Read: Matthew 25
The last of Matthew’s record of Jesus’ teaching through parables includes three lessons:
- The Parable of the Ten Virgins: Matthew 25:1-13
- The Parable of the Bags of Gold: Matthew 25:14-30
- The Sheep and the Goats: Matthew 25:31-46
The first exhorts us to be prepared, the second to be prudent and the third invites us to love the world as Jesus did.
Parable of the Ten Virgins (Bridesmaids)
For some reason, the use of the term “virgins” in the title of the first parable trips me up. I don’t think I’m alone in that category as the NLT translates the Greek as “bridesmaids” based on the context of the term. The Greek is clearly “virgin,” but the context is better aligned with those in the wedding party. My aversion to “virgin” is the connotation of exploiting young girls, something we’ve become keenly aware of these days through news of human trafficking. Talk about a rabbit trail!
The point of the story seems plain and pretty straightforward — be prepared, don’t be a fool and delay the decision to follow Christ.
“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour. Matthew 25:13
It’s interesting that Jesus uses weddings, feasts, and large gatherings in his parables. We see lots of celebrations, not just the dull, dreary work in the field type of people. The event is special, not an ordinary day — we need to be prepared every day because we don’t know when that day will come. Maybe today will be that day for someone!
Parable of the Bags of Gold or Three Servants
Once again, the NLT provides a slightly different emphasis on this parable. Is the main point about bags of gold or the people? Hmmm. I tend to think the point of this story has less to do with money and much more to do with stewardship (with an emphasis on the steward). In the parable, as the master prepares to go away on a long trip, he calls three of trusted servants and gives them a task.
To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. Matthew 25:15
Each according to his ability. The master knows his servants well and uses this discernment when he apportions each with that which they can handle. I’m pretty confident I’m not a 5-bag level guy, but I hope and pray that I’m not a 1-bag servant!
My friend Nabeel Qureshi died a few days ago at the young age of 34. His earthly body was ravaged by stomach cancer. Incredibly sad. Nabeel was a 5-bag servant, or perhaps a 10-bagger! His short life on earth had a profound impact on the kingdom, literally thousands of Muslims have come to know Jesus as their Lord through Nabeel’s testimony. When I met him in 2012, he wasn’t thinking about writing books to become a Christian superstar, but so many encouraged him to stop and record his thoughts so we could learn from his keen insight. Please read, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, when you get a chance. His story of faith is wrapped up in this well-written, significant book.
While I know I’m just a 2-bag guy, I pray that I will in fact use them to support those with 3, 4 or 5 bags! I’m incredibly thankful for that which has been given to me and continue to look for ways to gain two more bags!
Sheep and Goats — The Final Judgment
Over the last year, I’ve been working with Greg Wiens on a project with World Vision that centers on this section of Scripture. We’ve read and discussed it over and over again as we built the Mission Gap Assessment. Basically, we ask individuals to evaluate how they prioritize serving “the least of these” versus “go and make disciples” (Matthew 28). The emphasis is to encourage both–you can’t do one without the other. [Link]
The foundation of both is simply, love. If we hear Jesus’ words from the previous chapter and love God, love ourselves and love others, there is no doubt which side of the fence we will fall on that day of final judgment. Perhaps we’re victims of capitalistic marketing that has inundated our culture for the last fifty+ years, but it’s not all about me! I actually don’t need a bigger house, better car, newer wardrobe, etc. While there are things I actually need, they should not be influenced by marketers desires to add to their sales figures.
When I focus on loving God with everything I have, the rest falls into place. Sad to admit that last sentence begins with “When.” Seems like there is a need for constant reminders about who God is and why He is most deserving above all else. Isn’t this why we gather on Sunday? The weekly reminder is not a box to check, it’s designed to help me remember that loving God is not a task, it’s a privilege and it’s meant to be shared with others.
Another point of the story of sheep and goats is simply this: I am not the judge. Thank goodness! My role is to love others completely. That’s not easy to do, but the more I focus on being patient and kind to everyone, the more I become like Jesus commanded.
All over the charts this morning. The clock says I need to post this and get to work, but I’m lost in thoughts of how to do the things that are covered in this chapter. How can I be vigilantly prudent while loving everyone? What does that look like? Ah, the journey. I’m really thankful to have friends to run with on this path!