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The Parable of the Ten Bridesmaids

25

“Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. 2Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. 3When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; 4but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. 5As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. 6But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ 7Then all those bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps. 8The foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 9But 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.’ 10And 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. 11Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ 12But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I do not know you.’ 13Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.

The Parable of the Talents

14 “For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; 15to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. 17In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. 18But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. 20Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.’ 21His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ 22And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.’ 23His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ 24Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; 25so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ 26But his master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? 27Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. 28So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. 29For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 30As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’


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Matthew 25:1. Then shall the kingdom of heaven. By this term is meant the condition of the future Church, which was to be collected by the authority and direction of Christ. He employs this remarkable title, that believers may not deceive themselves by an erroneous opinion that they have arrived at absolute perfection. The parable is borrowed from the ordinary custom of life; for it was a childish speculation of Jerome and others, to adduce this passage in praise of virginity; while Christ had no other object in view than to lessen the uneasiness which they might be apt to feel in consequence of the delay of his coming. He says, therefore, that he asks nothing more from us than is usually done for friends at a marriage-feast. The custom was, that virgins, who are tender and delicate—should, by way of respect, accompany the bridegroom to his chamber. But the general instruction of the parable consists in this, that it is not enough to have been once ready and prepared for the discharge of duty, if we do not persevere to the end.

2. Five were wise. Towards the close of the former chapter, our Lord specially required steward to be wise, (Matthew 24:45) for it is reasonable, that the heavier the charge which any man sustains, and the more important the matters in which he is employed, the wisdom with which he conducts himself should be the greater. But now he demands wisdom from all the children of God in general, that they may not, through inconsiderate rashness, expose themselves to be the prey of Satan. Now this kind of wisdom he describes by saying, that they are to provide themselves with the supplies necessary for completing the course of their life. For the warmth of our impatience makes us look upon the time, however short, as far too long protracted; and next, our poverty is such, that we need supplies for every hour.

5. And while the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. Some interpret this slumbering in a bad sense, as if believers, along with others, abandoned themselves to sloth, and were asleep amidst the vanities of the world; but this is altogether inconsistent with the intention of Christ, and with the structure of the parable. There would be greater probability in explaining it to denote death, which overtakes believers before the coming of Christ; for it is not at that time only that we must look for salvation, but also when we have left the world and are sleeping in Christ. But I take it more simply as denoting earthly occupations, in which believers must be engaged, so long as they dwell in the body; and, though forgetfulness of the kingdom of God ought never to steal upon them, yet the distracting influence of the occupations of this world is not inappropriately compared to sleep. For they cannot be so constantly occupied with the thought of meeting Christ, as not to be distracted, or retarded, or entangled by a variety of cares, in consequence of which, while they watch, they are partly asleep.

6. At midnight a cry arose. With respect to the cry I view it as taken metaphorically for his sudden arrival; for we know, that when any thing new and unexpected happens, men are wont to make a loud noise. True, indeed, our Lord cries daily, that he will come quickly, (Revelation 22:20;) but at that, time, the whole frame of the world will resound with the cry, and his dreadful majesty will fill heaven and earth in such a manner, as not only to awaken those who are asleep, but to bring the dead out of their graves, (John 5:28.)

8. And the foolish said to the wise. This is a reproof of the late repentance of those who never think of what they are in want of, till the door is shut against every remedy. For those who do not make provision for a long period are charged with folly, because they are careless, and flatter themselves amidst their poverty, and allow the season of mutual intercourse to pass in such a way as to despise the aids which were offered to them. As they do not, in proper time, bethink themselves about procuring oil, Christ, mocking the knowledge which they have acquired when it is too late, shows how their stupidity will be punished, when they shall see themselves to be empty and unprovided, while there is no remedy.

9. Lest there be not enough for you and us. We know that the Lord distributes his gifts so variously to each, according to his measure, in order that they may give mutual aid to each other, and may employ for the general advantage what has been entrusted to each individual; and that in this way is preserved the sacred connection which exists among the members of the Church. But Christ here points out the time when he shall summon all men to his tribunal, each carrying his bundle, that he may bring with him according as he has done in his body. That portion of grace received, which every man has laid up for himself, is, therefore, justly compared to a stock of provisions for a journey, which would not be enough for a greater number of persons.

But rather go to them that sell, and buy for yourselves. These words immediately follow, and are not intended as an admonition, but a reproof; and the meaning is: “There once was a time for buying, which you ought not to have neglected; for oil was at that time offered for sale, but the means of obtaining it are now withdrawn.” And yet it is foolish in the Papists to infer from this, that by our own virtues or industry we obtain the gift of perseverance. For the word buy does not at all imply that a price has been given; as appears clearly from the passage in Isaiah, (55:1) where the Lord, while he invites us to buy, demands no price, but informs us, that he has wine and milk in abundance, to be gratuitously bestowed. There is no other way of obtaining it, therefore, but to receive by faith what is offered to us.

10. And the door was shut. At length it follows that the door of the heavenly kingdom will be shut against all who have not made provision, because they failed in the middle of the course. We must not enter here into minute inquiries, how it is that Christ says that the foolish virgins went to buy for it means nothing else than that all who shall not be ready at the very moment when they shall be called will be shut out from entering into heaven.

