The Parables of Matthew 25

In Matthew’s twenty-fifth chapter, Jesus tells three of his parables that are most often used by those who drive the performance treadmill to make people work harder to try and earn God’s favor. And, not surprisingly they are some the enemy uses in his accusations that we may not be “doing enough” for God. But in each case, the conclusion of the parables are anything but the “try harder” explanations that religion gives. As I was reading through them the other day, here’s what caught my eye:

First, the Parable of the Virgins: Ten virgins are awaiting the bridegroom, but his coming is delayed longer than five of them had planned. They just had enough oil enough to get to midnight, and when the groom came later they had no reserve with which to light their lamps. The conclusion: Those who live for his coming as if it is immediate, will lose out when he delays. Live for the long haul and whenever he comes you’ll be ready.

The Parable of the Talents: At first blush it looks like those who work harder are rewarded more than those who do little. At a closer look, however, we see that it is really a parable about fear. The one who feared God as an exacting taskmaster is the one who made all the wrong decisions and ended up empty at the end. The lesson: Those who live loved have the freedom to be fruitful. Those who live in the fear of not being fruitful, will find themselves fulfilling their own fear.

The Parable of The Sheep And Goats: Those who were truly about the Father’s business had no idea they were. They were simply loving whomever God put before them. Those who sought to do good as a qualification to enter God’s kingdom missed what it meant to love the people right in front of them. Doing their works for him, meant they missed his opportunities for them.

Those who learn to live loved and cease to strive in their own efforts, will know the joy of the Lord and all that it means to be fruitful. Those who seek to suck up to God to earn brownie points are so lost in their self-effort that they miss him in the simple realities of life. I used to see all these parables completely the opposite of what he intended, and though they made me work harder, they didn’t lead me to true fruitfulness. How could they? My attempts to fulfill them were too self-centered. I’ve said it before. The only thing worse than unrighteousness is self-righteousness. The latter leads to pride and arrogance that only spoils the world around us.

But as I’ve been learning to live loved I’ve been less conscious of trying to do what I think he wants, and freer to embrace what he gives me each day. Who knew it would lead me to the better things he had for me, than those things I thought I should do for him? Learning to live loved will lead us to a righteousness that our growing trust in his love produces. We’ll find ourselves blessing others when we’re not even aware of what we’re doing. That will make us a far sweeter fragrance in the world and a far better follower of his.

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30 Comments
  1. kent November 17, 2011 at 7:19 am

    The point from which one views things, makes all the difference in the world.

  2. kent November 17, 2011 at 10:19 am

    The point from which one views things, makes all the difference in the world.

  3. Len P November 17, 2011 at 8:39 pm

    Interestingly, two weeks ago I was reading through this very part of Matthew, trying to get a handle on how these parables relate to us in relation to God’s love and affection for us. From my past misunderstandings, I couldn’t come up with a clear answer, so I prayed about it, then I felt at peace about it as I sensed our Father would reveal it in His own time and I moved on. Then I read your blog today and I was pleasantly surprised! It feels great not having to get stewed up about not having the answers or the need to insert my own previous misguided interpretations on every scripture I read. Our Father knows how to take care of these details in His own time and way. So thank you Wayne for taking a moment to share.

  4. Len P November 17, 2011 at 11:39 pm

    Interestingly, two weeks ago I was reading through this very part of Matthew, trying to get a handle on how these parables relate to us in relation to God’s love and affection for us. From my past misunderstandings, I couldn’t come up with a clear answer, so I prayed about it, then I felt at peace about it as I sensed our Father would reveal it in His own time and I moved on. Then I read your blog today and I was pleasantly surprised! It feels great not having to get stewed up about not having the answers or the need to insert my own previous misguided interpretations on every scripture I read. Our Father knows how to take care of these details in His own time and way. So thank you Wayne for taking a moment to share.

  5. Gert November 18, 2011 at 12:27 am

    Thank you so much for sharing this!

  6. Gert November 18, 2011 at 3:27 am

    Thank you so much for sharing this!

