A precious friend has recently left us for eternity. One of his family members wrote: “I know that Sonny, already has a project and is busy at work in the kingdom.” Another friend [Bob] passed away many years ago but his memory is always before me. He was known for this verse: I would rather stand at the entrance to the temple of my God than live in the tents of the wicked. [Ps 84:10] It is easy to picture both busy in the work in heaven for their work here on earth was a mirror of their heavenly mindset; always looking to serve in whatever capacity to whomever God brought across their path. They were what I call, “forward thinkers” for they would often reference heaven as their destination. It made up their mindset. Is this our focus too?
Have you ever met someone you would call a “forward thinker”? Their mind is always on the eternal perspective not the temporal. As we saw in Matt 24, the disciples were as of yet not “forward thinkers.” Their minds were on the here and now as was evidenced by the fact they were enamored by the beauty of Herod’s temple. To enable them to change their mindset, Jesus takes the opportunity to once again disciple through two parables about faithfulness and stewardship. The third story explains or ties up the Olivet Discourse and is about end time judgment. Hampton Keathley IV wrote: “These parables are designed to teach the imminent return of Christ. It could be real soon, or it could be a long time away. But either way, we need to go ahead and live our lives but stay prepared. We need to live and work like the master is going to be back any minute. Because we are going to be rewarded for how hard we worked while he was gone.”
In addition, Jesus is preparing his disciples to recognize there will be an accounting; a reckoning of that which the Lord has entrusted to us, be it oil, talents or ministry to the least of these. Also, there are two groups: the faithful vs the unfaithful. To the faithful is given eternal life, blessing and admittance and to the unfaithful there are the words accursed along with weeping and gnashing of teeth and exclusion. Jesus’ repetition of a truth using different words helps us to see and to understand. Think of it this way. Just as a recipe has many ingredients so the stories have ingredients to teach a basic truth or truths. A recipe can call for baking powder or leavening, it matters not what you label it, it serves the same purpose: it is key to make bread rise. The “ingredients” (oil, talents, ministry) in these stories are part and parcel of the whole; they are explaining how faithfulness and stewardship are God’s gifts to be a part of his whole recipe/plan for men. Each parable gives a different view of how each ingredient brings the recipe to its full completion. By using illustrations of day to day life in the familiarity of his audience, and in this case the disciples, they began to see through the illustrations about weddings, talents and the “least of these.” But how did all of that work to bring about God’s plan? This is the “aha” moment! As they listened, and later pondered, they began to see what James said later: So also faith, if it does not have works, is dead being by itself. The key is “by itself.” Just as if you misunderstood the use of baking powder/leavening as key ingredients, so in life if you misunderstand how faith and works cooperate to achieve the whole you will miss God’s plan, His recipe. Without the baking powder/leavening your recipe is flawed and so without both faith and works we cannot be true stewards of God’s gifts to us. We cannot separate faith from works…they are part and parcel of the whole recipe.
Jesus calls us to be salt and light to the world, be wise and discerning, use the time you have been given, use the talents that were entrusted to you. We are not to just be “waiters but also watchers.” We want to enter eternity and hear, “Welcome, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave! You have been faithful in a few things. I will put you in charge of many things. Enter into the joy of your master.’ Jesus said the fields are ripe for harvest. Each of us has been entrusted with oil/talents/ministry. How are you using yours?