Sunday's Lectionary Reading: Matthew 25:1-13 (NRSV)
I never liked the Parable of the Ten Bridesmaids. It feels more like a morality play than a parable. It has a ring to it of The Little Red Hen or Aesop's The Ants and the Grasshopper.
There is nothing wrong with a good work ethic.
There is nothing wrong with rewarding effort given.
The apostle Paul even states that "anyone unwilling to work should not eat." (2 Thessalonians 3:10)
Of course, he is referring to Christians simply waiting on the second coming of Jesus. They believed that the end was near and yet Paul was practical enough to know that the idle should not rely upon others bending their backs on their behalf if they are able-bodied.
The difference for me in this parable is that it follows along nicely with a works righteousness theology which doesn't always fit with the idea of grace.
Works righteousness is what we would like to see in the marketplace where work would be valued appropriately. But it may not be what we would like when it comes to our spiritual lives. This is because we may have a deep and underlying sense that we could be doing better.
Okay, I have my moments but I'm not this bad!
I'm often the lazy cat saying, "Not I" when asked to help plant the wheat.
I'm often the grasshopper whittling away my time while others stockpile for winter.
And I'm often the foolish bridesmaid who is looking to my friends to see if they have any oil to spare for my lamp.
I can easily identify with those who are left on the outside looking in. It is hurtful imagining Jesus saying to me, "I do not know you."
Because I believe compassion and grace are core components of Jesus Christ, I am forced to look deeper into my interpretation of this parable. It seems that we are looking at priorities. For Matthew's gospel, the oil may indeed reflect good deeds. This parable asks us, "What do we realize spiritually through our participation in good deeds?" And conversely, "What are we lacking in perception when we remain idle in works for others?"
As we continue to look at thankfulness as an overriding theme in worship, this Sunday I'll be preaching on "The Priority of Thanksgiving" as we look together at this gospel reading. As always, there will be four opportunities for you to hear it on Sunday morning - and more if you livestream our Facebook feed or watch it later at your leisure. Trey Witzel will be preaching at the Late Night service at 7 pm and I would encourage you to drop in if you miss Sunday morning!