  7. Vic November 18, 2011 at 3:03 pm

    I agree that living loved leaves a person open to be filled with the Spirit so as to be transformed, but there is a lot more to these parables as it relates to the church in regard to “inheriting” the right to reign with Christ in the Kingdom. Those five virgins whose oil was insufficient represent those who had just enough of God to be saved, who were born of the spirit but did not heed the challenge of Ro. 12:2. It wasn’t that they had an early expectation of Christ’s return, they were simplpy not watching for it, they were not filled with the spirit/oil and the consequence was that they were left behind to go through the first half of the tribulation. Each of the subsequent parables speak to the same theme. I think its great that you are preaching the gospel of love. I have been a grateful recipient of your teaching for at least six years and it has changed my life, but there is a goal in mind for those who respond to God”s love and that is to take on the new nature by knowing the mind of Christ and proceed to lose our “soul” (old nature) now instead of at the judgment seat of Christ. Our response is what produces the fruit that Jesus spoke of when He warned the Jews that “The Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce fruit” Mt 21:43, the Church. However the criteria for inheriting the Kingdom is still producing fruit and if there is no oil, the only fruit that can be produced is works of the flesh. This entire segment of Jesus teaching is to his regenerate disciples and the consequences of not being worthy to participate in the Kingdom, i.e. reigning as co-heirs during the rule of the millenium. It is not precluding them from heaven. He is saying “I never knew you” because they were still living according to the old nature when Christ was looking to identify His nature. Essentially he was saying, I don’t recognize the soul or person whom you should have become if you had been responsive to my Spirit.

  8. Vic November 18, 2011 at 6:03 pm

    I agree that living loved leaves a person open to be filled with the Spirit so as to be transformed, but there is a lot more to these parables as it relates to the church in regard to “inheriting” the right to reign with Christ in the Kingdom. Those five virgins whose oil was insufficient represent those who had just enough of God to be saved, who were born of the spirit but did not heed the challenge of Ro. 12:2. It wasn’t that they had an early expectation of Christ’s return, they were simplpy not watching for it, they were not filled with the spirit/oil and the consequence was that they were left behind to go through the first half of the tribulation. Each of the subsequent parables speak to the same theme. I think its great that you are preaching the gospel of love. I have been a grateful recipient of your teaching for at least six years and it has changed my life, but there is a goal in mind for those who respond to God”s love and that is to take on the new nature by knowing the mind of Christ and proceed to lose our “soul” (old nature) now instead of at the judgment seat of Christ. Our response is what produces the fruit that Jesus spoke of when He warned the Jews that “The Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce fruit” Mt 21:43, the Church. However the criteria for inheriting the Kingdom is still producing fruit and if there is no oil, the only fruit that can be produced is works of the flesh. This entire segment of Jesus teaching is to his regenerate disciples and the consequences of not being worthy to participate in the Kingdom, i.e. reigning as co-heirs during the rule of the millenium. It is not precluding them from heaven. He is saying “I never knew you” because they were still living according to the old nature when Christ was looking to identify His nature. Essentially he was saying, I don’t recognize the soul or person whom you should have become if you had been responsive to my Spirit.

  9. Wayne November 19, 2011 at 7:36 am

    Hi Vic,

    I approved your comment even though there is much in it that I disagree with. I don’t have time to work through all of my concerns with what you’ve said except to say this–It sounds like a grace to get in, and works to achieve approach. I don’t know how much you mean that, but I think what Scripture makes clear is that when you live loved by the Father your life will bear fruilt. Not, that you can live loved, but you also have to bear fruit. The people I see bearing the best fruit in the world today, are people who are living in the love of the Father and he is changing them, often times without them being aware of the changes. The people I see doing the most damage in the name of God, are those trying to be fruitful for him when they haven’t a clue how loved they are. I don’t think living loved is the excuse to be a spiritual couch potato. But trying not to be a couch potato isn’t the answer for that. Since I don’t know who you are, I may not have read your comments the way they were intended, but I was concerned that others might read it the way I did and just wanted them to know I wouldn’t agree. At the same time I love open discussion about these things so that people can learn to listen for Jesus’ voice in the things they hear.

