How soon before you take a trip do you get ready to go? Do you plan well in advance, make lists to check off, anticipate a variety of scenarios and pack accordingly? Maybe you're so familiar with the trip and all it entails that you can wait until the final hours to pull it all together. My wife and I are opposites about this. She starts preparing long before I do. I try to keep her from getting anxious about too many details and she helps me not to forget anything important. The balance works nicely and we always have a great time traveling together.
Today, Jesus tells a pair of parables about being ready to go when He returns. At this point it would be good to remember that parables are not allegories or extended metaphors -- a parable doesn't usually have special and detailed symbolism. A parable is usually told to make one point. You can try to make the oil and the lamps and the talents of gold represent something, but they are probably just oil and lamps and bags of gold.
In the first parable, ten young women are anticipating being part of a wedding party. They are waiting for the groom to arrive so they can go out to welcome him and join his entourage. As he may arrive at night, the girls would be wise to have lamps and an adequate supply of oil for them. Of the ten, five prove to be wise and five foolish. The groom arrives at midnight; five lamps are burning brightly and five are flickering out. Five young women meet the groom and are ushered into the wedding feast. Five others make a last minute dash to buy more lamp oil and miss the whole affair. The window of opportunity to go with the groom was narrow and only those who had prepared in advance were ready and able to go.
We need to help as many people to be ready to go as possible. We know the Bridegroom. We know that His arrival cannot be anticipated with split-second accuracy. Our own time of departure from this world is also unpredictable. So the time to be ready to go is now. The groom told the foolish virgins, "I don't know you." If we really know Jesus, then we know we don't want to miss His coming! To enter into the wedding feast of the Lord is the ultimate blessing, and those who know Him won't be scrambling last minute. Help as many as possible to know, love and eagerly anticipate Christ's return.
Along with being ready to go to the wedding feast of the Lord, the second parable tells us that we should present a nice gift when we get there. This story involves a master and his servants. The servants are given varying amounts of gold to take care of while the master is away. Even the servant who is given the least is still given a hefty chunk of change. Translating the original unit of measure used in this parable, the servant who received one bag of gold was still holding about twenty year's worth of day-laborer wages!
The servant with the most, put that gold to work and doubled it. The servant with less put his gold to work and doubled it, too. But the one with the least didn't understand his master, but rather feared him and worried more about losing some or all of what he had. So he buries it. When the master returns he discovers two servants who have doubled his trust. Amount was not the issue. The one with ten bags and the one with four bags in the end received the same commendation and reward. The issue was investing the trust to present a good return to the master. The one who feared and could only return exactly what had been given him was dismissed and punished.
We need to recognize the extraordinary wealth we have been entrusted with by God, and steward it wisely. When Christ returns, we must have a fruitful life with return on His investment to offer Him as He comes. Your life is golden, by the grace of God. Invest it in the things that Jesus values and holds dear. And when He comes you will receive the blessed commendation -- "Well done good and faithful servant; enter into the joy of your master!"