I have been drawn to Christ's teachings as found in Matthew 25. Not that there aren't other things to learn in the writings of prophets and apostles, but the concepts written here are so central to how we must conduct ourselves if we truly desire heaven and God's praise.
In verses 1 and 14, variations on "...the kingdom of heaven be likened unto..." let us know that the Savior is teaching who will get the celestial reward - This is how things will work in Heaven. If you don't like the workings of the Lord's precincts, then you will not like a celestial glory and will be placed in one of the lower glories.
Two very well-known parables are contained in this chapter. I will be taking what may seem a very unorthodox examination of what these parables are trying to tell us. I don't want to discount the other interpretations, but I hope to teach principles that are important but often go unnoticed.
Don't Be Late to the Feast (versus 1-13)
Many people focus on numbers and oil and perhaps even the rudeness of some of the virgins in not sharing their oil with the others. I'm more interested in the fact that the Lord gives this as a comparison with the kingdom of heaven and how our readiness will be treated there.
- In heaven, there are no loans or borrowing or gifting outside of Christ's atonement. We cannot give ourselves to make up for the shortcomings of others - only the Savior can do that and he has already established the conditions (commandments) that motivate him in this way. Each person must come under their own efforts through the Lord's atonement ("buy [oil] for yourselves") before judgement's "door was shut."
- In heaven, there will be no entry for the unproven. Many want a lack of sufficient preparation for judgement and celestial glory to be basically excused ("Lord, Lord, open to us"). Rather, one must present themselves as a faithful and dutiful follower of the Savior when called to account.
- The propet Joseph Smith corrected the bridegroom's statement to the latecomers at the door: "I know you not." becomes "ye know me not", or you don't know the nature of God. Christ knows you and he sees into your very soul. Your final judgement is an appointment that you will keep, ready or not. Once "the door [is] shut", the Lord becomes the dutiful judge - not letting the unproven into celestial glory and also not excusing the laggard.
- "Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh." We are constantly warned that death and judgement and reckoning are God's realities and that these will happen. There is no excuse for the procrastinator.
Making Best Use of Your Opportunity (14-30)
"For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors." (Alma 32:34)
Although weighing the value of talents and the actions of the Lord's servants in this parable is interesting, I will focus on the Lord's actions and sayings, as we continue to investigate "the kingdom of heaven".
The two parables in this chapter were taught together by Christ to inform us on the coming judgement. Just as the virgins didn't know when the bridegroom would come to the wedding feast and some were judged unprepared, the servants in the story of the talents didn't know when their Lord would return to make an accounting for his goods.
- The Lord left "his goods" in the hands of his servants and upon his return, he "reckoneth with them". We learn that God gives us this earth and our mortal bodies and will judge us based on our use (or misuse or disuse) of the things he has provided for us.
- The profitable servants were rewarded very handsomely. "Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord."
- It is interesting that the same reward was given to the servants that doubled the goods, no matter what how much they were entrusted with. We should not concern ourselves with the foolish idea of "fairness". People come to earth with more or less, but what you do with whatever you get seems to be what matters in the economy of heaven.
- The "slothful servant" knew about his lord, often better than we seem to do: "thou art a hard man". Christ sets the criteria of his rewards and we must meet the requirements to get them. The Lord in the parable confirms to the "wicked" servant that "thou knewst that I..."
- There is something to notice about the Lord. It sure sounds like the Lord is very black and white; there seems no middle ground with him. "So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. (Revelation 3:16).
"Right-hand" Sheep and "Left-hand" Goats (31-46)
After teaching us about the limited time that we have to prove ourselves worthy of the Lord's trust and rewards, he immediately provides the central works that we need to do to prove ourselves "his sheep" and to "be on his right hand". This is the final judgement of our lives.
The Savior gives strict instructions how to treat others in order to get on the Lord's right hand - if you find them...
- hungry? give meat (which could be food or knowledge).
- thirsty? give drink (which could be water or knowledge).
- stranger? take them in (don't "other" people).
- naked? clothe them. (don't leave others exposed to evil)
- sick or in prison? visit them.