The Wise Brought Flasks of Oil - Matthew 25:3-4

Working Like the Lamp Ladies

Life is full of work. Sometimes that work can be satisfying and interesting; sometimes it’s brain-numbingly dull and feels pointless. How I view my work and how I can choose to make work important is vital to whether or not I enjoy my work. In reading the parable of the 10 virgins, I realized that the wise virgins had an understanding of preparing that can help me understand truths to help me maintain a sense of value in my work, even on the days when I feel like it doesn’t matter.

The parable of the 10 virgins is in Matthew 25:1-12 and it tells how they handle keeping their lamp lit (or not) while they wait for the return of the bridegroom. While this is a parable about waiting for the return of Jesus, like all scripture, its truth can apply on many levels in many ways to my life. By thinking about what made the differences in the decisions between the two groups of women, I can see in this passage two truths that relate to understanding preparing for work.

For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. … And while [the foolish] were going to buy [oil], the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. – Matthew 25:3-4, 10 ESV

There’s two things those 5 wise women had to believe in order to want to take their oil with them. First, they had to think about what they have. If you have a lamp and you’re going to take it with you, perhaps on a camping trip, at some point you have to stop and think about what you’ll need to make the lamp work. There’s nothing worse than showing up at a campsite after dark and not having light you need to set up camp because you forgot the batteries to the flashlight. You can forget setting up the tent in the dark; you’ll be sleeping in the car, right?

I can apply this to my work in the sense that God has called me to certain assignments (Ephesians 2:10). The unwise response is to wander through life just seeing what happens. The wise response is to understand the gifts, talents, and resources that have been given to me. It’s about taking stock of what I have and knowing how to go about completing my assignments with what God’s provided me. The women with the lamps had to know if they had oil in the house already to take with them or if they needed to do a marketplace run to buy oil before they set out. The foolish virgins were more worried about going than about taking stock of what they had and what they needed.

The next thing the wise virgins did is that they had to believe that what they had taken with them was enough. Since they didn’t know when he was coming, they had to take what they had and trust it would be enough.

Sometimes in life it can feel like what I can see available to me isn’t going to meet my needs. The usual two culprits that make me nervous are time and money. Do I have enough time to get everything done? Do I have enough money to pay all the bills? I must choose to believe that, after taking stock of what I have and using it wisely, I will have enough to get me from one point to the next. I don’t have all the money I need for my whole life, and time only comes one moment after another. However, as it comes and as I live life, I must choose to believe that in all areas of my life, what I have will be enough.

The final thought on this concept is that, when all 10 virgins had burning lamps, no one would have been able to tell the difference between the wise and the foolish. Only after time had run on and the oil in the lamp ran out, would you be able to truly see who had prepared and who hadn’t.

I believe that as I work hand in hand with the Holy Spirit that the wise decisions that He is asking me to will be a blessing to me as I live. I may not understand somethings as to why He’s asking me to do them this way or at this time. I may not be able to see a difference in the result of my life yet compared to others that are living foolishly. However, I believe that as we see the results of our life choices playing out in our life, the wisdom of living as the Lord leads will be apparent to all.

God Approves Your Work - Ecclesiastes 9:7

Work with What You Have

His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ – Matthew 25:21 ESV

He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? … For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ – Matthew 25:24-26, 29-30 ESV

In this crazy world of people telling you what you should do and how you should live and manipulating you out of your money, we sometimes want to throw in the towel and say that nothing matters. We can lose track of what’s important in our work when we think that how other people treat us or react to us impacts what we should be doing. Your work matters and you should be doing it to the best of your abilities, no matter what.

In the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30), Jesus gives us an example of three people who were given things to be responsible for, as they had ability to do. The first two were faithful and worked hard, took risks, and, as a result, they had more to give back than what they started with. They are the good and faithful servants. The final servant protected what he had and gave back only what he’d been given. He was cast out as a disobedient servant.

There are four things we can pull from this parable. First, what we have has been given to us based on our ability. God isn’t going to ask you to be a brain surgeon and then not give you the intelligence to handle the job. We’re also not given everything equally. God gave out as He saw fit, not as would make sense to us. We need to accept what we have as a gift and a responsibility.

Second, we have to take risks and work hard. The first two servants invested the money and made more. Any type of investment, whether it be simply interested based loaning or market trading or business investing, all of these things take risk. There might be ups and downs, but we have to keep believing in the gifts and abilities we have and we have to keep working hard.

Third, staying as you are is an act of disobedience. Money is what is used in the parable as an example, but money isn’t the only things that we’ve been given to take care of and grow. We have many talents and responsibilities that we have to take care of and learn to improve at. It can be anything from taking care of our families to leadership abilities or business growth. Whatever it is that we have, we must use and improve or we are being bad stewards of our gifts.

Finally, the fourth thing we can learn is that God won’t always spell out in a step by step direction what we’re supposed to be doing. In the parable, the landowner gives these talents to the stewards because he is going away for a while. God never leaves us (Hebrews 13:5), of course, that’s not what the parable is saying. It’s saying that we are able to do what we need to do without constant guidance. Part of accepting the work that God has called us to do requires us to believe that we have everything we need to accomplish it, including the abilities to complete our work.

