By Ryan Shaw
Ryan is the international lead facilitator for SVM2 and lives among the unreached.
In this article we will look at two parables in Matthew 25. This is the third article in a series focused on Jesus’ words regarding the generation near to His return. The focus of the study is to rightly glean more of how His followers should be acting, functioning and relating to His soon return.
His words and teachings are descriptive and clear and require that we consider them carefully as we continue to look with great hope to His soon and coming return.
As we continue to work toward seeing a generation set ablaze with abandoned devotion to Jesus and with His purposes in the earth, Jesus’ teachings in these parables come home with authority to us.
Jesus’ take is that things will continue to get worse as time goes by and that as a result we are to have watchful eyes over our own hearts, not allowing them to be deceived. We are to be steadfast as His beloved servants, not wondering when His return will come and simply living as if it doesn’t really matter anyway how we live.
The two parables we will focus on are the parable of the 10 virgins (Matthew 25:1-13) and the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30). Again, these parables are illustrations which Jesus gives to make His point regarding what He has already spoken in chapter 24 concerning the “signs” of His coming.
His purpose is to highlight the right response and actions His followers should have as a result. Each parable has a distinct teaching attached to it regarding how we then shall live in light of what is coming. This is why such subjects are so important to consider as devoted believers in Christ.
It is imperative that we have a clear vision of how Christ has called us to live in the days near to His return. He spoke these clear teachings because He knew of the level of importance they would play in the lives of His followers.
Parable of the 10 Virgins
The parable of the 10 virgins puts the spotlight on 10 virgins waiting for the coming bridegroom. Five of these are deemed wise by Jesus Himself and five deemed foolish. The immediate question then to ask is what separates them? and what must I do to be considered wise in Jesus’ eyes?
While the bridegroom delayed all 10 of the virgins slept. These then arose with a start at midnight when the cry went out that the bridegroom was coming. They each sought to make sure their lamp was ready. Five of the virgins found that their lamps did not have enough oil within them to keep them lit.
These run off quickly to find more oil. Meanwhile the bridegroom comes and takes the other five and proceeds into the wedding closing the door tightly behind Him, shutting out the other five.
There are various interpretations of the symbolism involved in this parable. I have come to the following conclusions through much prayer and study, but readily admit possible flaws.
I have come to believe, however, that the wise virgins are those who have had a revelation of their sinful nature and grievous state before a holy God and submitted themselves to the cleansing blood of Christ and the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit.
These are walking in the daily reality of a life found in Christ and are pleasing to God. The foolish virgins are those without such revelation. They may be religious people who appear quite spiritual and all together, but as a result of not living surrendered lives unto Christ, are denying His very right over them purchased through His blood.
These deny His power, not necessarily with words, but through actions and the state of their unbelief. These may do the right things and say the right words. Yet their hearts are far from God as the life-giving power of the cross itself has never been applied to their lives. What is most terrible is that many of these have deceived themselves into thinking they are true believers.
It seems to me that the oil refers to the anointing, enabling and empowering of the Holy Spirit upon one’s life. This is based upon being a true born again follower of the Lord Jesus Christ and nothing else.
It is the oil of spiritual revelation and spiritual understanding that God gives to grasp the deep needs of the soul and to receive more of the very life of Christ which is to be lived in us and through us fully in order to be pleasing to God.
Principles for Our Lives
As a result of these symbolic interpretations, we can now consider some principles that Jesus was seeking to communicate to His true believers. First, it is important to realize that the visible church that we see and hear about around the world will always be a mixture of true believers and unbelievers.
The difference is found in whether people are truly walking with Jesus in intimate communion and fellowship and carrying about the purposes of His heart in their own hearts. This reality will inevitably bring change to their lives as they will now seek to align themselves with such purposes.
Or are they committed to forms and rituals for salvation, but not necessarily born of the Spirit. There is nothing wrong with forms and rituals, however, if they lead us to Jesus and to worship and glorify Him in spirit and truth.
Jesus’ parables in Matthew 13 seem to confirm that He blatantly believed and taught the same concept that He does here of the mixed nature of the visible church of Christ.
