When I cannot fully understand a parable or a concept in Scripture, I have learned to do a simple thing, and it makes all the difference to me as I read and try to walk out this life in Christ.
To this day, as I mentioned yesterday, I have not heard the parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins explained to my complete satisfaction. It perplexes me, “These ten, are they believers, and is Jesus saying some will be left outside?” That does not ride up front with “Once saved, always saved,” and to make matters worse, they did all have lamps and they all had oil in them. If the oil represents the Holy Spirit, as is most often suggested, did they run out of the Spirit? Did they burn up all they had of Him?
You see. Something just does not seem quite right.
And in the next words, the next story Jesus told: all the servants were given talents to use, to invest. Now, here we are given a bit more clarification. This servant did not squander what he had been given, he just did not bring any increase to his Master. He kept safe what he had been given, but no fruit was born, and fruit-bearing matters to God. Worse yet, of course, the servant bore no fruit because he was afraid of his Master, afraid to take a risk, afraid to try.
The Virgins fell asleep, the good servants worked and invested what they had been given. The Wise Virgins were not commended for their increase, but that they still had enough, and they did not dare to share what they had, lest they run out.
Thoroughly confused? These parables are told as if they relate to one another. In both, there is an awful shutting out of some, even into darkness.
And then … and then … Jesus follows these two tales with the account of the sheep and the goats, and He gets specific: “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats …”
These are the things that I can see, when nothing else is fully understood:
- Those who will be taken in with the Bridegroom when he comes are those whose lamps are burning.
- To this end, Jesus said specifically, “Keep watch; you do not know the day or the hour.”
- I know that He told us to take stock of our faith, to make sure we are “in the faith”… Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test! (1 Corinthians 13:5)
- I know that I can keep watch over my own soul to see if in all things and at all times that I am living in and living out the faith I have been given; of that I do not wish to run dry!
- Although I do not know if the “talents” are talents or something else, but I do know that with all I’ve been given, I am meant to live to the increase of God’s kingdom. Talents and abilities, yes. Spiritual gifts, yes. Human strength, yes. His strength, yes! Hope, yes! Faith, yes!
- All of it, all that I have and all that I am, is the Master’s, and to live in fear of making a mistake, or refusing to live as a human because He is divine, because He harvests where he has not sown and gathers where he has not scattered seed, is to risk all I have been given.
- I see that, if it is known of Him that He is so powerful that He harvests where He hasn’t sown and gathers where He hasn’t scattered seed, then I ought to trust that He has might and resource beyond my ability and that He expects to find a harvest, as indeed He actually did expect to find a fig on a fig tree when He wanted one!
- He can do this! I ought to be comforted! He can expect to find figs out of season! That means, I can bear fruit for Him at all times. I ought to be comforted!
- Now He tells us, that those on His right, the sheep, will have not have run dry, will not have grown weary in well doing. They will be addressed as “The Blessed of My Father,” and that is the name by which they will be called.
- What will they have been busy doing? Showing kindness.
- What kindness?They will have given food to the hungry, bread and the bread of life in the Gospel of Christ; they will have given drink to the thirsty, waters of refreshing, even water from the Rock which is Christ; they will invite strangers in rather than judging them as outsiders and leaving them in the cold.
- Those who enter in will have clothed the naked rather than exposing them, had compassion on the sick and the sick at heart, and those that were imprisoned in jails and dark, horrid chambers of doubt and fear and guilt, will be visited in their need and in our prayers.
- To do all of this, will we not have to persists because of the love of God shed abroad in our hearts? Honestly, will we not have to seek Him that we do all that we do effectually, whether with much or little?
- When we have stayed awake to these needs of others, when we have given what we have and who we are to this increase, it will be said of us that we did all these things as unto our Master, and that is a great caravan of riches to return to Him for what we have been given to use, oil, lamps, talents, faith, hope, and love.
Can more be seen? I think so. Perhaps you will share some of what you know.
But if we see these things, have we not seen enough to put one foot in front of the other, and will we not be found lighted, glowing, and watchful? Will we not have to keep our hearts encouraged and our hands clean and be ever mindful that we are in the faith? When our faith and love would slip and decrease, so will our hope wither on the vine, and vice versa!
One more thing, and we must ask it. What of those who do good, who do all those things, clothing the naked and feeding the hungry and visiting prisons, and love for God never motivates any of it?
First. What difference does that make to me? I will feed His sheep.
Second. One cannot buy the oil that lights the lamps that burn with the knowledge of God in Christ at the grocers! We will always wake from the stupor of all our human effort, burnt out. Those who do what they do for the love of Jesus Christ will always have enough. Just trim your wick, dear friend, checking to see if you are in the faith, and shine, for you are not under a bushel basket. You are a lamp upon a stand. That you cannot share with anyone, even if you would.
You will always awaken to more of the same, to life in Christ. We are told, admonished, even commanded to be filled with the Spirit, so let us consider that if we have but one talent, that’s it!, and let us invest it with all our hearts, as long as we live, and singing in our hearts for the knowledge that what we do to do the least of those among us, we do to Jesus our Lord.
It is probably very, very important that we do not go off anywhere to try to buy what can only be had in Christ. That’s a story for another day, isn’t it?
The Wise and Foolish Virgins
Friedrich Wilhelm Schadow, between 1838 and 1842, by permission, Wikipedia
Public domain, death of the artist