Matthew 25:15. To every one according to his own ability. By this term Christ does not distinguish between natural gifts and the gifts of the Spirit; for we have neither power nor skill 688688     “Il n’y a ne puissance, ne industrie, ou dexterit;” — “there is neither power, nor industry, nor skill.” which ought not to be acknowledged as having been received from God; and, therefore, whoever shall determine to give God his share will leave nothing for himself. What then is meant by saying, that the master of the house gives to each person more or less, according to his own ability? It is because God, as he has assigned to every one his place, and has bestowed on him natural gifts, gives him also this or the other injunction, employs him in the management of affairs, raises him to various offices, furnishes him with abundant means of eminent usefulness, and presents to him the opportunity.

It is absurd, however, in the Papists to infer from this, that the gifts of God are conferred on every man according to the measure which he deserves. For, though the old translator, 689689     “Le translateur Latin ancien;” — “the old Latin translator.” employed the word virtus, 690690     An interpreter who was willing to twist a passage, so as to bring out of it any meaning that he chose, would find the vagueness of the Latin word virtus to be well suited to his purpose. Its derivation from vir, a man, shows that it originally signified manliness, from which it easily passed to denote courage, and, from the high estimation in which courage was held among warlike nations, became the general expression for moral excellence, out of which arose the application of it to other kinds of excellence, as in the phrase, virtutes orationis, the ornaments of style. Again, from denoting manly vigor it came naturally to denote ability; and it is undoubtedly in this sense, with which our English version accords, that rirtus is employed by the Vulgate in this passage. — Ed. he did not mean that God bestows his gifts, according as men have acquitted themselves well, and obtained the praise of virtue, but only so far as the master of the house has judged them to be suitable. Now we know that no man is found by God to be suitable till He has made him so; and the Greek word δύναμις, (power, ability,) which Christ employed, is free from all ambiguity.

20. And he who had received five talents. Those who employ usefully whatever God has committed to them are said to be engaged in trading The life of the godly, 691691     “Des fideles;” — “of believers.” is justly compared to trading, for they ought naturally to exchange and barter with each other, in order to maintain intercourse; and the industry with which every mall discharges the office assigned him, the calling itself, the power of acting properly, and other gifts, are reckoned to be so many kinds of merchandise; because the use or object which they have in view is, to promote mutual intercourse among men.

Now the gain which Christ mentions is general usefulness, 692692     “C’est le profit ou l’avancement de toute la compagnie des fideles en commun;” — “it is the profit or advancement of the whole company of believers in common.” which illustrates the glory of God. For, though God is not enriched, and makes no gain, by our labors, yet when every one is highly profitable to his brethren, and applies advantageously, for their salvation, the gifts which he has received from God, he is said to yield profit, or gain, to God himself. So highly does our heavenly Father value the salvation of men, that whatever contributes to it he chooses to place to his own account. That we may not become weary in doing well, (Galatians 6:9,) Christ declares that the labor of those who are faithfully employed in their calling will not be useless.

According to Luke, he says that he who gained five pounds obtains the government of five cities; by which words he informs them, that the glory of his kingdom will be very different at his last coming from what it now appears. For now 693693     “En ce monde;” — “in this world.” we have labor and anxiety in managing, as it were, the affairs of an absent master; but then he will have at his command an ample and copious supply of honors, to ennoble and enrich us. The form of expression employed by Matthew is more simple, Enter thou into the joy of thy master; by which he means that faithful servants, whose discharge of duty shall meet with his approbation, will share with himself a blessed abundance of all good things.

But it is asked, What is meant by what is added, Take from him the talent, and give it to him who hath ten talents? For every kind of trading will then be at an end. I reply, We ought to keep in remembrance what I formerly mentioned, that those who insist on explaining, with exactness, every minute phrase, are mistaken. The true meaning is, though slothful and unprofitable servants are now endued with the gifts of the Spirit, yet they will at length be deprived of them all, that their wretched and shameful poverty may redound to the glory of the good. Now these slothful persons, Christ tells us, hide either the talent or the pound in the earth; because, while they consult their own ease and gratifications, they refuse to submit to any uneasiness; as we see very many who, while they are privately devoted to themselves and to their own advantage, avoid all the duties of charity, and have no regard to the general edification. When it is said that the master of the house, after his return, called the servants to account; as this ought to impart courage to the good, when they understand that they do not lose their pains, so the indolent and careless, on the other hand, ought to be struck with no small terror. Let us therefore learn to call ourselves daily to account, before the Lord come, and make a reckoning with us.

24. I knew thee, that thou art a harsh man. This harshness has nothing to do with the substance of the parable; and it is an idle speculation in which those indulge, who reason from this passage, how severely and rigorously God deals with his own people. For Christ did not intend to describe such rigor, any more than to applaud usury, when he represents the master of the house as saying, that the money ought to have been deposited with a banker, that it might, at least, gain interest Christ only means, that there will be no excuse for the indolence of those who both conceal the gifts of God, and waste their time in idleness. Hence also we infer that no manner of life is more praiseworthy in the sight of God, than that which yields some advantage to human society.

29. To every one that hath shall be given has been explained 694694     See p. 104 of this volume. under Matthew 13:12

30. And cast the unprofitable servant into outer darkness. We have also explained, 695695     Harmony, vol. 1. p. 384. under Matthew 8:12, that outer darkness is contrasted with the light which is within the house; 696696     “De la lumiere et clarte qui est en la maison;” — “with the light and brightness that is within the house.” for, as banquets were anciently held, for the most part, at night, and were illuminated by numerous torches and lamps, of those who are banished from the kingdom of God, Christ says, that they are cast without into darkness




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