This parable is probably the one which has intrigued me more than any other.
What’s the ultimate reward for the faithful servants? Although Jesus doesn’t explicitly say it, it seems obvious they don’t get to keep the money. The two successful servants aren’t even working for their own increase. It’s not their money. They’re working for the increase of their master, and they share in the increase to his estate. Their true reward is to share in their master’s happiness. So happiness is the reward, and happiness comes from serving others.
I know from experience that if I undertake some action to create increase only for myself, there’s very little energy to it, and it doesn’t usually increase my happiness. But if I focus on creating increase for others (such as by helping people grow), then I feel great joy in doing that, and it ultimately creates increase for me too.
As Jesus implies in The Parable of the Talents, creating abundance requires you to move beyond fear. If you’re too fearful or suspicious or distrustful, you’re going to bury your talents. And this leads to “weeping and gnashing of teeth,” i.e. sorrow and depression.
You might think that fear and suspicion will keep you out of trouble, but really they’ll just cause you suffering and pain. You don’t need fear to avoid being a gullible idiot; for that you just need common sense. To live a life of abundance, you must ultimately move beyond fear and work to create abundance for others. Otherwise you’ll ultimately be cast out as worthless. Jesus doesn’t pull any punches here, youse bums.
Serve to create increase for others, and happiness is your reward. Bury your talents, and you get “weeping and gnashing of teeth.” The choice is yours.
Readiness: Wise and Foolish Virgins, Blog Through the Bible Project
|Wilhelm Von Schadow, Wise and Foolish Virgins.|
The Parable of the Ten Virgins
1 “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.
Just one life. Just one. And at the end, we will meet Christ, the bridegroom.
Are we living in readiness for him? Or are we totally unprepared?
Christ says, “Be ready, because you don’t know the day or the hour. And when he returns, no one can help us out. We have to take personal responsibility for our readiness.
What it means to keep one’s lamp filled with oil varies according to our calling. For me, it would mean learning to keep my eyes on Jesus through the day. Being faithful to my calling as a writer, be it “less or more, or soon or slow, mean or high” as Milton writes about his calling in Sonnet 23.
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