SCRIPTURE READING: Matthew 25:1-13
Notice the moral of that Parable: Therefore keep watch. The 5 Foolish Virgins obviously did NOT keep watch. After all, they were sound asleep. But wait a minute… the 5 Wise Virgins were also sleeping. So what does it mean to Keep Watch? Can you be asleep and still keep watch?
The 5 Wise Virgins could sleep well because they had their “night lights.” They had oil for their lamps because they thought ahead. They were prepared. They bought oil for their lamps during the day, so they could sleep well all night.
On the other hand, the 5 Foolish Virgins had no reason to be sleeping soundly. The truth is that while they were snoring away, they should have been out looking for a late-night sale on lamp oil!
We need to keep in mind that all 10 of these women were waiting for the coming of the Bridegroom. This is a metaphor for the second coming of Christ when he will come for his CHURCH. But I also think it is a picture of what we do in our daily lives. We are often in situations where we are waiting for Christ to show up. Have you noticed that we often have to WAIT for answers to our prayers?
We pray to be healed from a sickness … or for a job we desperately need … or for some sign to show us how to make a hard decision. And we wait for the answer. We know God will come through somehow … some time. But we don’t know how, and we don’t know when… So we wait.
Life is full of circumstances where we must wait … and sometimes wait and wait … for Christ to answer our prayers. And what do we tend to do while we’re waiting? We tend to WORRY. But notice that the command Christ gave is to WATCH … not to WORRY.
We all know that worry is unproductive. Even if the situation we’re worrying about does happen, the worry doesn’t make us any better off.
I heard a story about a woman who hadn’t had a good night’s sleep for years and years because she was constantly worried about burglars. One night her husband heard a noise in the house, so he went downstairs to investigate. When he got there, he did find a burglar. "Good evening,” the husband said to the burglar. "I am pleased to see you. Come upstairs and meet my wife. She has been waiting to meet you for 10 long years." William Marshall, Eternity Shut in a Span.
A recent survey studied the kind of things people tend to loose sleep worrying over:
40% --- worry about things that will never happen
30% --- fret over things about the past that can’t be changed
12% --- stress out over criticism from others… mostly untrue
10% --- are anxious about health (and, of course, the worrying made the health worse)
only 8% --- lost sleep over real problems that would be faced
Most of our worries are completely pointless. But there are some real problems that do need to be faced. Our real responsibilities need to be taken care of during the day, so we can rest with confidence in the night. The 5 Foolish Virgins may have been snoozing away, but the truth is, they actually had good reason to lose sleep. Proverbs 13:9 puts it this way: The light of the righteous shines brightly, but the lamp of the wicked is snuffed out.
Chapters 12 and 13 of Proverbs offer some good advice about how … like the 5 Wise Virgins --- we can keep watch in the night. If we’re going to watch without worry, one thing we need to do is watch our WORK.
1. Watch our Work
Listen to this practical advice for those who want to be prepared.
He who works his land will have abundant food, but he who chases fantasies lacks judgment. Proverbs 12:11
The sluggard craves and gets nothing, but the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied. Proverbs 13:4
Dishonest money dwindles away, but he who gathers money little by little makes it grow. Proverbs 13:11
The 5 Virgins went out and bought the oil ahead of time. They did their work at the proper time, in the proper way. So when the night came, their lights were by their sides. They were ready, and they could rest with confidence.
I’ve heard an old saying, “When I works I works hard. When I sits I sits loose. When I thinks I falls asleep.” Well, that’s not exactly what we’re talking about. But it gets the general idea that there is a time to work and a time to rest. God made us to need rest. I think it’s fascinating that the more we learn about the human body, the more we see God’s wisdom in how he made us.
A study at Rockefeller University recently indicated one way that sleep helps us. Their study showed that a gene called zif-268 seems to turn on during sleep. This gene seems to alter brain activity in a way that cements the memories of events that happened before sleep. So if you’re having trouble remembering things, getting a good night’s sleep might be your answer.
New research from Penn State’s College of Medicine shows that even one night of disrupted or missed sleep by a healthy person can drastically reduce productivity as well as increase the chances of accidents at home or at work. According to a Cornell University psychologist, 1,500 traffic accidents are caused each year by drivers who are sleep deprived. He says sleep deprivation costs the American economy at least $150 billion dollars a year.
