Judgment Day for Juggers

Proclaim Sermons
Homily: Advent 1
December 3, 2023
Reproduced with Permission
Proclaim Sermons

Summary: Juggers, police say, are thieves who rob you while you're shopping, withdrawing cash at an ATM or filling up your gas tank. Most of us would never consider being petty criminals like juggers. Yet Jesus suggests that unless we're vigilant, we too might be jugging time and our responsibilities in the kingdom of God -- especially if we think we can get away with it!

They're called juggers.

No one seems to know whether this is what juggers call themselves, or whether this is a sobriquet the police have slapped on them.

One thing is certain: they're bad news for the public.

Juggers, police say, are thieves who are out to rob you while you're shopping, going to the ATM to withdraw money or filling up your gas tank.1

The latest version of thievery sweeping the country should concern anyone patronizing shopping malls, grocery stores or ATMs. Juggers look for victims who are distracted. In a flash, the targets' packages, bags, phones, purses and expensive purchases are nicked and the perpetrators long in the wind.

We easily forget that when we leave the safety of our home, we're prey for those looking for an easy mark. This is why we are constantly warned to be en garde -- to have swords drawn and ready.

"Keep alert and keep aware."

"Be aware of your surroundings."

"Be conscious of unusual behavior."

"Baggage and personal items should not be left unattended. Please report any unattended items to airport security. Unattended luggage will be treated as suspicious."

We're accustomed to these warnings. Every one of them has to do with vigilance. It might be a good idea to review our threat assessment training when in public areas. Are we in a possible "Code Red" situation? Are we now looking at a "Threatcon Delta" and know that an incident is imminent? You hate to think that this is the world we live in, and maybe it's not. But still, we wonder. In any event, men, don't carry your wallet in your back pockets; women, be careful about handbags and purses.

So, we can't get away from these warnings, can we?

No, not even in church! We listen to the gospel reading for today, and there it is! Another warning, and from the mouth of Jesus, no less! Twice in this short passage, Jesus suggests caution: "Keep alert," he says in verse 33. And again, "Keep awake," in verse 37.

Jugging time

When the cat's away, the mice will play is a proverbial saying that means when the "big cat"-- the boss-person -- takes a leave of absence, the underlings will take advantage of their newfound freedom to move the cheese and to eat the cheese. They may watch trash TV and munch on crackers or cookies. They instantly become slackers, disregarding and breaking the rules.

In other words, when the boss is gone, the staff finds new ways to goof off.

When parents take off for the weekend leaving adolescent kids home alone, the house becomes "party central."

When teachers step out of the classroom, tomfoolery prevails.

When the general leaves the battlefield, the troops relax.

When the coach leaves the locker room, the players start snapping towels.

As early as the 14th-century, forerunners to this proverb existed such as "Where there is no cat, the rat is king."

The human tendency to relax when no one's looking is a telling sign of troubling weakness of character.

The first casualty of what we might call "Jesus jugging" -- because after all it is Jesus who is the victim of our thievery -- is time. When the boss is gone, the parents have left, the teacher steps out in the hall, what happens? Time is wasted. There's a new sense of freedom in the air. We feel released from oppressive rules and regulations. Productivity plummets, deadlines are missed, and goals are delayed, while at the same time, online shopping increases, water-cooler klatches abound, endless bathroom breaks and two-hour lunch breaks become the new normal, watching YouTube videos stretches into hours, and web surfing in general becomes habitual.2

This is a spiritual issue, not just a workplace or cultural one. We fritter away too much time that could be spent in self-improvement, soul-improvement and relational improvements, as well as volunteer work that betters those less fortunate than ourselves.

These are true statements that take into account the need for downtime for ourselves and uptime for God. Even so, might it not be an honest thing to admit that we are careless with time? Let's face it, the sands of our mortality are already filling up the bottom half of the hourglass, and more rapidly with each passing day!

"Be careful then how you live ... making the most of time!" cries the apostle Paul.3

Jugging work

A second way in which Jesus might be jugged and mugged is when we steal work product from him. When we fail to work, we are effectively stealing product and profits from the company, corporation or CEO who is writing our paychecks.

When this person is Jesus, and he must keep telling us to "keep alert" or to "keep awake," something is clearly off.

Perhaps we have a hard time understanding that our real-life work at the office, factory or our home office is not just work for a real-time corporate entity or for a mortal human being, but work that might be considered the work of the kingdom of God.

Our earthly mortal boss is not our true boss. It might come as a surprise to both you and your boss that your boss is not the boss of you.

At least this is how the Bible looks at it. "Whatever your task, put yourselves into it, as done for the Lord and not for your masters."4 We work, not just to provide our tall, non-fat-latte-with-caramel-drizzle designer coffee in the morning, and an Uber Eats dinner in the evening, but also "as unto the Lord." It's all about Jesus. It is all the Lord's work.

One study claims that about two hours a day are spent in idleness rather than work-related activity.5 This means that the Lord's work is suffering.

Unless this is our understanding, we will not be ready for the day when we might be held accountable. Keep awake, Jesus said.

Warnings and threats

You wouldn't think that Jesus would use fear and threats to motivate those who love God to stay true and be faithful to God.

But he does. Jesus tells his disciples that he could return at any time: "Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come." He gives them a possible scenario. You work for the boss. The boss leaves on a trip, but when asked when he might be expected to return, he is noncommittal.

"Not sure when I might return," he might have put it. "So keep calm and carry on. I'll be back when I'm back."

If we knew beyond a reasonable doubt when the boss was returning, we'd feel more comfortable slacking, jugging some time and responsibilities. But the threat of the boss' imminent and unexpected return strikes fear into our hearts, and we know that it is not enough to just look busy; we need to be busy.

The worst thing that could happen is that we might be caught asleep on the job! "Or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly."

An unexpected arrival is what dooms five hapless bridesmaids in another cautionary tale Jesus tells on the same theme, according to Matthew 25. At midnight, they heard a shout, "Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out and meet him."6 The girls were not prepared. They had no oil. Instead of sleeping whilst waiting for the arrival of the guest of honor, they could have gone to 7-Eleven and bought oil for their lamps. After all, five of the other bridesmaids in their party had oil and were completely ready for the imminent arrival of the groom.

Now, these witless gals had to scramble and rush off to the convenience store to get some lamp oil. But when they returned, the party had started without them. They went to the door of the venue and said, "Lord, lord, open to us." But they were too late.

Jesus concludes this tale by saying, "Keep awake, therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour."7

The warning about wakefulness and the threat of a sudden appearance in this case is tied to the importance of maintaining a state of readiness.

How to be ready

The best defense against a jugger or a mugger is to be constantly vigilant, especially in moments of vulnerability -- walking to one's car on the street or a parking lot, leaving valuables unattended or carrying one's purse and wallet carelessly.

But what does Jesus mean?

When we're uncertain as to what God expects of us, the best thing to do is look to the scriptures for simple and direct instructions. For example, consider these words: "He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?"8

But let's turn to Jesus himself for advice on how we might live in a state of readiness. Jesus suggests two things: Love God with all you've got, and love your neighbor as yourself.9

If you act justly with kindness, walk in humility and love God and your neighbor, you will be ready for that day when the Bridegroom returns in glory. You will rise and trim your lamps, and when you approach your Lord, he will say to you, "Well done, good and faithful servant ... Come and share your master's happiness!"10