Getting what we deserve in God’s Kingdom
Parable of 10 ladies with fire1 Let me illustrate the Kingdom of Heaven this way. On the evening of a wedding, 10 young bridesmaids carried their lit torches as they went to meet the groom. 2 Five of the ladies weren’t especially bright. The other five were downright wise. 3 The foolish five took their torch lamps, but no extra oil. 4 The wise five took their torch lamps, along with some extra oil.
5 As for the groom, he took his good ol’ sweet time. The 10 young ladies fell asleep waiting for him. 6 Then at midnight, someone shouted, ‘Look, here comes the groom. Come on out and meet him.’
7 That woke up the young ladies. They checked the oil in their torch lamps. 8 The foolish five said to the others, ‘Uh-oh. Our torches are about to go out. Give us some of your oil.’ 9 But the wise five said, ‘No can do. If we gave you some of ours, we might not have enough for all of us. Go to the oil suppliers and buy some for yourselves.’ 10 While the foolish five were off buying oil, the groom arrived. The five bridesmaids who were ready left with the groom and went to the wedding banquet. The door was shut. 11 The foolish five arrived later. They went to the door and called someone inside, ‘Sir! Sir! Open the door.’
12 A man answered, ‘Hey, I don’t know you. And that’s the truth.’ 13 So I’m telling you now, stay alert. You don’t know the day. You don’t know the hour.
Parable of a talent for making money14 Here’s another way to illustrate the Kingdom of Heaven. A man was getting ready to head out on a long trip. Before he left, he called in his servants and gave them each some money to use on his behalf. 15 He gave one servant five bags of silver, each bag weighing 75 pounds (35 kg). He gave another servant two bags of silver. And he gave the third servant one bag of silver. The amount that each one got depended on the servant’s ability to manage money. After entrusting the money to his servants, the man left on his trip.
16 The man who got five sacks of silver put the money to work and earned his boss another five sacks of silver. 17 The second servant did the same thing. He earned his boss another two sacks of silver. 18 The third servant tried a different strategy. He dug a hole in the dirt and buried the sack of silver.
19 When the boss finally got back from a very long trip, his servants gave him all the money. 20 The servant entrusted with five sacks brought with him another five. He said, ‘Boss, you were kind enough to trust me with five sacks of silver. Well, take a look and you’ll see that I was able to double your investment.’
21 The boss said, ‘Wow. Good job. That’s what I call devotion. I’m going to put you in charge of a lot more work. This is a win for me and a win for you. Let’s celebrate.’ 22 Then the servant given two sacks of silver said, ‘Boss, you trusted me with two sacks of silver. Take a look. I doubled your investment.’ 23 His boss said, ‘Wow, you too. Good job. Wonderful devotion. You have shown that I can trust you to take care of a relatively small matter. So now I’m going to put you in charge of a lot more work. This is a win for me and a win for you. Let’s celebrate.’
24 Finally, the servant given one sack of silver said, ‘Boss, you’re a hard man to please. Besides that, you take whatever you want from people, even though you did nothing to earn it. You collect a harvest of crops from farmers, even though you never bothered to plant a single seed. 25 I was afraid to do anything with your money except hide it in the ground. Here it is. You can see for yourself.’
26 The boss said, ‘Well you lazy louse! Let me get this straight. You know I take what doesn’t belong to me, huh? And you know I confiscate crops from farmers even though I never planted a seed? 27 Then you should know that the least I would have expected from you is that you deposit my money in a bank. That way, at least I would have earned a little interest. 28 Someone take the sack of silver away from this guy. Give it to the servant who came here with 10 sacks.
29 Everyone who has something and uses it well is going to get more. But everyone who has just a little and uses it poorly is going to lose what little they have. 30 Toss this good for nothing servant into the darkness outside where folks will be crying and grinding their teeth.’
How “sheep” and “goats” prepare for Judgment Day31 When the Son of Humans comes back, it’s going to be glorious. He’s going to be bringing all the angels with him. In the end, he will sit on a majestic throne. 32 Everyone from everywhere will meet him. He’s going to separate people the way a shepherd separates sheep from goats. 33 He’ll put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
34 Then this king will turn to the people on his right and say, ‘You have God’s blessing to come with me and collect your inheritance, a Kingdom prepared for you since the world began.’ 35 Here’s why. There was a time when I was hungry and you gave me food. I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me. 36 I didn’t have anything to wear and you gave me clothes. I was sick and you took care of me. I was in prison and you came to see me.’
