Gospel of Matthew Chapter Twenty-Five Commentary by
Pastor Ron Beckham
The Great Division
Verses 1-10: "Then the kingdom of heaven will be comparable to ten virgins, who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish, and five were prudent. 3 For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, 4 but the prudent took oil in flasks along with their lamps. 5 Now while the bridegroom was delaying, they all got drowsy and began to sleep. 6 But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.' 7 Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. 8 The foolish said to the prudent, 'Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.' 9 But the prudent answered, 'No, there will not be enough for us and you too; go instead to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.' 10 And while they were going away to make the purchase, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding feast; and the door was shut." There are some, many in fact, who grasp that we desperately need faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. We are like jigsaw pieces that fit into Him perfectly, and we're not complete without Him. Our efforts to save ourselves, while they may seem attractive and interesting, are just not enough. The "bridegroom" here is Jesus Christ, the "virgins" represent those in the human race who want to be right with God. The "oil" is a parable, a picture of God's Holy Spirit, which can be seen in Zechariah 4:1-6. As we look at the religions of the world, which one is right? Impressive rituals are everywhere. Apparently holy men and women are dressed in often beautiful robes and other special clothing. Buildings are built with great effort. Thousands, millions participate. Again, which one is right? The answer, sadly is: none of them. The answer to what we need is seen in Zechariah 4:6—"Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord of hosts." In teaching His disciples and the world that He was soon to leave this earth, Jesus said, "if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you, but if I depart, I will send Him to you... the Spirit of truth... will guide you into all truth..." (John 16:7-15). Jesus did "go away," and in doing so, through His grace, through faith in Him, we are forgiven and receive His Holy Spirit. Many look good on the outside, but without His Spirit, they are not His, and at the critical point of death, many will sadly find that the "door" to His "wedding feast" is "shut."
Verses 11-13: "Later the other virgins also came, saying, 'Lord, lord, open up for us.' 12 But he answered, 'Truly I say to you, I do not know you.' 13 Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour." We need to get a better perspective on what God is all about. He is the Creator and the Rule-Maker. He decides what and who is acceptable in His sight. He is the Judge who became our Savior, rescuing us from sin and death. We do not know when we will die. Jesus will return but God is very patient, waiting for us, and we don't know when. With faith in the Lord, we find that the door is open to wonderful, eternal relationship with Him. And notice in this parable, that the two classes of "virgins" outwardly look alike to us. They are religious, attend religious services, say the right words, and the only difference, as seen in the preceding verses, is the "oil"—the Holy Spirit is either in us or He is not. Our outward appearance will not matter on that day, whenever it will be, when God divides humanity in two.
Verses 14-19: "For it is just like a man about to go on a journey, who called his own slaves and entrusted his possessions to them. 15 To one he gave five talents, to another, two, and to another, one, each according to his own ability; and he went on his journey. 16 Immediately the one who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and gained five more talents. 17 In the same manner the one who had received the two talents gained two more. 18 But he who received the one talent went away, and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19 Now after a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them." People everywhere are basically the same, with minor differences. Most have arms and legs, but some don't. Some have a disease such as cancer, but others do not. Mental or physical abilities are available to most, but not all are the same. In the body of Christ, some are profoundly gifted; others seemingly less so. We understand little of the process, but what we have is what we need, "according to his (or her) own ability," as determined by God. What we must see is that God has "entrusted His possessions" to us... Each to the extent that is right for us, we have life, breath, possessions, relationships, health or its lack, and more. And here's a question: Are we grateful for what we DO have? Do I accept God's decision in what I DON'T have? If I am gifted with a spiritual gift, which may be as humble as a comforting word, do I share it, using it for others, or do I hide it from the world?
