The Preacher Says....  
  Two Parables  
  Seated on the Mount of Olives, Jesus was preaching to his disciples, answering their questions: notably, what would be the sign of his coming and the end of the world? He likens his return to that of a thief, admonishing them: Be ye also ready; for in such an hour as ye think not the son of man cometh. (Mat 24. 44). Together the parables of the wise and foolish virgins and the talents seem to be a treatise on the development of the whole man: man in repose and man in action. They clarify who will be saved by being ready and waiting when he appears. Two pervading facets constitute a successful Christian life: (1) the development of an understanding mind and heart, and an indwelling of the spirit; with enough faith in Christ to assume the mind of Christ—in short, the inner man; (2) the use of our own abilities in the service of God, which is the same as saying ‘in the service of mankind’—shorthand for faith and works.

In the parable of the wise and foolish virgins, ten virgins trimmed their lamps to go to meet the bridegroom. Five took extra flasks of oil, (v. 4). The bridegroom was delayed. All slept. At midnight came the cry, and all went out to meet him. The foolish ones begged to borrow oil—to no avail. When they went to buy the bridegroom came, and the five wise virgins went into the marriage feast, but the foolish were locked out. There is not much doubt about what these lighted lamps signified. Light means understanding: Jesus said, I am the light of the world, and, I come as the light. Matthew, quoting the prophet Isaiah: the people that sat in darkness have seen a great light, (Mat 4. 16). But the five virgins with oil in their lamps had enlightened themselves—they had understanding—they were children of the light. In truth, all the bridesmaids had the light. They had understanding. How can you lose it, once you have found it? No nurturing, perhaps? Christ answer is plain in the parable of the sower, and the seed that fell among thorns (Mat. 13. 7); the care of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke out the word. It’s not that we actually forget, we just forget how these words apply to us. Understanding requires constant cultivation, or it will be choked out.

How do we keep our lamp of understanding from dying? By having a ready supply of oil, found only in this book, the word of God. We need to study it, not just objectively, but more as it relates to our lives. Objectivity makes scholars, subjectivity insures salvation. The proper use of our Bible renders the oil we need to perfect an understanding heart. To become better servants, rather than mere scholars, we have to meditate and ingest God’s truth. This is why the wise virgins could not give of their oil. You cannot endow your fellow with an understanding heart. Every man must bear his own burden. If you understand this, you can slumber and sleep like a baby, without fear of being caught unawares at the return of Christ. You will be ready. There’s no panic, as in recalled school days, when you were confronted with the dreaded Pop Quiz. How bad it is to be caught by surprise.

The teaching in the parable of the talents is that you must do everything you can in the service of God using your talents. All of us have at least one talent, but it makes absolutely no difference how much ability you have, whether your talents are many or few, whether you’re a genius or of sub normal ability. This is only right of course, because we’re totally dependent on the gift or gifts of God. We are what we are by His grace. A certain man gave talents to his servants, each according to his ability; to one, five , another ten, and to another one. The first traded his five, and made five more; the second, with two, gained two; but he that received one hid his Lord’s money in the earth. The first two servants were royally rewarded, but the third unprofitable servant was not. (Mat 25. 15 – 30). The message here is that service to God is of paramount importance. How do we serve Him? We do this by serving our fellow man.

We should try never to covet talents we don’t possess. And we all do it-- even the disciples did it. They all wanted to be leaders. James and John audaciously asked Christ if they could sit at his right and left when he came into his glory, (Mark 10. 37). But in truth they were humble men, made that way by the power of God, and would remain so. (v. 43, 44) In our Sunday morning meeting here we tend to want to play a useful part. For whatever reason, it may be that none of our abilities is up to the tasks. Are we teachers, speakers, leaders, given to interpreting scripture? Either we , or the meeting itself may hold too high a standard for us. Let’s always be cautious about our self-appraisal, however, because sometimes pride will tend to sway us in exaggerating our abilities. It may be that the only jobs we can do well is to be good parents, workers or neighbors. Nothing wrong with this—quite the contrary. First-off, do the things at hand; do what we know we can do—but do them. No matter how unglamorous or mediocre. If we do have latent abilities, they will be noticed eventually, and we will likely be chosen to lead, or teach, or whatever. God Himself may provide opportunity for the development of our talents if we but ask. Our next consideration should probably be the first: to concentrate on how we can best serve our fellow man.

A parable similar to that of the talents appears in Luke 19. Are they the same, or different? In Matthew, Jesus had been in Jerusalem for a while, but had moved east of the city to the Mount of Olives. Here Jesus preached in parables answering the question about his return. In Luke, Jesus approached Jerusalem from a different direction-- the vicinity of Jericho, apparently near the Mount of Olives. Nobody can say for sure if these incidents are the same. In Luke, however, we note one difference in that every man is given one pound, indicating that all have the same ability, and all stand equal at the starting gate. But time and chance happens to all, a fact which will skew the equation, i.e., compare a genius on a ranch in Montana to a soldier in Vietnam—accomplishments will differ. Neither will perform in the same way as the other, perhaps. But we can all do something; maybe you don’t do your best, and think maybe you don’t do enough. Will this raise doubts about your reward? Well, really, how much is enough? This kind of thinking is dangerous. A reward demands a change of heart, because a bad attitude will get you nowhere. Are you sad with your lot in life? Do you say ‘everybody has so much more than I do’. It’s just not fair. It doesn’t seem right—who can I blame? Look. Life is short compared with eternity. Take your talents, no matter how measly, and Trade till I come