In the last week of his earthly ministry, Jesus tells three stories with a common theme. They are all found in Matthew 25 and they each deal with the choices we make every day. In each story, there is a plain distinction between good people and bad. Even though good people and bad people score markedly differently on the final exam, it’s not obvious what the right answer is for each question.
- 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). It doesn’t take Jesus long to grade the final exam. He says it’s as easy as sorting sheep and goats. This surprises us. We find it hard to separate good folk from almost good folk. We have a hard time knowing who to trust. It scares us to be on a jury because we might make a tragic mistake and punish an innocent person. The world has a lot of gray areas and complications. Yet, three crystal clear questions emerge for testing ourselves:
1.Are you spiritually awake? Jesus says blessed are the poor in spirit, that is those who know their need of God.
2.Are you willing to risk everything in order to do the one thing God has called (or made) you to do? The story of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-28) is about trusting that we have something to contribute to the world and making ourselves useful.
3.Are you compassionate? When you see someone in need do you help them?
If you can answer each question with a resounding YES! Then you pass Jesus’ final exam.