July 1, 2007
I don’t really like the title of this lesson because it seems like an assignment, order or directive rather than an invitation. I see Christ inviting us to inherit something wonderful vs. an assignment to something less than desireable, tho this is obviously what will happen if we fail to qualify for the first. So, implicit in the lesson title, I ask myself, “How can I get the best assignment possible?” Kinda like the missionary hoping to go foreign! And, like the missionary, a large part of our assignment isn’t conditional but rather based on outside influence, I suppose. I liken this to the GRACE aspect of salvation and the free gift of the Atonement. Now, the WORKS part is what is in question. This is the part over which we each have control and the aspect of our lives to which this chapter/lesson speaks…or does it? If you had to re-title this lesson, what would that new title be?
First, this lesson is a continuation of last week’s lesson or a continuation of the Olivet Discourse where Jesus is speaking to his disciples from the Mount of Olives. Obviously, then, Jesus is “preaching to the choir.” Why? I think it’s important to glance back at the previous two parables given in this same discourse, the fig tree & the faithful/evil servant and ask how these, too, apply to members of Christ’s church, or “the elect.”
You may also want to read Pres. Benson’s New Era article, “Prepare Yourself For The Great Day Of The Lord.”
PARABLE OF THE TEN VIRGINS:
A recent talk by Pres. Faust included the Parable of the Ten Virgins. Here’s an excerpt:
“In the Savior’s parable of the ten virgins, each young woman had a lamp. Clearly, this parable has both a temporal and a spiritual application. Oil can be purchased at the market. But another kind of oil, spiritual oil that is not for sale, can be accumulated only by our daily good works.
The parable tells what happened as all ten young women waited for the bridegroom. The bridegroom came at the darkest hour, when least expected. It was midnight, and the foolish five had run out of oil. You might wonder why the five wise virgins could not share their oil with the other five. It was not selfishness on their part. Spiritual preparedness cannot be shared in an instant because we each fill our lamps drop by drop in our daily living.
The late President Spencer W. Kimball defined those drops of oil for us a few years ago when he said:
“There are oils that keep the gospel burning brightly. One type of oil is the oil of family prayer. It illuminates us and makes us bright and cheery but is difficult to obtain at midnight. One drop or two will not keep the lamp burning long. …
“Another type of oil is the oil of fasting. The last midnight is late to start disciplining our lives in preparation for the great day of the Lord. …
“Another oil that is not available at midnight is the indispensable oil of home service. This rare oil of service is accumulated through visits to the sick, through lending a helping hand. …
“There is another oil that all will need—rich or poor, sick or well. Its light is brilliant and increases with use. The more that is used, the more that is left. It is easy to purchase in the day but not available at night. This is the tithing oil.
“There is one … oil that is so precious that without adding it to the other oils no wick will burn. Without it, the light from all the others will dim and go out. This is the oil of chastity.”
My dear young friends, many of you put oil into your lamps last year when you followed President Hinckley’s challenge to read the Book of Mormon. You can continue to do so every time you read the scriptures, partake of the sacrament, and offer your daily prayers. And as you each put oil into your lamps, your light will become “a standard for the nations.”
v. 1-13: I find it interesting that “the kingdom of heaven” is likened unto the members of the church. Does this bear on previous mentions of the coming of the kindgom of heaven? See Matt. 3:2.
The NIV notes are interesting and have given me some different perspective than my usual LDS perspective, tho MY LDS perspective isn’t neccessarily that of all LDS 🙂 : First, it suggests that the virgins were perhaps the bridesmaids responsible for preparing the bride to meet the bridegroom. I liked this idea since I’ve always thought it odd to have 10 brides for one bridegroom & from a woman’s point of view ended up feeling a little like cattle. So, this is a new thought for me & rather liberating. Second, it suggests that instead of the tiny clay lamp we always associate with each virgin, that it is rather a torch that consisted of a long pole with oil-drenched rags at the top. This makes more sense to me because a torch can be held high above the head and would really be a signal to someone off in the distance, helping them locate you, instead of that tiny little flicker of light cupped in your hand. When one trimms a torch such as this, the charred ends of the rags are cut off and oil is added to the remainder. Additionally, once the rags are drenched in oil one couldn’t simply pour a bit out of one lamp into another. The oil would be spent in creating the light that would continue to burn for about 15 minutes. Does this short durration of time teach us something about replenishing our “oil” and how much oil we’ll need for the duration?
