If you are hearing Matthew 25 or preaching it in church this month, there are some things you ought to keep in mind. First, the context of the three parables that Jesus tells, is that of his final week on earth. Like final lecture of the late CMU professor, Randy Pausch, Jesus’ last stories have special significance. Usually, we say that these three stories are Eschatological, that is, they deal with the final judgement of humanity and the second coming of Christ. But, I think that it is worth digging deeper.
The three stories also have a common theme. In each, there is a plain distinction between good people and bad. In each story, the right thing to do, isn’t the obvious thing to do. In the story of the 10 Bridesmaids (Matthew 25:1-13), the good people are rewarded for staying awake and preparing for the unexpected appearance of God in their lives. In the story of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-28), the good person invests him or herself fully in life, risks everything to use what God has given them. The bad one, buries their resources and gifts in a snot rag. The story of the sheep and goats (Matthew 25:29-46), similarly, talks of good people being compassionate to everyone. Bad people take the more prudent course of only doing good when they know the recipient can return the favor in some way.
In each of these stories, the distinction between good and evil is made easily by the master (God). Jesus always seems surprise at how hard we find it separate the two. We, and the people we know, are full of gray areas and complications. Yet, three crystal clear questions emerge:
- Are you spiritually awake? Yes or No (don’t say maybe)
- Are you willing to risk everything in order to do the one thing God has called (or made) you to do?
- Do you live compassionately in this world, disregarding any payback or reward for being nice?
If you can answer each question with a resounding YES! Then you pass Jesus’ final exam.