  10. Wayne November 19, 2011 at 10:36 am

    Hi Vic,

    I approved your comment even though there is much in it that I disagree with. I don’t have time to work through all of my concerns with what you’ve said except to say this–It sounds like a grace to get in, and works to achieve approach. I don’t know how much you mean that, but I think what Scripture makes clear is that when you live loved by the Father your life will bear fruilt. Not, that you can live loved, but you also have to bear fruit. The people I see bearing the best fruit in the world today, are people who are living in the love of the Father and he is changing them, often times without them being aware of the changes. The people I see doing the most damage in the name of God, are those trying to be fruitful for him when they haven’t a clue how loved they are. I don’t think living loved is the excuse to be a spiritual couch potato. But trying not to be a couch potato isn’t the answer for that. Since I don’t know who you are, I may not have read your comments the way they were intended, but I was concerned that others might read it the way I did and just wanted them to know I wouldn’t agree. At the same time I love open discussion about these things so that people can learn to listen for Jesus’ voice in the things they hear.

  11. Vic November 19, 2011 at 10:38 am

    I can see how much you love open discussion when you can defer to time restrictions and then disqualilfy their responses to someone who likes “grace to get in and works to approach”. I am equally concerned about those who, like Len P, don’t understand the parables and then succomb to a lightweight interpretation that is pretty much the opposite of what the parable teaches. You say that “Those who live for his coming as if it is immediate, will lose out when he delays. Live for the long haul and whenever he comes you’ll be ready. ” The scripture says “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the hour.” Had they been keeping watch as though the return was imminent, not immediate, as you say, they would have paid attention to keeping their oil full or to use your vernacular, “living loved”. This has nothing to do with earning God’s favor. You and I agree on that point. It has everything to do with what their life produces, either wood, hay & stubble or gold, silver etc. that won’t be burned up at the Judgment Seat of Christ where we are evaluated based on the works we have done in this life, not for our spirit salvation but for rewards. I don’t have to list all the references to those who will suffer loss, you must have read them although you apparently don’t have the time to study them in light of what I said in my previous post. It’s easier to be dismissive and say I don’t agree. If everything could be summed up with “Live loved” then there are 66 books of the Bible that could have been reduced to a postcard. You don’t have to post this or respond since it may confuse those who hang on every word you write.

  12. Len P November 19, 2011 at 11:07 am

    I agree with you Wayne whole hardheartedly. I tried to pray, study and set goals on on attaining a spiritual life that I thought was worthy of responding to God’s grace for almost 40 years. All it did was lead to a life of frustration and lack of confidence whether I would ever attain those goals in my lifetime. This past year, as our Father has began revealing his love and affection to me, things that I tried so desperately to change in the past, have started to fall away like big chunks of slag or rust and be replaced by something very beautiful. I can’t explain how or why it is happening that way. I can only observe it and know this is “the way” that God has created and it fills me with incredible peace and joy, and a confidence about my calling I have never experienced before. I can never go back to the old way of trying to hammer out my own spiritual goals and pursue a fruitless life of self effort to change myself. Our Father is revealing to us a very beautiful, transforming way, and I feel very grateful to be apart of it.

  13. nancy November 19, 2011 at 12:58 pm

    However many books of the Bible one may believe there are, could it be that their truth is discovered more through putting them together in the context of God’s love rather than picking them apart in our human endeavor to be “right”? Through years of studying, and praying for truth, this is the understanding to which He has led me.

    And could it be that the more receptive we are to God’s love in this life… and through His love being able to love others (the fruit bearing), the greater depth of relationship (reward?) we will experience in loving Him face to face for eternity?

  14. Len P November 19, 2011 at 1:13 pm

    In response to Vic, I not sure I understand what you mean by saying that I succumbed to a light weight interpretation to those parables. Do the parables need a heavy weight interpretation to be considered valid? Also if we don’t clearly understand all of the scriptures perfectly, does that mean we miss out on God’s gift? During my past religious life, these parables were constantly used as a prod in the performance based faith I was enmeshed in. They were what I call “heavy weight” misinterpretations that made one feel that we could barely ever do enough spiritual activities to be be considered a wise and faithful servant. Talk about fear based as perfectly described in the parable of the talents. I know many people including myself who put their lives on hold as we hunkered down and studied our bibles, prayed and fasted expecting Christ to come back any day. Forty years clicked by and many things I could have done or should have done are missing. Talents we could have developed are almost nonexistent because we was too fearful to let up on the spiritual activities lest we be like the virgins who ran out of oil and miss Christ’s return. What I know now and the difference it has made in my life is so refreshing that I have never been more excited my calling since I gave my life to Christ in 1969 and the confidence it gives me is incredible. So those interpretations of those parables that Wayne described are far more inline with what I am experiencing and living in my day to day life than all the misinterpretations I lived with for 40 years.