Secondly, we see that there was a lack of focus on the bridegrooms’ arrival by all. All were sleeping! In our day, there seems to be an equal slumber regarding a lack of emphasis on Jesus’ second coming.
Yes, there are those doomsday type people out there, but not necessarily those who place an emphasis that really highlights what His coming means very practically, what it will usher in, and what are the conditions of His return.
Such emphases are important in order that we most wisely give ourselves and focus our work to meet these conditions. Jesus’ second coming is as much a part of the prophetic Scriptures as His first coming, yet often neglected as not as important.
It is His second coming that will enforce in the earth all the victory obtained through His first coming. Its importance and purpose is highlighted here by Jesus Himself as He calls for readiness and not ignorance surrounding it.
Thirdly, at His coming there will be multitudes of religious people who don’t possess a real understanding of their own darkness apart from Christ. They will have focused primarily on comfort and success in their own lives.
These will quickly seek after it yet be unable to attain it. His coming will be in an instant and if not prepared (trusting entirely on the finished work of Christ to make us holy before God’s throne) we will be left out.
It is a sobering thought that motivates us to not only possess the “oil” in our own lives, but to also be a voice to those about us of the critical importance of such provision alone. The five foolish looked like the wise and appeared as the wise did, yet didn’t have the provision necessary to be admitted to the wedding.
Fourthly, we know that presently we are in a season to buy “oil” – to turn from our religious, yet bankrupt lives and seek reality in Christ alone. Yet there is coming a time when all buying will be concluded and the provision you have is what you have.
The wise understood that they could not give of their provision to the foolish but that they themselves had to get it or it didn’t count. The wise weren’t trying to be mean by saying they wouldn’t give the foolish their oil, they simply understood the dynamics at play.
It was provision that had to be obtained rightly or it didn’t really matter.
Lastly, the core principle of this parable is the call to be watchful. It is found in verse 13. This watching refers to your own soul and the provision of oil which you do or don’t have. There are only two lamps in this parable.
Have you received of Christ’s only provision and have you given your life over to seeking to help as many others as possible to also avail themselves of such provision? This is what the student mission movement is all about.
It is imperative that we give ourselves fully, while it is still called day, to preaching the gospel of the Kingdom through our deeds and words. The student generation is in a pivotal place of deciding what their lives are ultimately going to be about.
We have a choice whether to wholeheartedly pursue the most important things of God or pursue what makes us comfortable.
May we watch our hearts and guard them against how easily a religious spirit can enter in and deceive us and those around us. We get comfortable, fall into compromise and too often go to church and receive a pat on the back instead of a call to watchfulness and a turning from such a way back to wholehearted love for Jesus and His purposes.
This is the abandoned devotion that God is seeking to work into the hearts of the emerging generation of true believers all over the earth – A wholehearted love affair which results in a response of complete surrender to His will and desire for our lives. Thus living as those five virgins whom Jesus calls “wise.”
Parable of the Talents
The next parable is often called the parable of the talents. It illustrates a master going away and leaving His servants responsible for His possessions. There is a time to wait for the returning master and this parable deals with what the servants do while in the waiting period.
What will their response and commitment be? Will they be faithful unto their master until He returns? It is a direct illustration to us (those who are His true believers).
Will we make the most of the opportunities entrusted to us as we wait for Christ’s return? Let’s consider some of the most important principles from this parable to apply to our own lives.
First, different amounts of money were given to each servant. This was done according to each one’s own power and ability. God sees us for what we are and who we are. We are called to bear responsibility and accountability for what He has given to us and not to compare ourselves with another.
God’s accountability of us will come along the lines of what He has entrusted to us and we will be held to a different measure then others. This is all based on what He deems appropriate in His economy. This is why none can boast in how God may be using them.
The two faithful servants receive the same commendation for their work though the extent of their achievements is quite different. With the grace given by God we will be measured and never according to the requirements of another.
Comparing and competing with others (unfortunately a common occurrence in Christ’s body) is a frivolous and fruitless practice before the Lord. He calls us to faithfulness with the time, relationships, networking contacts, money, promotions, favor, positions, roles, spiritual power and more that He has given each one.
