“And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.'”
– Matthew 25:40
Matthew 25 continues the discourse that Jesus began in chapter 24. Here Jesus turns from talking about the things leading up to the end times to talking about the last judgment. Jesus continues to emphasize the necessity of being ready for his return. However, he also emphasizes the consequences of not being prepared.
Jesus continues his teaching about his return by giving another parable. The wise virgins in the parable represent believers who are prepared for the Lord’s return at any minute. They brought extra oil so that they would be able to sustain their lamp into the night. The foolish virgins, however, represent unbelievers who are not ready for the Lord’s return. They do not anticipate his coming and are not adequately prepared to receive him when he comes. The bridegroom in the parable is delayed which reminds us of the unknown hour of his return. When someone is delayed in traffic, usually the people at the destination are unaware of his return. In the same way, we are unaware of Christ’s return.
The virgins who were prepared were ready when the bridegroom arrived, but the unprepared virgins were not because they needed to go purchase oil. When the unprepared virgins came back, they tried to gain access, but the bridegroom turned them away. This shows us that we only have this lifetime to accept the salvation possible through Christ. There comes a moment, either by Christ’s return or death, where the door to salvation is shut. We must be prepared to meet Christ at any time.
Jesus’ final parable to the disciples shows the necessity of being ministers for the kingdom while we wait for the Lord’s return.
In this parable, three servants are entrusted with talents (money) from their master. These servants were expected to invest the money so that they may earn more money for the master. When the master returns, he finds that two have invested the money while one foolishly hid it in the ground and did not invest it. That one servant was stripped of his talent and thrown into the outer darkness.
This parable shows us how we are to be faithful with the spiritual gifts and talents that God has given us to use as his ministers. We are to invest these things in the body of Christ so that God may reap the interest. Faithfulness in small areas shows the capability for us to take on larger responsibility. We must head the warning at the end of the parable which shows the outcome of neglecting our gifts and talents for the use of the body of Christ.
In the final section of the discourse, Jesus tells his disciples about the final judgment which will occur in the last days. In this image, the sheep are the believers and the goats are the unbelievers. When believers show service to those who are the least of their communities, they show that same service to Jesus Christ. Their actions are evidence of their inward change. Our works do not save us, but they testify to our renewed life in Christ. For those who minister to the least of these, they will inherit eternal life.
The unbelievers, however, neglected to show compassion and care to the least of these. Neglecting to do something can be just as bad as doing something sinful. Sometimes sin is not what we do, but what we do not do. Those who neglect the least of these are thrown into eternal punishment. We must head this warning as well: are we evidencing our faith when we interact with the least of our community?