Summary: The Parable of the Ten Virgins provides a warning about always being ready and waiting.
The End Times Survival Manual
Dr. Roger W. Thomas, Preaching Minister
First Christian Church, Vandalia, MO
Introduction: Authors Joshua Piven and David Borgenicht have turned a rather dull how-to-book into virtual gold mine. Their original book The Worst Case Scenario Survival Handbook was on the non-fiction bestseller lists for months. It has sold over million copies, sparked television shows, clothing lines, and a board game. Since the first version came out, the authors have created a growing number of spin offs such as The Worst Case Scenario Survival Handbook for work, for travel, and even for dating. Who knows? They will probably come out with The Worst Case Scenario Survival Handbook for Church. We could use one for VBS!
The books are part tongue-in-cheek satire and part real world advice from acknowledged experts. Each chapter addresses a different “worst case scenario.” For example, do you need to know how to escape from quicksand, cross a piranha-infested river, land a plane in case your pilot blacks out, or jump from a building and land in a dumpster? The book has a whole chapter on how to perform an emergency tracheotomy on one of your friends. All you need is a razor blade or very sharp knife and a ballpoint pen with the ink filler removed. I’ve been thinking about practicing that one. Anyone want to be my friend?
Some of the advice is quite predictable. For example, the book advises that if you have to deal with a charging bull, the number one rule is “do not antagonize the bull.” I guess that means don’t make ugly faces or call it insulting names. But sometimes the advice is quite demanding. For example, the chapter on “How to Foil a UFO Abduction” has these rules. Number 1: Don’t panic. The alien may sense your fear and act rashly. Number 2: Control your thoughts. Do not think of anything violent or upsetting—the alien may have the ability to read your mind. Number 3: Resist verbally. Firmly tell the alien to leave you alone. 4. Resist physically. Physical resistance should be used only as a last resort. Go for the alien’s eyes (if it has any)! I think I’m going to copy that list and keep it in my wallet! You never know!
In fact, the authors say that’s the whole purpose of their book. This is how they put it in the introduction, “The principle behind this book is a simple one. You just never know. You never really know what life will throw at you, what is sitting around the corner. You never really know when you might be called upon to choose life or death with your actions. But when you are called, you need to know what to do. That’s why this book is written.”
When I read that, it occurred to me that those words could just as easily been said about this book (the Bible). “You never know what life will throw at you. You never really know when you might be called upon to choose life or death. When you are called, you need to know what to do. That’s why THIS BOOK was written!”
This is doubly true of the two chapters we are looking at this month. Matthew 24-25 contains what you might call “Jesus’ End Times Survival Manual.” He had just told his disciples that a day was coming when the magnificent Jewish temple they had just left would be totally destroyed. Not one stone would be left standing on another. That was the “worst case scenario” the disciples could imagine. “When will this happen?” they asked. They assumed such destruction had to be the end of the world. So they also asked, “What will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”
Jesus didn’t answer the way they probably expected. Instead of offering dates and hints, he called for faithfulness, vigilance, and constant preparation. “No one knows the day or the hour” he warned. To illustrate, he offered the three parables contained in chapter 25. We are going to spend the rest of April examining these parables.
Today’s seems pretty straightforward. The bottom line: you just never know what’s going to happen. Jesus words it this way, “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour” (13). This is a story of contrasts. Ten young girls were to wait for a wedding party so they could lead a torch-light parade to the site of the big reception. Five of the girls were wise. Five were foolish. To understand the difference is to understand how to prepare for the ultimate worst case scenario. Three differences stand out in the story, the same differences that distinguish being ready for eternity as opposed to merely wishing we had been.