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Read Matthew 25:1-30
In these parables, Jesus is laying out the benefits — and consequences — of how well we manage the resources God has given us. We learn that our attitudes determine our actions, and our actions dictate our personal outcomes.
The parable of the ten virgins is a tale of two approaches as we wait for God’s kingdom to come in its fullness. As Christians, we’re all to be people of the Light, and to keep watch. Otherwise, we’ll find it all too easy to stumble, and perhaps pull others down with us.
The women in this story present two responses to being in God’s waiting room. One group, no doubt excited in the beginning with that first flush of anticipation, has slipped into apathy. When the oil in their lamps gets low, they can’t see the point of rushing out to refuel. They have other things — far more urgent things — to tend to. He hasn’t given any indication He’s about to burst on the scene today, so why worry? They’ll have plenty of time later to catch up, to remedy their fuel shortage. And besides, they can always borrow from others.
The second group isn’t taking anything for granted. They’re faithfully following the instructions to keep their lamps burning until Jesus returns. They aren’t assuming anything about the timing; they know God’s Word and remember there will be no forewarning. They make sure their oil reserves are topped up daily.
Our relationship with God is fuelled by time with Him. The oil of His Word and listening to His Spirit within is what keeps the wheels of our faith turning, the mechanism of life in Him working as it was intended. Without oil, our faith relationship grinds down, wears out, and eventually rusts out. This is more than a disadvantage; it can be catastrophic. When the foolish virgins knocked at the door of the wedding feast, the bridegroom replied, “Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.” If we need evidence that Jesus takes our relationship with Him very seriously, that He considers it vital, then this is it.
As believers, we share what we have with others in need. But Jesus is showing us here that one thing we can’t share is spiritual maintenance. We can’t pour the time we’ve spent with God into someone else who is suddenly conscious they should have made that investment. We can share our food, our roof, our clothing; but we’ve can’t cut off a chunk of spiritual growth and attach it to someone else. We can offer godly counsel, but we can’t cancel out the lost opportunities for relationship, the consequences of Satan’s lie that it doesn’t really matter.
Maintaining and growing our spiritual relationship will result in the wise use of the gifts God has given us. This is the subject of the parable of the worthless servant, who took what his master gave him and buried it in the ground. This man resented having to submit to his master. He saw him as hard and demanding. His attitude skewed his perspective, and with it, his prospects. He wasn’t concerned about benefitting his master; his only motivation was doing the minimum, and if possible, nothing at all. He didn’t want to serve; he just wanted to scrape by.
His views weren’t shared by his fellow servants, who obviously had a very different relationship with the same master. They were enthusiastic about their responsibilities, wisely used what was entrusted to them, and doubled its value. Their master was very pleased, praised them and rewarded them generously, inviting them to “share in your master’s happiness.”
There was no happiness in store for the servant who buried what His master gave him. He’d been given the opportunity to participate in building God’s kingdom, and he’d despised both God and the resources entrusted to him. He hadn’t used them to add to the Light, and as a consequence was thrown outside “into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
As we wait for Jesus to come again, let’s be “fuelish” and not foolish, resourceful and not resentful. The more oil in our lamps, the more light we have to see who God is, the more eager we are to know His will and to use the resources He gives us to build His kingdom.
Father, may we be wise and worthy servants, invited to share in the happiness of Your glorious presence at the ultimate heavenly feast.