  15. Vic November 19, 2011 at 1:38 pm

    I can see how much you love open discussion when you can defer to time restrictions and then disqualilfy their responses to someone who likes “grace to get in and works to approach”. I am equally concerned about those who, like Len P, don’t understand the parables and then succomb to a lightweight interpretation that is pretty much the opposite of what the parable teaches. You say that “Those who live for his coming as if it is immediate, will lose out when he delays. Live for the long haul and whenever he comes you’ll be ready. ” The scripture says “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the hour.” Had they been keeping watch as though the return was imminent, not immediate, as you say, they would have paid attention to keeping their oil full or to use your vernacular, “living loved”. This has nothing to do with earning God’s favor. You and I agree on that point. It has everything to do with what their life produces, either wood, hay & stubble or gold, silver etc. that won’t be burned up at the Judgment Seat of Christ where we are evaluated based on the works we have done in this life, not for our spirit salvation but for rewards. I don’t have to list all the references to those who will suffer loss, you must have read them although you apparently don’t have the time to study them in light of what I said in my previous post. It’s easier to be dismissive and say I don’t agree. If everything could be summed up with “Live loved” then there are 66 books of the Bible that could have been reduced to a postcard. You don’t have to post this or respond since it may confuse those who hang on every word you write.

  16. Wayne November 19, 2011 at 1:43 pm

    Vic, I am away this weekend for some time with my wife and learned a long time ago that a blog comment section is not a place to work out differences in theology. Usually people who want to fight in this venue have something other in mind than the fullness of truth. I’m not say you don’t, because I don’t know you. But I really don’t want a name-calling, intention-guessing, theological-one-upsmanship battle here. This is a nuance discussion about his love for us and what best shapes us in his holiness. I’m not even sure the answer is the same for every person, except what he brings out of a real relationship with him. But each of us are called to live to our conscience as we perceive his work in us, and understand the words of Scripture.

    But your wording in your last email leads me to wonder if you have a bit of a chip on your shoulder about my openness or people hanging on every word I write. I have wonderful discussions with close friends who don’t see things the way I do all the time and find those discussions wonderfully enlightening. Just because I don’t have a lot of hope that that can happen here with people who do not have a face-to-face relationship, doesn’t mean I don’t love those dialogs in more relational exchanges.

    You’ve clearly put your thoughts here as have others. Let’s trust what 2 Corinthians 4 says about commending what we speak to the conscience of those who read and not try to make everyone else see what we think we’re seeing…. Please!

  17. Wayne November 19, 2011 at 1:46 pm

    Oh, forgot one other thing. I think all 66 books speak to living loved in the revelation of Jesus Christ, leading people out of the darkness of religious performance and into a transforming relationship with Jesus. I take people through this process in THE JESUS LENS, because I think it is important that we see the story of God’s working in the Scriptures and not misinterpret what was part of the revelation, as the conclusion of that revelation…

  18. Len P November 19, 2011 at 2:07 pm

    I agree with you Wayne whole hardheartedly. I tried to pray, study and set goals on on attaining a spiritual life that I thought was worthy of responding to God’s grace for almost 40 years. All it did was lead to a life of frustration and lack of confidence whether I would ever attain those goals in my lifetime. This past year, as our Father has began revealing his love and affection to me, things that I tried so desperately to change in the past, have started to fall away like big chunks of slag or rust and be replaced by something very beautiful. I can’t explain how or why it is happening that way. I can only observe it and know this is “the way” that God has created and it fills me with incredible peace and joy, and a confidence about my calling I have never experienced before. I can never go back to the old way of trying to hammer out my own spiritual goals and pursue a fruitless life of self effort to change myself. Our Father is revealing to us a very beautiful, transforming way, and I feel very grateful to be apart of it.

