Feb. 7, 2017

Well done or weeping

Matthew 25:1-30 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible

“Then the kingdom of heaven will be comparable to ten virgins, who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were prudent. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the prudent took oil in flasks along with their lamps. Now while the bridegroom was delaying, they all got drowsy and began to sleep. But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. The foolish said to the prudent, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the prudent answered, ‘No, there will not be enough for us and you too; go instead to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’ 10 And while they were going away to make the purchase, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding feast; and the door was shut. 11 Later the other virgins also came, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open up for us.’ 12 But he answered, ‘Truly I say to you, I do not know you.’ 13 Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour.

14 “For it is just like a man about to go on a journey, who called his own slaves and entrusted his possessions to them. 15 To one he gave five talents, to another, two, and to another, one, each according to his own ability; and he went on his journey. 16 Immediately the one who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and gained five more talents. 17 In the same manner the one who had received the two talents gained two more. 18 But he who received the one talent went away, and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

19 “Now after a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. 20 The one who had received the five talents came up and brought five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you entrusted five talents to me. See, I have gained five more talents.’ 21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’

22 “Also the one who had received the two talents came up and said, ‘Master, you entrusted two talents to me. See, I have gained two more talents.’ 23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’

24 “And the one also who had received the one talent came up and said, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow and gathering where you scattered no seed. 25 And I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours.’

26 “But his master answered and said to him, ‘You wicked, lazy slave, you knew that I reap where I did not sow and gather where I scattered no seed. 27 Then you ought to have put my money in the bank, and on my arrival I would have received my money back with interest. 28 Therefore take away the talent from him, and give it to the one who has the ten talents.’

29 “For to everyone who has, more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away. 30 Throw out the worthless slave into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.


Once again in today’s text we see that we cannot understand the things of heaven in natural human terms. Equality and justice in God’s kingdom are not the same as in our society or culture. First, in the parable of the virgins we see that those who were wise and prudent were not condemned for not sharing what they had. Rather, they were rewarded and it was those who were unprepared who were condemned, left to suffer the consequences of their choices. In truth though, this parable is not about social justice, it is about each person having a choice about how they will prepare for eternity. Jesus says: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” (John 14:6)   Those who have accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior cannot provide for others who have not. Each person has their lifetime to decide and prepare for themselves. Jesus says:  “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. (Revelation 3:20) God is a merciful and gracious God, who does not send anyone to eternal punishment. As we read in 2 Peter 3:9, The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.    God is loving, gracious and merciful, wanting everyone to come to repentance; to receive Christ as Lord and Savior. One of the greatest graces that God gives us is time. Yet as Jesus says in the parable, there comes a time when it will be too late, the door that Jesus has been knocking on will be closed. The idea that there would be a heaven and a hell doesn’t fit with many people’s idea of a loving and just God. God though does not send anyone to hell. Rather He invites everyone to heaven and He provided the way through His Son Jesus. The choice is up to each one.

In the second parable, the parable of the talents, we see again that justice in the kingdom does not look like what we have come to believe justice is in our culture. The servants or slaves were not each given an equal amount with which to work while the master was gone. He gave each one a different amount, five to one, two to another and one to the last. Whether the master gave it according to their ability or simply randomly as he chose we are not told. There are those in our culture and society who believe this type of treatment is unfair. They believe that each one must be given the same amount as the others. The truth is the idea of equality which is espoused by many today is simply baseless and ridiculous. All one needs to do is to look around and they will see that we are not all equal. We are male and female. Some are tall some are short. Some excel in working with their hands, while others are better at reasoning. To think that we would or should all be the same is to take away the best of everyone. There is indeed a Biblical and Christian mandate to take care of the poor and needy. There was and is however no expectation that the poor would be made equal to the rich, only that their needs would be met. In 2 Thessalonians 3:10-13 Paul says:  For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either. For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies. Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread. But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary of doing good.    That’s a Biblical principal many today would prefer to eliminate from the Bible.   

The truth is in the kingdom of heaven equality is measured differently. God is not concerned with what we have. He is concerned with what we do with what we have been given. Whether we have much or little God is pleased by what we give back to Him, not with what we have or attain. Both the one who was given five and the one who was given two, doubled what they had. In the end though it was all the master’s. They didn’t just give back what was given they gave all that they had to the master and his response to each was the same:  ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’    The one who was given only one was not criticized for not achieving as much as the others. He was criticized for doing nothing with what he had been given. I am certain that had the one who was given one returned more to the master than what he was given, he too would have been rewarded. We need to live lives of thanksgiving for what we have been given. We need to neither look up at those who have more with jealousy and covetousness nor down in pride at those who have less. Each of us needs to recognize that all we have and all we attain is God’s. We are to be faithful with what He gives us and not hold back in giving back to Him.

Heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ; precious Holy Spirit thank You for all You have done and all You have given me. May I live each day, like the wise and prudent virgins, ready and prepared to dine with You. May I also not concern myself with what You have given to others, but rather may I wisely and diligently use all that You have given me, that as I give back to You what is Yours many can be blessed; and that at the end of my days of Your grace to me on earth, I will hear:     ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’     Amen.