Matthew 19:21 Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.
22 But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.
I’ve heard people say it’s impossible to be perfect in this life. Yet Jesus Christ taught us precisely how we may become perfect. Like the young man who told Jesus that he kept all the statutes and commandments from his childhood up, we reason within ourselves that we are doing enough. We judge ourselves by our own standards and our own best intentions. He gave to us three parables in Matthew chapter 25 to illustrate what He meant.
- Parable of the Ten Virgins
- Parable of the Talents
- Parable of the Sheep and Goats
In the parable of the virgins, the Lord uses virgins to imply a virtuous life and faithfulness to Him. After all, He is the bridegroom come to the wedding feast. But five were foolish because they had no oil in their lamps. Throughout scripture, oil has represented the Holy Spirit. Olives are pressed for their oil, which give light. As a side note, in the parable of the good Samaritan, the Samaritan (representing Jesus Christ) used oil and wine to succor the “fallen man”, the oil representing the Holy Spirit and the wine representing His blood, both symbolic of His atoning sacrifice and both of which heal us from our sins and make us whole again. The foolish virgins not wanting to miss out on the wedding feast, had to go away and find those who would provide oil for them.
So how is it that Christians miss out on filling their lamps? The answer is simple. The poor, the beggars, the downtrodden are no longer available to provide the opportunity to exchange oil for succor. In other words, each time you help someone in need, you are filled more and more with the Holy Spirit and thus are sanctified. But those who give their lives to Jesus Christ, being filled with His love, give freely to those who are in need without judgment and with no thought of reward. I know many people do not give because they rationalize that the money will be wasted away. Yet each time we beg God forgiveness of our sins, He freely forgives us, though we sin again and again every day. If God judged us the way many judge the poor, none of us would be saved. We all squander our forgiveness. And so the foolish virgins, though virtuous and faithful in keeping the Lord’s statutes and commandments, forget that they were purged of their old sins as the apostle Peter described, and showing no love to the downtrodden, miss out on the wedding feast because the door was shut.
The parable of the Talents is more obvious. There are three scenes, one of stewardship, one of accounting and one of reward. The kingdom of heaven was a man traveling to a far country. Jesus Christ was the kingdom of heaven on earth for a small period of time. He left His work in the capable hands of His servants who were expected to produce an increase of goods. This parable is about what we do with the kinds of servants we are. Some of us are very talented and capable, while some of us are limited in our abilities, but still have as much desire to serve as those who are much more gifted. And then there are those who waste their time in idleness and idolatry. In today’s world, this comes in many forms, but probably mostly entertainment, pastimes, etc. where laziness and apathy is fostered. Of course one can be highly productive, but selfish, becoming rich only to prosper alone. There is another parable that addresses this, but is not relevant to this entry. There is nothing wrong with becoming rich, though, if we use our wealth to lift others up.
The final parable is clear. Sheep know their Shepherd’s voice and follow Him. Goats have no master and do not come when called. And what is the result of one who possesses the Holy Spirit? One whose lamp is brimming with oil? One who labors not for worldly things, but for the Lord? It is to have the love of Jesus Christ in our hearts. And when one truly has this love, he or she will love all, even the least of God’s children. Or as we read in the parable:
34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
35 For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
It bears mentioning that Jesus Christ did not come into the world a wealthy heir of riches, finery, and palaces. He was born a nobody by worldly standards in the most impoverished circumstances. He carried no purse or scrip during His ministry and relied on the charity of those He served–everyone.
Yet He was perfect. And so he taught us how to become perfect in His sermon on the mount, which includes His admonition for us to “be ye therefore perfect…”
Maybe that young man who declined to sell all his possessions and follow Jesus gave generously to the treasury in the temple and thought himself good enough for giving abundantly. There’s a story about this.
Luke 21:1 And he looked up, and saw the rich men casting their gifts into the treasury.
2 And he saw also a certain poor widow casting in thither two mites.
3 And he said, Of a truth I say unto you, that this poor widow hath cast in more than they all:
4 For all these have of their abundance cast in unto the offerings of God: but she of her penury hath cast in all the living that she had.
This observation by the Lord to me was not so much about the widow’s extreme poverty, but an indictment of everyone else.
It is possible to be perfect as the Lord defines it, if one does perfectly what He hast taught. And then shall one have riches in heaven.