Who do these virgins represent in terms of other scriptural symbols? Think of the Old Testament book of Hosea, tho it’s a rather negative look. What is the oil? How did these virgins know the bridegroom was coming? see v. 13. Hadn’t they all gone prepared with lamps & oil? They’re classified as wise and foolish instead of good and bad. How is this different? Is this similar to the men who built a house upon the rock and the sand? They each built a house…that’s a good thing, right? How much worse will the man who built his house on the sand be judged than the one who built it on the rock? Is the consequence self-inflicted (house washed away) or is there another pending consequence inflicted by the Lord? Which is the case for our own kingdom assignment: self-inflicted or assigned by Lord? Which is better/worse?
Why did Matthew tell us in v. 5 that they all “slumbered and slept?” Isn’t this redundant & by the way, weren’t they suppose to be watching, not sleeping at all?!
What brought the demise of half? What happened to them? How might this be true of “the kingdom of heaven” just after Jesus and when he comes again (2 times)? Aren’t verses 10-12 rather harsh? When is the window of opportunity during which we can prepare? Do we get a 2nd chance if we miss this window?
The question is, how much oil is ENOUGH?
See D&C 33:17 How can the bridegroom come quickly if there’s time to slumber & sleep before he comes? The wise virgins slept, too. Joseph was given this revelation & it has been almost 200 years since! How are we to interpret the word “quickly?” There’s a shut door here, as in last week’s lesson. What does this door represent? Is it permanently shut? How might it be opened again, allowing the other 5 virgins in?
PARABLE OF THE TALENTS:
From Jim F.’s notes:
“A talent is a weight, supposedly the weight you could expect a laborer to carry. It represented a large sum of money, about 90 pounds of silver, and since silver was relatively more scarce in biblical times than our own, it was probably also more valuable. The Word Biblical Commentary says that a talent was worth about 6,000 days work for a common laborer! If the WBC is accurate, that is easily $10,000,000 in today’s terms.
To understand the story better, remember what it is about: A very wealthy man is taking a long trip. Before he leaves, he takes his property and divides it among each of three stewards (who were his slaves), commanding them to take care of that property until he returns. Since the property is his to begin with and the servants are his slaves, when he returns everything that he gave them will still be his, as will any profit they have made on his money. (This circumstance, giving money to slave-stewards and expecting them to make a profit, was covered in Roman law.) Given Jewish law, perhaps the profit was not interest, but profit from land or commodity speculation. Only verse 27 mentions interest. However that reference suggests that the fictional lord whom Jesus has in mind is a Gentile, which would make interest a possibility.
To understand the parable better, also think about its context: To whom does Jesus teach this parable? Given that audience and the fact that the parable is sandwiched between two parables about the Second Coming, what would you say is its point? To the disciples as they listened to this parable, what would the talents have represented? If the point of the parable of the 10 virgins is that the disciples must be prepared for the Second Coming, what does this parable teach them about the Second Coming? What does it teach us?”
v. 14: Who is the man traveling into a far country? Who are his own servants? There were 3 of them. Is that significant? In what way has the man delivered his goods unto his servants?
v. 15: The term “talent” was first used for a unit of weight (about 75 pounds), then for a unit of coinage. The present-day use of “talent” to indicate an ability or gift is derived from this parable. What does “…to every man according to his several ability” mean? Is this comforting to you? Does this speak to why some people have more than others in this life? Does that mean those who have less have less ability? If so, in the end, how much does each have? Is there hope for more? Is it fair that one person began with more than another?
v. 18: How do you interpret this doubling of the talents? Is it significant that 1/3 of the servants failed to increase while the other 2/3 did?
