This chapter we will finish Jesus' discussion of His coming Kingdom with His disciples. Remember that they are sitting upon the Mount of Olives overlooking the temple, for now, it is just Jesus and in His inner circle. You may sometimes hear of this passage as the Olivet Discourse because of its location. In the last chapter we finished by asking, are we waiting well? However, this may have given some of us another question: what does it mean to wait well? What are we supposed to be doing besides preaching the Gospel while we wait? After all, it's now been thousands of years! In this chapter, Jesus will answer that question while continuing to explain to His disciples what the Kingdom of Heaven will be like when it comes at the end of the age. Interestingly enough, just as in the last chapter with the demonstration of the fig tree, Jesus now continues to speak in parables as He finishes the discourse.
“Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour. Matthew 25:1-13
This parable is extra strange to us now because our wedding traditions are different from the practices of Ancient Israel. According to Bible Reference, "The custom was apparently this: The groom and his friends would leave his home to go to the bride's home for the first part of the wedding. Then the couple and the wedding party would walk back to the groom's home for a banquet, the wedding feast. This procession would take place after dark, and each participant would carry a lamp to light the way. Wedding celebrations were often multi-day events, and those waiting for the groom to come and collect his bride would not know exactly when he would arrive."
So the ten virgins we can understand to be the young women of the bridal party or the Bride and her Bridesmaids. Notice again that He mentions the bridegroom being delayed and that both the wise virgins and the foolish grow weary in their waiting. However, the wise bridesmaids had prepared for when the call would go out that the groom had arrived and the foolish women did not. It was too late at that hour to go out and buy more oil, they came too late to the wedding feast. Are you prepared for Christ's return? There will be a day when it will be too late to make that choice!
“For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master's money. Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here, I have made five talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here, I have made two talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here, you have what is yours.’ But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ Matthew 25:14-30
We easily understand from the context of the story that a talent is some monetary unit. As a child, I imagined it as $5, $2, and $1. However, as I was looking more into this today I discovered that a talent, though its actual value could vary, would have been worth twenty years of a common laborer's salary. Meaning it was a substantial amount of wealth and that is the smallest amount given in the story!
Notice that the Master divides these great resources to each servant, "according to their ability." Doing so brings us an implied expectation that they're supposed to do something with those resources. The servant with five talents is able to double the sum as does the servant with two talents. However, the third servant takes and buries his one talent in the ground ensuring that not only will he not spend those resources, he won't add to them either.
Therefore, when the Master returns the first two servants are rewarded! "Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much!" Notice that the reward here doesn't change based on the sum each servant brought in. Only upon how faithfully they worked in their Master's absence to care for what he had entrusted them with. The third servant, however, insults his Master and explains that he buried the money out of fear, refusing to add to the Master's entrusted wealth even in interest because then the Master would collect from labor that is not his own. In saying this the servant reveals that he was never really a servant of the Master at all, but spent his life on his own desires and entitlements. He probably would even describe himself as a good person because he didn't spend the wealth that didn't belong to him, but that's certainly not how his Master sees it! The consequence for this servant's rejection of the resources and tasks that his Master had given him, is that he is cast out into darkness and torment.
God has given each of us resources, abilities, and purpose in this life. Our first act must be to choose to serve Him instead of rejecting Him. Once we've done that, then like the first two servants we must serve faithfully and well. If you have not yet chosen to serve Him, take a moment to consider today the attitude and fate of the third servant. Do you see God as a harsh and difficult Master with too many rules and not enough benefits? Do you attribute to yourself the resources and abilities with which you live your life? There will come a day when the choice to even put those resources and abilities in the bank to make interest will be too late. Christ will return and the nations will mourn.
How Do We Wait Well? How Do We Invest God's Blessings Well?
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ Matthew 25:31-40
When Jesus returns, He will no longer be coming to save the nations from His wrath, but to take His rightful place as Judge of the Nations. The righteous will be separated from the wicked and both will receive the reward they earned for either accepting or rejecting the King. What are the telltale signs of difference between the two?
They feed the hungry.
They give drink to the thirsty.
They are hospitable to strangers.
They clothe the needy.
They bring compassion to the sick.
They show kindness to those in prison.
How we show God's love to the world that is broken and without hope, is how we wait well! It is how we use the resources and abilities He has given us wisely, then it is not that our kingdom is multiplied or made prosperous on this Earth. That's not the point! It is that when we do these things, we are building the Kingdom of our King and bringing glory to Him as we wait to inherit the joy of His Kingdom in eternity.
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” Matthew 25:41-46
They ignore the hungry and thirsty.
They scorn the stranger.
They do not give to the needy.
They do not comfort the sick.
They do not show kindness to the one in prison.
We are to serve even the least of these people as if they are the King Himself! For what we do not do for them, we also do not do for Him and the consequences are eternal.
What are you today? Are you a sheep or a goat? Are you a faithful servant or a slothful one? Are you a prepared bridesmaid or a foolish one?
The day will come when the Judge sits on His throne and it will be too late to make a better choice! Therefore, let us treasure the long delay that the King has made so that many will be given the time and opportunity to choose to serve Him, to wait for Him well, and to use the resources and abilities He has given us to live our lives in a way that honors Him!