  19. Vic November 19, 2011 at 3:40 pm

    Wayne, Forgive me for sounding off with a chip on my shoulder. You certainly do not know me even though I have corresponded with you numerous times and always mentioned how much your writings have influenced me. I have advocated for you to others, recommended your books , always spoke highly of you to my family. The remarks by the other commenters on this blog are not new to me. What they have come to understand, I concluded for myself years ago. While you may not have a clue who I am nor care, I thought I knew you by the years of devotion I had to your ministry. In my view, I thought I had earned the right to challenge your statement on your views of these 3 parables when you said, This is the conclusion. My view is that you have taken these completely out of their context, especially the talents. The reason he feared was that this refers to those saved who end up in the tribulation and fear the persecution that those Christians will be subjected to. He thought it safer to deny that he was a believer to avoid the consequences. I think that is what Jesus meant when He said Whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.
    As to performance based religion, I understand that we do not have to perform to be loved by God. However when you actually study the scriptures, which I know you do, you must account for the passages that address works and the consequences. The Apostle Paul still had reservations as to the outcome of his inheritance in Phil 3: 12-14. His goal was to win the prize for which God had called him heavenward. The goal and prize was not going to heaven. He already had that. You don’t hope for something you already have. It seems to me that this is the inheritance of those that overcome to the end. What is it? Figure it out. Work out your own salvation, the salvation of your soul, not spirit. You obviously have a different view of the end times but whatever it is requires a lot of generalization or explaining of some of these “if” verses. This is the end of it.

  20. nancy November 19, 2011 at 3:58 pm

    However many books of the Bible one may believe there are, could it be that their truth is discovered more through putting them together in the context of God’s love rather than picking them apart in our human endeavor to be “right”? Through years of studying, and praying for truth, this is the understanding to which He has led me.

    And could it be that the more receptive we are to God’s love in this life… and through His love being able to love others (the fruit bearing), the greater depth of relationship (reward?) we will experience in loving Him face to face for eternity?

  21. Len P November 19, 2011 at 4:13 pm

    In response to Vic, I not sure I understand what you mean by saying that I succumbed to a light weight interpretation to those parables. Do the parables need a heavy weight interpretation to be considered valid? Also if we don’t clearly understand all of the scriptures perfectly, does that mean we miss out on God’s gift? During my past religious life, these parables were constantly used as a prod in the performance based faith I was enmeshed in. They were what I call “heavy weight” misinterpretations that made one feel that we could barely ever do enough spiritual activities to be be considered a wise and faithful servant. Talk about fear based as perfectly described in the parable of the talents. I know many people including myself who put their lives on hold as we hunkered down and studied our bibles, prayed and fasted expecting Christ to come back any day. Forty years clicked by and many things I could have done or should have done are missing. Talents we could have developed are almost nonexistent because we was too fearful to let up on the spiritual activities lest we be like the virgins who ran out of oil and miss Christ’s return. What I know now and the difference it has made in my life is so refreshing that I have never been more excited my calling since I gave my life to Christ in 1969 and the confidence it gives me is incredible. So those interpretations of those parables that Wayne described are far more inline with what I am experiencing and living in my day to day life than all the misinterpretations I lived with for 40 years.

  22. Wayne November 19, 2011 at 4:43 pm

    Vic, I am away this weekend for some time with my wife and learned a long time ago that a blog comment section is not a place to work out differences in theology. Usually people who want to fight in this venue have something other in mind than the fullness of truth. I’m not say you don’t, because I don’t know you. But I really don’t want a name-calling, intention-guessing, theological-one-upsmanship battle here. This is a nuance discussion about his love for us and what best shapes us in his holiness. I’m not even sure the answer is the same for every person, except what he brings out of a real relationship with him. But each of us are called to live to our conscience as we perceive his work in us, and understand the words of Scripture.

    But your wording in your last email leads me to wonder if you have a bit of a chip on your shoulder about my openness or people hanging on every word I write. I have wonderful discussions with close friends who don’t see things the way I do all the time and find those discussions wonderfully enlightening. Just because I don’t have a lot of hope that that can happen here with people who do not have a face-to-face relationship, doesn’t mean I don’t love those dialogs in more relational exchanges.