v. 19: Here it’s a LONG time before the “lord” comes & reckoneth with the servants. Does this contradict the “comes speedily” saying preached in the previous chapter & in the D&C? How can the Lord come both speedily AND take his time?
v. 20: Is it significant that the Lord gives 5 talents & then the servant, by his own actions, doubles the worth? Does this speak to the Grace & Works issue?
v. 21-23: What does it mean to “enter into the joy of thy lord?” Why do both servants get the same reward when one had a greater total increase than the other? Here the servant is good AND faithful, instead of faithful and wise as in the last parable, last week’s lesson Matt. 24:49. Is there a difference?
v. 24-25: What does the servant mean by “thou are an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed?”
v. 26-29: What does each servant receive from his Lord? Why does the Lord take from the slothful servant what he has been given? It seems unfair to take from those who have not and to give to those who already have (verse 29). Is that what is going on? How are we to understand this? What is it that those who receive already have? What is it that the others do not have and is taken away? What is the lord saying to the servant here? The NIV translates it this way: “His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.” What did the servant know all along but fail to act upon? Are we aware of our Lord’s expectations? What should this knowledge motivate us to do? The NIV notes add: “The main point of the parable: Being ready for Christ’s coming involves more than playing it safe and doing little or nothing. It demands the kind of service that produces results.”
v. 30: Do things words bring a mental picture to your mind from another scene? Where is weeping and gnashing of teeth a common passtime? D&C 85:9; D&C 101:91; D&C 133:73; Moses 1:22; JS-Matt. 1:54. Following this train of thought, look again at the statistics: 2/3 of the servants did what their lord expected of them while the 1/3 didn’t and was subsequently “cast into outer darkness.”
THE SHEEP & THE GOATS:
31-34: How does a shepherd separate his sheep from the goats? He calls them by name, literally.
35-36: If ever there was a “to-do list” of how to inherit eternal life, this is it! This is the gospel in a nutshell. How do we really do these things? Must we each go to the local prison & visit the inmates?
37-40: The ignorance and naïveté of the righteous strikes me here. Is this an example of humility or stupidity, or something else? Clearly the service these people gave was without hope for gain. It appears to me that their motive for serving was other than reward. But, having read the script, are we able to serve in this unconscious manner, as they did, or in the back of our minds do we contemplate the Lord’s approving nod? How can we elevate our service to this level when we know the Lord approves of it and counts it as service to him? Or, does He even expect us to do it that way or, like the knowledge the lazy servant possessed, yet failed to act upon, does he simply want our service?
41-43: I thought only Sons of Perdition qualified for the place of the Devil…where is this place that the lazy & wicked are going if they’re not Sons of Perdition? Are they Sons of Perdition here? They’ve seen & known their lord & what is expected from him.
44-45: The wicked seem equally naïve as the righteous were in their actions. Can they be held accountable for their sin when they were ignorant? Were they ignorant? Is ignorance an excuse?
46: There are only wicked and righteous here: two kinds of people (sheep & goats) and two kingdoms (eternal life and eternal punishment). Where is the boundary drawn? Who draws the boundary? The parallelism between these two phrases gives striking contrast. Is there really this much contrast in people? What about the various degrees of service, committment and faithfulness; likewise, the Degrees of Glory? Which category does the Telestial Kingdom fall into? Is it really ALL OR NOTHING?
From Jim F.’s notes: “Who are “the least of these” (verses 4- and 46) to whom Jesus was referring at the time he gave this parable? (“Least” is a good translation, but “smallest” would also be a good one.) Who might “the least of these” be to us? Is it easy for us to recognize “the least”? Why or why not?”
After reading this lesson, does the lesson title fit? Are we assigned to a Kingdom? What control do we have as to which kingdom we inherit? Does a child have control over their inheritance? Consider the story of the Lost Son or Prodigal Son. What did he do with his inheritance? What happened to his inheritance when he came back? Will we be suprised to learn which kingdom we have inherited, like those in the story of the Sheep & the Goats?