eye out for danger in order to protect from surprise or from aggression. Keeping watch also refers to the great act of love expended in long night hours of vigil tending a sick child. In each of these instances, watchfulness is an act of fidelity.

A simple definition of watchfulness is “vigilance; heedfulness; suspicious attention; careful and diligent observation for the purpose of preventing or escaping danger, or of avoiding mistakes and misconduct.” It is especially the latter part of the meaning that sheds light on our Savior’s words to Peter the night of His betrayal, “What! Could you not watch with Me one hour? Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:40f). Peter’s unfaithfulness was evident in his infidelity to His Lord. He did not watch with Him when he was directly asked to do so.

Watchfulness is asked, no, commanded of every Christian. 1 Peter 5:8ff instructs, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.” There is real danger in ignoring these warnings and in presuming upon God’s protection to overlook our disobedience.

Watchfulness and vigilance is not just because of enemies abroad but also because of the “enemy that is ‘us’.” 1 Corinthians 10:12f says, “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” How gracious is our God that when our fidelity is shaky His faithfulness never fails!

Watching is also your responsibility with regard to the saints around you. Paul closes 1 Corinthians with this challenge: “Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong. Let all that you do be done with love.” Over in Colossians 4:2f he exhorts, “Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving, meanwhile praying for us….” Fidelity to Christ requires fidelity toward His saints.

But watchfulness is not just about watching for danger, avoiding losing your spiritual footing, or watching unto prayer for one another. It is about eagerly anticipating our Lord’s return. Our text in Luke 12 is focused on Christian fidelity in making God’s priority your own priority.

The context starts back in verse 13 where a man asks Jesus to command his brother to divide their inheritance with him. After a word of warning that covetousness easily forgets that earthly possessions are not all the riches there are, our Lord tells the Parable of the Rich Fool. He reinforces the idea that earthbound thinking does nothing for heaven-bound “wealth.” In fact, inordinate pursuit of earthbound riches can severely retard the real valuables in eternity.

Our Lord’s next admonishment is to “seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you…For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (verses 22–34). Then, He quickly expands on His meaning by telling two more parables, the Parable of the Expectant Steward (35–40) and the Parable of the Faithful Steward (41–48). Both have to do with readiness (watchfulness) for the return of the Master.

“Blessed are those servants whom the master, when he comes, will find watching.” The Church Age lesson is, “Therefore, you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming in an hour you do not expect.” Titus 2:11–14 includes these words, “…we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.” Keep watch for the enemy, for yourself, for the saints around you, and for our Lord’s soon return—fidelity to Christ demands your attention. Trust and obey.