Secondly, the Lord will settle accounts! This is going to happen. Some have a warped understanding of God’s grace. They see it as a free pass to live foolishly in this life “under His blood”. They forget that God requires accountability and will settle accounts.
We will be accountable for how faithful we are to His kingdom purposes in this earth. The contrast to this is how faithful we potentially were in building a ministry, business, or personal wealth, which was done primarily for self and through self.
Even in ministry this can be a problem. Are we seeking death to self daily in order that the very life of Christ is living through us and manifested to others or are we building our own reputations, names, or financial opportunities in order to live more comfortably?
On the day of Christ’s return I suspect that many will be overwhelmingly surprised to find themselves in the shoes of the unfaithful third servant. All such actions are not done in a vacuum but will be called to account and required of us.
Thirdly, there is a reward for faithfulness in Christ’s kingdom. At this very moment, Jesus is watching and on that day will settle accounts, rewarding each one according to faithfulness. What will such rewards consist of?
The text seems to communicate that the reward will be participating in His kingdom rule in the coming age or His millennial reign on the earth. Though I’ve heard it interpreted in many other ways, the reference holds little strength except when it’s referred to in this manner.
The master in the parable settled accounts and pronounced the rewards upon His return. It will be the same for us. Fourthly, it is important to consider the third unfaithful servant for a moment. This servant did not know his master but assumed things about him.
He thought the master hard because he required him to do work that he didn’t think he had given equal power to accomplish. Such a view is often held of God and it is not a right understanding of Him. Such a view cost this servant and it will also cost present servants who perceive wrong thoughts of God.
God’s response in this parable is completely consistent with the other parables. This servant was one who is religious (part of the visible church) but who does not know God in practice or truth. He is not born again and has never surrendered to the power of Christ’s blood over His sin.
He possesses a fear of God, but not a Godly fear. This fear is based upon misunderstanding and misrepresentation. Many in the church view God as such: a difficult taskmaster whom they are afraid of.
This is so because they lack a real revelation of Christ’s supreme kindness and generosity through His overwhelming love. With such understanding of His heart our entire view of Him is revolutionized. God does require much of His servants.
The great thrill is that we don’t accomplish these things in our own strength, but only through the very life of Christ accomplishing them through us. We do this as we daily embrace our complete inability to accomplish anything spiritual apart from Him and cling to Him for such power.
Lastly, we see that the unfaithful servant had his talent stripped from him and given to one of the other faithful servants. To those that have, more shall be given. This is a call to consistently be moving upward and onward in our faith and walk with Christ.
To those who are faithful to do so, more of God, spiritual understanding, revelation knowledge, enabling and empowering for service and more will be given. But to those who are not progressing, what they have will be stripped from them.
To not progress in God’s kingdom is to actually go backwards. There is no middle or neutral ground. How easy it is to go a week, a month, a year, five years or ten years and not be consistently growing in Christ and in faithfulness to Him.
We must guard ourselves continuously in order that we are moving forward in Godliness, obedience and faithfulness and in the overall grace of Christ.
The unfaithful servant was a slothful and unprofitable servant, yet overall he was harmless. He had done nothing wrong, but this one thing. He had not moved forwards, but been content in mediocrity. Thus he is cast into outer darkness.
Many build their hope of salvation on such harmlessness. They may not be wholeheartedly committed to Christ and His kingdom, but they’ve been good people who have never cheated or hurt others. Yet God looks at this as a denial of His purposes in the earth and as such as denial of grasping His extravagant love and generosity.
These will join with other careless and thoughtless sinners who might have been kind and good people (those found weeping because they never expected such an outcome) and those who were too proud and stubborn (those who gnashed their teeth in anger and hatred against this God) to receive God’s kindness through His Son.
If through this writing you have identified yourself either with the five foolish virgins or with the third unprofitable servant, God’s forgiveness is ever ready for you right now to receive. As you confess your wrong thinking, misplaced understanding, misplaced hopes and any other area of sin the Spirit might reveal to you, do so with great fervency.
He will hear you and respond to you. He will change you as you ask for this. He will give you a new heart. He will establish you upon the solid rock which is walking in His ways and truth alone.