Verses 20-25: "The one who had received the five talents came up and brought five more talents, saying, 'Master, you entrusted five talents to me. See, I have gained five more talents.' 21 His master said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.' 22 Also the one who had received the two talents came up and said, 'Master, you entrusted two talents to me. See, I have gained two more talents.' 23 His master said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.' 24 And the one also who had received the one talent came up and said, 'Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow and gathering where you scattered no seed. 25 And I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours.'" Those who have a lot in life tend to become proud. Those who have less are prone to bitterness. It's time to be thankful for what the Lord has given to us. The third person in the parable of these verses, represents the person who is angry at God about his own life. Faith is not angry at outward circumstances. Faith is like the second man, who had considerably less than the first man, but trusted in his Master's decision and did his best with what he had. After we experience saving faith, there are two parts to sustaining faith: 1) God, in His wisdom and His love, reveals Himself in us by gifting us for service. Sooner or later, He will show His intention for us. 2) At that point, our choice is to believe or not believe; go as He directs, or stay behind and do nothing. What will you do with what He gives to you?
Verses 26-30: "But his master answered and said to him, 'You wicked, lazy slave, you knew that I reap where I did not sow and gather where I scattered no seed. 27 Then you ought to have put my money in the bank, and on my arrival I would have received my money back with interest. 28 Therefore take away the talent from him, and give it to the one who has the ten talents.' 29 For to everyone who has, more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away. 30 Throw out the worthless slave into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'" Notice in this parable that God is our "Master." The universe and humanity belong to Him, and He has the utter right to do with us whatever He wants. And what He wants is to reward us with eternal life, the joy of the Lord—forever. Even what we lack (and we all lack something), is carefully designed to bring us and those near us, into an awareness of our need and then—bring us to faith. God's character is perfect, full of love and His choice is "abundance" for everyone. However, many reject His offer and end up in "outer darkness." The one who says, "God does not exist" is actually the one who is dissatisfied with their own lives and wants something different—they are angry with the very One who longs to give them—everything.
Verses 31-34: "But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; 33 and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on His right, 'Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.'" We in humanity tend to divide ourselves by "differences" that don't exist. It's as though color, height, weight or where we live actually means something, but none of it means anything in the way God sees us. There are only two kinds of people—those who love the Lord and those who don't. Walking through a crowd of people, we usually can't tell the difference, but God can—and at some point in earth's future, He will simply separate us and send us to widely disparate places; either to "outer darkness" (Verse 30), or God's "kingdom" (Verse 34). There are only two choices—which one is right for you?
Verses 35-40: "For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; 36 naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.' 37 Then the righteous will answer Him, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? 38 And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? 39 When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?' 40 The King will answer and say to them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.'" James later would say, "Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works" (James 2:18). What we do is a reflection of who we actually are. That can be deceiving for us because, like most of the Pharisees, Sadducees and scribes, we can look good but be bad. God sees us as we really are. He knows when we help someone, provide for them in their need, visit when they are lonely, and He delightedly applies what we did—to Himself! If you help someone, from God's perspective, it's as though you helped Him! Can you imagine? Of course the opposite is also true—to reject somebody who needs help, is exactly as though we reject God! Either way, His view of what life is and should be is simply amazing.
Verses 41-46: "Then He will also say to those on His left, 'Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; 43 I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.' 44 Then they themselves also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?' 45 Then He will answer them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.' 46 These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life." Life is not what we expected. Each one of us feels, to some extent: "It's all about me!" It FEELS like it's about me... Each one of us finds it easier to feel our own pain than it is to feel someone else's pain. In sporting events as it is in life, if he or she wins, I lose! If both of us have interviews and you get the job, I don't! It gets really personal when both of us want the same person or thing... only one of us will prevail. But when we have faith in the Lord, we begin to see Him as He is—He gave up eternity to become one of us, and then gave up His own life to save us from sin and death. We tend to feel most alive when we win (which usually means somebody else loses), but God views us as alive in the Spirit when we give others what we want and need, as led by that same Holy Spirit. We give our time, money, interest and love, as God leads. That's the great division in humanity—those who have received God's love and pass it on to others, and the "foolish" who have nothing real to give.
Father, all too often, You have nudged me to help somebody, and I haven't done it. I confess my sin and ask for Your forgiveness. Come fill me, Holy Spirit, with God's love, and then help my selfish heart to give that love as You lead me. In Jesus Name. Amen.