Matthew 25:1-46 Not What You Do But Who You Know

“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish and five were wise. 3 The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. 4 The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. 5 The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.

6 “At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’

7 “Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. 8 The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’

9 “‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’

10 “But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.

11 “Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’

12 “But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’

13 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.

14 “Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. 15 To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag,[a] each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. 16 The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. 17 So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. 18 But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

19 “After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. 20 The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.’

21 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

22 “The man with two bags of gold also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two bags of gold; see, I have gained two more.’

23 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

24 “Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’

26 “His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 27 Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.

28 “‘So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. 29 For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. 30 And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 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. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

Not What You Do But Who You Know

When I used to read these three stories I thought there was little connection.   The story of the virgins seemed to say that we should make sure we had more oil.  Keep rushing to the oil store to make sure that you are up on your oil supplies.  The second story was a story of a suspect rich person and cast some cruel ideas about who God might be.  Thirdly, the last story seemed to indicate that we should be guilted into giving as many cups of water as we could to people wed didn’t know.  This time of reading it through I see a connection.

The first story has a strange answer when the foolish brides knock on the door.  The answer isn’t, “You are idiots who haven’t got enough oil.”  The answer is that the groom never knew them.  In the second story the scared servant seems to give an inaccurate representation of who his master is.  In other words he doesn’t know him.  Thirdly the sheep and the goats are separated by who does anything for Jesus.  All three stories seem connected by whether people know Jesus.

Jesus has just judged a corrupt system of behaving one’s way to God.  The way to God is one.  The way to God is Jesus.  The judgement at the End of the Age is centered on Jesus.

Questions

  1. What does the groom say to the foolish brides?
  2. How does the person who buried his treasure describe the master?
  3. What do these three stories teach about being prepared for the Final Judgement?
  4. Why do many preachers today drum up guilt and good behavior as the way to prepare for the End Times?
  5. How does a right attitude to every day prepare a person for the End Times?
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About Plymothian

I teach at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. My interests include education, biblical studies, and spiritual formation. I have been married to Kelli since 1998 and we have two children, Daryl and Amelia. For recreation I like to run, play soccer, play board games, read and travel.
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4 Responses to Matthew 25:1-46 Not What You Do But Who You Know

  1. Kelli says:

    1. “Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.”
    2. A hard man, harvesting where he had not sown and gathering where he had not scattered seed. Someone to be fears above all else. This was his defining characteristic.
    3. I appreciate your explanation because I, too, had always read these stories as a call to be “doing” the right things…. to be always watching and waiting, to be using our gifts and resources faithfully, to be giving to the poor and in need. But on this reading, I do see how the focus is on knowing the bridegroom. When we know the bridegroom well, we will naturally be looking for him to return. When we love our master, we will naturally be serving him and the people around us.
    4. I’m sure some preachers sincerely believe they are doing the right thing in scaring their congregation to good behavior. But I’m sure there are also mixed motives. We can guilt people into serving in the church. We can guilt people into giving to the church. Etc., etc.
    5. Based on this passage, a right attitude could be, “How can I know Jesus better today? And how can I become more like him?” If this is our focus each day, we will be longing to see him face to face.

  2. Carrie says:

    A right attitude means wanting to build a friendship/relationship with Christ. With Andy being gone for two weeks, I wanted to talk to him everyday, to ask him about his day and to tell him about mine. I want to have the same longing with Jesus. To miss Him when I haven’t talked to Him and to want to share my stories about my day with Him.

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