    You’ve clearly put your thoughts here as have others. Let’s trust what 2 Corinthians 4 says about commending what we speak to the conscience of those who read and not try to make everyone else see what we think we’re seeing…. Please!

  23. Wayne November 19, 2011 at 4:46 pm

    Oh, forgot one other thing. I think all 66 books speak to living loved in the revelation of Jesus Christ, leading people out of the darkness of religious performance and into a transforming relationship with Jesus. I take people through this process in THE JESUS LENS, because I think it is important that we see the story of God’s working in the Scriptures and not misinterpret what was part of the revelation, as the conclusion of that revelation…

  24. Vic November 19, 2011 at 6:40 pm

    Wayne, Forgive me for sounding off with a chip on my shoulder. You certainly do not know me even though I have corresponded with you numerous times and always mentioned how much your writings have influenced me. I have advocated for you to others, recommended your books , always spoke highly of you to my family. The remarks by the other commenters on this blog are not new to me. What they have come to understand, I concluded for myself years ago. While you may not have a clue who I am nor care, I thought I knew you by the years of devotion I had to your ministry. In my view, I thought I had earned the right to challenge your statement on your views of these 3 parables when you said, This is the conclusion. My view is that you have taken these completely out of their context, especially the talents. The reason he feared was that this refers to those saved who end up in the tribulation and fear the persecution that those Christians will be subjected to. He thought it safer to deny that he was a believer to avoid the consequences. I think that is what Jesus meant when He said Whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.
    As to performance based religion, I understand that we do not have to perform to be loved by God. However when you actually study the scriptures, which I know you do, you must account for the passages that address works and the consequences. The Apostle Paul still had reservations as to the outcome of his inheritance in Phil 3: 12-14. His goal was to win the prize for which God had called him heavenward. The goal and prize was not going to heaven. He already had that. You don’t hope for something you already have. It seems to me that this is the inheritance of those that overcome to the end. What is it? Figure it out. Work out your own salvation, the salvation of your soul, not spirit. You obviously have a different view of the end times but whatever it is requires a lot of generalization or explaining of some of these “if” verses. This is the end of it.

  25. Judy Gale November 21, 2011 at 4:45 am

    Wayne (or anyone), is there a typo in this statement: “Those who live loved have the freedom to be fruitful. Those who live in the fear of not being unfruitful, will find themselves fulfilling their own fear,” …. where “fear of not being unfruitful,” should instead read “fear of not being fruitful?”

  26. Wayne November 21, 2011 at 5:29 am

    Oops! Right you are Judy. Those double negatives always confuse me. I’ve already made the change so those coming later wont see it. Thanks for the heads up Judy.

  27. Judy Gale November 21, 2011 at 7:45 am

    Wayne (or anyone), is there a typo in this statement: “Those who live loved have the freedom to be fruitful. Those who live in the fear of not being unfruitful, will find themselves fulfilling their own fear,” …. where “fear of not being unfruitful,” should instead read “fear of not being fruitful?”

  28. Wayne November 21, 2011 at 8:29 am

    Oops! Right you are Judy. Those double negatives always confuse me. I’ve already made the change so those coming later wont see it. Thanks for the heads up Judy.

  29. Ken November 21, 2011 at 9:08 am

    My take on the parable of the 10 virgins is that it is simply about not missing opportunities to reach out in love and compassion to others. Could it be that the “Son of Man” who is coming in verse 13 really refers to the hungry, thirsty, naked, sick and imprisoned people in the sheep & goats parable? By using the term “Son of Man” Jesus may be identifying with His humanness, not His being King of Kings and Lord of Lords at the end of time.

    When we try to literal-iize every detail of these parables, I think sometimes we can miss a broader meaning.

    Just my $.02…

  30. Ken November 21, 2011 at 12:08 pm

    My take on the parable of the 10 virgins is that it is simply about not missing opportunities to reach out in love and compassion to others. Could it be that the “Son of Man” who is coming in verse 13 really refers to the hungry, thirsty, naked, sick and imprisoned people in the sheep & goats parable? By using the term “Son of Man” Jesus may be identifying with His humanness, not His being King of Kings and Lord of Lords at the end of time.

    When we try to literal-iize every detail of these parables, I think sometimes we can miss a broader meaning.

    Just my $.02…

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