COLUMN: Who Is responsible?

Published 5:00 pm Saturday, November 18, 2023

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We have a ruler at our house that we’ve had for years. We keep it in a drawer in the kitchen. It’s wooden with the name and logo of some company on it. We picked it at a convention or expo. 

You know, a ruler. Twelve inches and all. But this ruler also has a little half-circle notched into one end of it. The other end also has a bit of a squared-off notch. 

One day, I was at another convention or expo. Some other organization was giving away rulers with that same little circular notch in the end of it. I asked the guy why the end was hooked like that. 

He said, “You open a hot oven and need to pull the oven-rack toward you so you can safely pick up what you’ve been baking. You just grab the rack with this and pull. When you’re done, you can take the square notch and push the oven rack back in.” Suddenly the whole thing made sense. I just hadn’t looked at it right, before. 

Have you ever had that everyday thing that you suddenly saw a different way? Whatever it is, it’s there right in front of you. But you never saw it fully until one day something caused you to look at it differently. Then, you can’t believe you didn’t see it before. 

Well, I don’t know if this is just the right way to look at this past Sunday’s scripture in Matthew 25: 1-13. But let’s look at it and see if we can see more than we normally do. Because I think normally, the main thing we hear from this story Jesus told was that we need to be ready. 

That’s not a bad takeaway. If there was one central point he was driving home, that seems to be it. Being ready is a central theme here that deserves its due. So let me give that some attention. 

The kind of being ready Jesus was talking about was more than just being excited about an idea. It was more than just liking the notion that he would come back one day. 

Being ready as Jesus meant it here was about being found doing the things of God’s kingdom. Being people whose lives bore the fruit of having been shaped by the teacher, healer and miracle-working Jesus. 

That’s why when he talked about this, some of his imagery involved people who had chosen to go to sleep even though they weren’t prepared. This allegory portrays a bridegroom who bursts back into the house in the middle of the night. It would have left them vulnerable in the same way as if a thief snuck into their midst in the night.  

Jesus went on to say that he wouldn’t even know when he was coming back. He made it clear that we for sure wouldn’t know. If we can’t know when all of this is going to happen, then being ready could only look like living faithfully. It could only look like being alive in God’s kingdom, not asleep. Bringing about or ushering in God’s kingdom, making this world a better place for all of us. Healing the damage to God’s Creation that’s already been done and trying to cut down on doing any more damage.

That’s compelling, and I believe all of that is at the heart of what Jesus was talking about. It sure has been what I’ve taught and preached over the years. It’s just that being ready wasn’t the only point we should hear in this parable. 

No, if we look at this parable just right we should also notice that there is accountability built in. This is consistent with Matthew’s larger gospel writing, where Jesus has already condemned a poor fig tree or two along the way for not bearing fruit. 

For all those who have read this scripture and only thought it pertained to whether one was saved or not, we must read it as Matthew intended. Disciples and fellow believers were not just biding time for however long Jesus should tarry. They were supposed to be helping to usher in the Kingdom of Heaven here and now. 

We were saved not just for eternity. We are saved to look more like Jesus here on earth. To give and to heal, to include and to love. Anything short of that, this parable suggests, and we might just be sleep-walking our way through life. We might just be taking up space. 

Dr. Charles Qualls is senior pastor at Franklin Baptist Church. Contact him at 757-562-5135.