Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Hey, Brother, Can You Spare Some Oil?

     Jesus has just discussed (as I have in the previous blog) about how leadership in the Kingdom of God is characterized by "servantship." He describes a person who is dutiful in love and commitment whether or not the master is present. This person serves out of love for the master and for his fellow servants--pure and simple. 
     Love is the hallmark of a Kingdom servant.  The "job qualifications" for such a servant is outlined by Paul so wonderfully in the 13th chapter of 1 Corinthians.  God's love for us was made manifest in the giving of His Son:
  • For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
  • But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)
     Commitment is equally important, and comes from love.  Love is the attitude such a servant takes because he responds to the great love lavished on him by the Master.  Commitment is love put into action.
     Love says, "I will be there for you."
     Commitment says, "Hold on! I'm coming!"
     So, Jesus moves from His servant parable in Matthew 24:45-51 to the Parable of the Ten Virgins in Matthew 25.  The servant parable shows how love is our attitude.  This next parable shows how commitment is love in action: 
     “At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
      6 “At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’
      7 “Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’
      9 “‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’
     10 “But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.
     11 “Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’
     12 “But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’
    13 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour."
    OK, we could talk about being prepared for that momentous day when He returns.  Yes, the parable illustrates that.  But why be prepared in the first place?  The other five ladies went with the first five.  They at least brought their lamps.  That was worth something, right?
    Yes, only if a servant's motivation is to appear prepared.  
    In other words, the servant is acting as if love for the master drives what that servants does.  The servant appears to love the master. 
    But Jesus isn't about appearances.  He is concerned about the heart and its ultimate motivation.  He is asking in this parable:
  • Are you doing just the minimum for My Father--do you just grab the lamp but figure you'll get the oil later?   Do you think, Hey, I am doing my duty.  That should be enough.   
  • Are you doing what you can for My Father--grabbing the lamp and the oil and waiting in eager expectation for the Son?  Do you think, Hey, I am ready no matter when He shows up, because I love Him.
    Love is the sustaining factor.  The Bridegroom may be awhile.  It is our love for Him that means you come prepared with whatever is needed to further Kingdom work.  If you bring a lamp, you need to bring the oil.  You can't be light if you serve Him out of duty.  Your love is the oil--it keeps the light burning in the darkness and lights the way for others. 
     In the parable, when the bridegroom appears, all the ladies were asleep.  I like the tender touch here--Jesus recognizes that in our weakness, we may grow tired and perhaps take a snooze.  Our flesh is weak--witness the apostles on the night Jesus was arrested.  They fell asleep.  
     But, if we know we are weak, then His strength is manifested in us and our love drives us to grab His hand and get going.  We don't allow our weakness to be the excuse for self-pity, which leads to inaction.  "But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.'  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me." (2 Cor. 12:9)
     Wake up; don't wallow up.  Grab your lamp and oil.  The Kingdom needs your light.
     Our love for Him, united with His strength, will yield joyful servants in His kingdom.  It will end, yes, with a wedding feast.  That's why Jesus used a wedding feast to illustrate what His arrival will be like!  
      One more observation about this parable:  all the ladies woke up with the announcement of the bridegroom's arrival, but not all were ready.  We can't rely on our pastor, our mom or dad, our whatever, to walk as servants for us.  There are no grandchildren in God's Kingdom:  only sons and daughters, who have made the choice to be His own.  We can't borrow from others.
     What would we think of a best man who grabbed a bouquet from the flower girl at a wedding and presented it to the bride as if he had bought it for her?
      We would scowl at him and say, "You knew you were the best man.  You knew that you were responsible for bringing a bouquet to the bride.  You knew all of this before the actual day, for the bridegroom told you when he asked you.  Do you think the bridegroom will not notice how careless you are by trying to pass off that little girl's bouquet as your own?"
     Bingo.  Jesus, in His parables and teachings, is the Bridegroom instructing us as to what to do and what to bring as His day approaches.  We are to bring love and commitment to what He asks of us.  We gladly go out and do it, even if we get tired now and then.  
     Isn't it interesting that at the end, when the door is shut, and the five ladies ask to come in, the bridegroom says, "I don't know you."  Duty, guilt and obligation are not substitutes for knowing and serving Him.
     Our servant's heart is created the day He enters in.  With His Holy Spirit, He gives us a heart of flesh for a heart of stone.  We love Him, wanting to know Him better at the end of the day than we did at the beginning.  His mercies are new every morning, so we start afresh as servants each day.  We put feet to our love by being committed to Him and His kingdom.   


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