Ecclesiastes 9 talks about the toil that each one of us has before us to do. In verse 9 it says about this, “Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do.” God wants us to work hard and what He’s given us. Don’t spend time worrying about your lot in life or the things that you wish you had or didn’t have to deal with. Pray about finding you “merry heart” in regard to what you’re doing and learn to enjoy the moment in your life as you work every day to be who He made you to be.

Arrows, Part 4 – Sermon Notes

Guest speaker – Dan Southerland, pastor from West Side Family Church

Previous: Aim, Release, Rhythm

Remaining: Opponets, Work, Sacred

Today’s word: Work

Parenting is hard work. Three groups, 1. Parents with kids at home. 2. Parents whose children have left the house. (Parenting doesn’t end when the kids leave the house.) 3. Don’t have kids, may not know if they even will have kids. (Most people will have kids, so it’s wise to listen. )

Good parents are made not born. It’s a twenty (thirty?) year building project.

Parenting mindset:

  • Raising kids: not enough
  • Raising adults: closer
  • Raising parents: getting there
  • Raising disciples: bingo!

Four ways to work smart as a parent

1. Know your kids.

Learning doesn’t begin where the teacher is, it begins where the student is.

Parenting doesn’t begin where the parent is, it begins where the child is.

We often parent based on how we were parented. Parenting should be based on each child, instead, and may change with each child. We work with the child based on the age of a child and their learning style.

Some children learn from wisdom: learning from the experience of others. They can watch what others do and make wise choices from there.

Some children learn from consequences. Watching someone touch a hot stove means they want to touch it too.

2. Get outside help.

Great players known the value old of coaching. If you could solve all your kids problems, it’d be already fixed. Grandparents, successful parents, truth telling friends, spiritual mentors – all make great coaches.

3. Stay humble not haughty.

Humility is not thinking less of yourself; humility is thinking of yourself less. In our culture, we have many idols, one being that we .ake an idol of our kids. We want to use our kids to compensate for own our failures or to make us look like awesome parents. Stay humble and admit when you don’t know something and keep your perspective on Christ.

4. Broadcast your love.

Make sure your kids know that there is nothing they can do to lose your love. Never use withdrawing your love or your presence as a form of punishment.

Your kids are going to become who you are. You need to become the kind of person that you want to your kids to be. Work at becoming that person. One of the best gifts you can give your kids is who you become.

Finding Contentment in Work - Ecclesiastes 2:24

Finding Contentment in Work

Then I saw that all toil and all skill in work come from a man’s envy of his neighbor. This also is vanity and a striving after wind. … Better is a handful of quietness than two hands full of toil and a striving after wind. – Ecclesiastes 4:4, 6 ESV

There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment? – Ecclesiastes 2:24-25 ESV

A full-time job is generally considered to be somewhere around 40 hours. Some work three 12 hour shifts, other work nearly constant overtime. But for the most part, we consider 40 hours to be full time, and the average commute (which actually varies widely, but we’ll just stick with averages for now) is 1 hour a day. That means we’re spending roughly 1/3 of our day working and commuting to and from there. Considering the large portion of our time we spend at work, we should definitely take some time to ponder the truth in Ecclesiastes.

Ecclesiastes is traditionally thought to have been written by Solomon. There is no author ascribed in the book other than, “the Preacher”, a man who spends his life seeking wisdom. He talks about many aspects of wisdom and wise living, but he emphasizes work in many passages. In Ecclesiastes 4:4, 6 and 2:24-25, he views two different sides of work. While they may seem opposite at first glance, they are in fact simply two sides to the same coin. A truth, that when viewed in its entirety instead of its pieces, can help us choose to use our time wisely.

(Side note: in both the King James Version and the New King James Version, this is translated as, “a man is envied by his neighbor” instead of the other way around. I feel like the truth we’re after is there no matter who is envying who; I hope you agree with me on that one.)

In chapter 4 he tells us about the frustration and achievement that comes from envy. Can we be honest with ourselves? How many times did we pursue something out of jealousy or envy of someone else? Did they show us up and we had to do better? Did we think, “I could do that, and do it even better than they did”? Have we ever pursued something because we saw another person getting attention and success? Even if we didn’t pick the job we’re working out of envy, are we pursing a lifestyle out of envy? Are we striving after a certain look to our world or out of the expectations of having certain things?

When we think of envy, we often think of that boiling feeling in our stomach that makes us feel both angry and insignificant, sometimes referred to as “being green with jealousy.” There is another form of jealousy, however, and it’s the simple feeling that you deserve as least as much as someone else. It’s the feeling of missing out if they have something newer, better, or what you wanted to have. It’s that sense of, if they have it, so should I. Choosing clothes, cars, homes, or even decorations based on what you see others having and what you think you deserve. This can also be rooted in jealousy even if you don’t feel it in your gut.

So what’s the solution? Never buy anything again? Never spend time working for something that you want? No! Remember, we have two sides to this coin. The other side is from chapter 2, “There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil.” God made you and knows you and wants you to feel like you have a purpose and that your work is good.

Are you choosing your work based on becoming the best version of yourself? Is your current job, even if it’s not the ultimate job, taking you on the path of becoming closer to God? There is no wrong work, as long as it is good, honest work. There is no job too menial for someone who has the heart of a servant. If you are seeking God, you may be surprised at the jobs you take, but it will always be to grow you and change you and help you to find meaning and enjoyment in your work.

Don’t settle for a paycheck because that what you think you’re “supposed” to do. Find a work that is in line with who God made you to be and learn to find joy and contentment in that work.