37 The good people will say, ‘Lord, we don’t remember that. When did we see you hungry and give you food? When were you thirsty and we gave you something to drink? 38 When did we notice that you were a stranger and we welcomed you? When did we see that you needed clothes and we gave you some? 39 When did we see that you were sick or in prison and we came to you?’
40 The king answered the people this way. ‘I’m telling you the truth, whenever you did it for anyone—no matter how unimportant they seemed—you did it for me.’
41 Then the king will turn to the people on his left and he’ll say, ‘Get out of my sight. You’re condemned to the eternal flame prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 I’ll tell you why. I was hungry but you didn’t give me food. I was thirsty but you didn’t give me anything to drink. 43 I was a stranger but you didn’t welcome me. I had no clothes but you didn’t give me any. I was sick and in prison but you didn’t visit me. All I got from you was nothing.’
44 And these people will say, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison and then do nothing to help you?’ 45 Then he’ll say, ‘I’m telling you the truth, whenever you failed to help anyone who needed it—no matter how unimportant they seemed— you failed to help me.’ 46 Those people are headed to never-ending punishment. But the good people are headed to never-ending life.”
Literally “10 virgins.” “Virgins” was a polite way of referring to young, unmarried women, though that may have been a bit presumptuous.
No reference to their torches.
Literally “five talents.” The second servant got two talents of silver, and the third servant got one talent of silver.
The king more literally says “when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers.” Scholars debate what Jesus meant by “brothers.” One of the most popular theories says that Jesus was talking about anyone and everyone in need. Other theories: Jesus was talking about believers, or the disciples and anyone else who goes out spreading the teachings of Jesus, or Jews who believed that Jesus was the Messiah and who accepted his teachings.
Jesus told three stories called parables to illustrate what it takes to become a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus seems to be talking about a spiritual kingdom that exists in heaven and on earth, wherever souls are devoted to God. When Jesus says he’s going to “illustrate the Kingdom of Heaven” (25:1), what kind of Kingdom do you think the people around him are envisioning?
In the parable about the cash investment (25:14-30; see also Luke 19:11-27), try to match the characters in the parable with characters in the story of Jesus. Who do you think is the king? The slaves entrusted with money? And what do you think the money might represent?
What do you think is the spiritual message behind this statement: “Everyone who has something and uses it well is going to get more. But everyone who has just a little and uses it poorly is going to lose what little they have” (25:29)?
In the parable about Jesus separating people on Judgment Day the way a shepherd separates sheep and goats, (25: 31-46) what’s the point in one sentence?
In the parable about sheep and goats (25:31-36), Jesus seems to make it sound as though our eternal destiny depends on whether or not we help people in need. Do you think that doing good things to help people who need food and clothing or a place to stay or a visit in prison will help get us into heaven, and that if we don’t do these things, then we won’t make the cut for heaven?
Jesus describes the punishment to people in these parables several different ways. Do you think we should take any or all of the descriptions literally?
- “I don’t know you. And that’s the truth” (25:12).
- “Toss this good for nothing servant into the darkness outside where folks will be crying and grinding their teeth” (25:30).
- “You’re condemned to the eternal flame prepared for the devil and his angels” (25:41).
LIFE APPLICATION. Let’s say your pastor got sick and you got called on to preach the next sermon. The topic assigned is what is best known as the Parable of the 10 Virgins (25:1-13). What life application points of the following would you include in your sermon? Feel free to add ideas of your own.
- If you’re in a wedding, be prepared for a bride or groom with cold feet (25:5).
- If someone asks you for a favor at midnight, tell them to go away (25:9).
- I know it has been 2,000 years, but Jesus said he is coming back. So stay ready (25:13).
- If someone tries to get in to watch a wedding ceremony after the door has been closed, tell them they can’t come in because you’ve never met them, don’t know them, and want to keep it that way.
LIFE APPLICATION. In the parable about sheep and goats (25:31-46), which really has nothing to do with sheep and goats, Jesus rattles off several kinds of good deeds he expects to see in his followers. Which ones do you think the church does best? And which ones do you think the church needs to give some extra effort?
- Feeding the hungry
- Welcoming immigrants, new people to church, and any other people who find themselves in a strange place
- Helping the sick
- Visiting people in jail and prison