So I’m reading again through Revelation, and I stopped at the first sentences in chapter three. “‘I know your deeds,” Jesus said to the church at Sardis, “that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die . . ..”
That’s when I thought of the ten virgins in Matthew’s gospel. Five were prudent. Five were foolish. When the Bridegroom arrived, the foolish said to the prudent, “Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.” (Matthew 25:8)
The foolish were unprepared for their Master’s return.
I think it important that Matthew also includes two other stories closely related to the Ten Virgins: The Talents, and the Sheep and Goats. Chapter 25 then concludes with what ought to be for us a very sobering warning.
To the goats, Jesus says: “‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; 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.’ 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?’ 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.’
I wonder if the foolish virgins’ lights were about to go out because they had buried the gifts their Master had given them – gifts of time, of talent, and of treasure. Perhaps they were too busy using His gifts on themselves instead of for others. And now the Lord stood at the door. Their lamps were flickering.
And it was too late to fix it.
In another place in Matthew’s gospel, Jesus said to His disciples: “You are the light of the world . . . . Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16)
The Christians at Sardis thought they were at the top of their spiritual game. But they were wrong. So Jesus commanded, “Wake up! Strengthen what yet remains.”
Can any of us fall into the same self-delusion as they? Of course we can. Which is why now – and often – it is good to pray: Oh, God. Examine my heart. Where have I been foolish with your gifts? Teach me to live in such a way as to present to you on that Great Day my light ablaze from worthy service. Amen.