"Wise and Foolish, Money and Oil" - Matthew 25:1-13
[Jesus said,] “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise replied, ‘No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’ And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut. Later, the other bridesmaids came also, saying, 'Lord, lord, open to us.' But he replied, 'Truly I tell you, I do not know you.'
"Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour."
Remember the parable? The one about the bridesmaids? Five foolish ones who weren’t prepared for the coming of the bridegroom and five wise ones who were – or at least who were prepared enough to take care of themselves, anyway.
Just like we do too much of the time, I imagine most of those people listening to Jesus back in the First Century suspected his parable was all and only about the end of time – sometime “then” and “there,” sometime down the road, sometime “up there” and “out there” in a galaxy far, far away, and that this imaginary, unseen, metaphorical bridegroom (the messiah, the Christ, the savior of us all) would show up and that they better be ready, or else.
But remember, the kingdom of heaven was already among them. The bridegroom, as it were, had already showed up. In Jesus Christ, he and the kingdom were living and moving and breathing right there in their midst.
So, instead of pretending that Jesus was simply talking about winners and losers at the end of time – suggesting that some will make it into the party and others won’t – or suggesting that we should attempt to figure such things out, I think Jesus was inviting his followers to look for the kingdom of heaven among them, too – in this age, not just in the age to come – so that they’d be ready to receive and to respond to and rejoice in it whenever and wherever it revealed itself.
For the last couple of Fridays, Christa and I have been meeting with some financial advisers, working to get our financial ducks in a row. Other than the Dave Ramsey course a few years ago, and whatever conversations we have around monthly budgets and daily needs and our giving to the church, we haven’t done any real, deliberate financial planning – with someone smarter than us – since just after we got married and moved to Indiana. And some of you know that between Christa and me, when it comes to the stuff of “financial planning,” one of us is much more foolish and one of us is far more wise. (My lamp would be empty, as the parable goes, and she’d have oil stock-piled for days. Thankfully, she’s a good sharer.)
So we’re handing over documents. We’re sharing what we’ve been up to. We’re talking about goals for the future – college for the boys, insurance policies, retirements hopes and all the rest. Ultimately, our financial planners seem to be equal parts financial management wizards and life coaches and counselors.
Surrounding all of our conversations about money and bottom lines and dollars and cents and financial forecasts they keep pointing out and reminding us that our main goal is to be prepared – to be as prepared as we can be for whatever the future holds; to be prepared on behalf of our boys and their plans; to be prepared when it comes to our retirement; and to be prepared, even, when we think about the ministry in this place. They know that we give 13% of our family’s income to the ministry at Cross of Grace, and that we want to continue that, which I only tell you so you'll know I'm not asking or encouraging you to do anything I don't try to do myself.
Which, of course, is where all of this is headed, as we’re asking each other to consider the money we give to sustain and pay for what we’ve built here in our little “corner of the kingdom,” as Pastor Aaron said in the video.
As children of God, and as Partners in Mission in this place, God wants for us to recognize that the kingdom of heaven is still alive and well among us, right now, in the world and surrounding us in this place. And God wants for us to keep awake, to be prepared, to stand ready to serve and respond to the needs of the world in as many ways as those needs come knocking at our door.
And I think we do that, like so many wise bridesmaids, when we continue to give generously and faithfully – and only out of gratitude – for the blessings God pours into our lives. And, frankly, I think we can do even better than those wise bridesmaids, when we show up and come prepared and give enough so that others who can’t, or don’t, or won’t, might be able to join the party, too.
And we’ve been wise and faithful and generous with our Building Fund – all of us together, I mean – over the years. We’ve built what and when we’ve needed to. You heard in the video about the money we’ve shared with others, like in Fondwa and Noblesville. And we’ve worked to save and pay faithfully on our debt. (If you haven’t picked up or read through your campaign packet, yet, you should know we’ve ostensibly paid for the latest addition of offices, classrooms, nursery and sanctuary space, in addition to reducing our mortgage’s principle by $247,000 in just the last two years.)
But none of this is ultimately about money or mortgage payments, for me, any more than Jesus was actually talking about oil or lamps in his parable of the bridesmaids.
This is about the light of the world. This is about the grace of God. And this is about the unique, special, uninhibited, no-strings-attached kind of way we’re encouraged to share it all through our ministry at Cross of Grace - like so many other churches out there can't, or won't, or don't, for whatever reason.
So my prayer this week, is that you’ll pray with me this week. That next Sunday we’ll come back prepared like so many wise bridesmaids, ready to make our latest commitments to the Building Fund, and that we’ll make those offerings wisely, faithfully, generously, and with deep gratitude for the grace that is already ours, and ours to share.
And that in doing so, we’ll see and celebrate that we are sharing the light of the world, the very kingdom of heaven, the amazing grace of God – that’s been so generously shared with us, already, in Jesus Christ.