The same Solomon who wrote much of Proverbs, wrote these words in Ecclesiastes 3:
There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven:
2 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
6 a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
8 a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace. Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
There is a time to work and a time to rest. I’ve been in the ministry for ________ years now. It’s one of those jobs where you never really clock out. Some of you have jobs like that. The reason I’m still in the ministry ---and liking it --- is that I’ve learned how to work when I work and rest when I rest. (talk about what I do to get my mind off work … playing guitar, recording studio is the latest diversion.)
Keeping watch doesn’t mean never resting. The 5 wise virgins worked when it was time to work. The slept when it was time to sleep. And when the Lord came, they were ready.
God wants us to show this kind of wisdom while we await the return of the Lord. We’re not to work all the time. But on the other hand, we’re not to sit on a mountaintop singing “Cum Ba Yah” and getting nothing accomplished. We’re not to be too heavenly minded to be of any earthly good. God doesn’t call us to sit around like couch potatoes and hope that somehow God will let us win the lottery so we can pay the bills.
Heed the Wisdom of Proverbs. Like the 5 Wise Virgins, we need to take care of business during the day. Fulfill your responsibilities: at school, at work, with your family. There’s nothing like a good day’s work to help you get a good night’s sleep.
Proverbs 12:14 takes it a step further. From the fruit of his lips a man is filled with good things as surely as the work of his hands rewards him. Besides Watching your WORK, you’ll sleep better if you WATCH YOUR WORDS.
2. Watch the Words we Say
Proverbs 12:25 says, An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up.
Proverbs 13:3 is even more to the point: He who guards his lips guards his life, but he who speaks rashly will come to ruin.
Did you ever lie awake at night worrying about the stupid things you said during the day? Proverbs gives you a simple solution: guard your lips and you will guard your life. If you want to sleep peacefully at night, speak words of peace during the day. The good, kind words you say will be like a night light to you and to all those who listen to you.
And speaking of listening, Proverbs has advice not just about the Words you SAY, but also about the Words you OBEY:
3. Watch the Words we Obey
Proverbs 12:2 puts it bluntly: Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid.
Verse 14 is a little more poetic: The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life, turning a man from the snares of death.
I remember a Christian song I used to listen to years ago. (As I recall it was on an 8 –track…) The words went: You’ve got to know who to – who not to – listen to. I don’t hear that song any more, but the message is straight out of Proverbs.
Proverbs 13:1 gives specific advice about whom we ought to listen to. A wise son heeds his father’s instruction, but a mocker does not listen to rebuke. Of course it’s not easy for a child to heed his father’s instruction. If it was easy for children to obey their parents, there would be no need for God to command it over and over in scripture. If you’ve been reading Proverbs, you’ve probably noticed that whole chapters are written as advice from a father to his son.
I’ve known some very wise teenagers through the years. Every one I can recall was a young person who valued the advice of their parents. I’m not saying all their parents were perfect. In fact, some had parents who were not very admirable. But it’s very rare to find a parent who does not want the best for their child. Even foolish parents usually give good advice to the child they love. All you young people who want to be prepared for the future, listen to the advice of Proverbs and heed the instruction of your fathers.
That’s good, sound advice for daily life. But there’s a much more important lesson for us to learn from the Parable of the 10 Virgins. This lesson is more important because it means more than having a good night’s sleep. It has to do with eternity.
Proverbs 12:28 sums it up: In the way of righteousness there is life; along that path is immortality. The 5 Foolish Virgins went into eternity without the LIGHT of LIFE. When it was time for their lights to shine, they discovered the truth of Proverbs 13:9: The light of the righteous shines brightly, but the lamp of the wicked is snuffed out.
Have you accepted Jesus Christ as the LIGHT of your salvation? Then you are like the 5 Wise Virgins in the parable. You are always keeping watch for His coming. Whether it is day or night --- whether you are awake or asleep --- you are ready to meet Him. Your light is always by your side. Your eternity is sure.
If you have not yet made a decision about Jesus Christ, please take a lesson from the 5 Foolish Virgins. They never wanted to be locked out of the Wedding Feast. They fully intended to buy oil for their lamps … some day. Their mistake was a simple one. It was such a common mistake that every one of us can identify with them. Their only mistake was procrastination.
Procrastination is never good, but it is a matter of life and death when it comes to making a decision about Jesus Christ. Jesus is the Light of the World. You can’t survive the night without Him. Today is the day to buy oil for your lamp. Don’t think you can put it off. None of us know when day will end and night will fall. None of us know when our time on earth will end, or when Jesus Christ will come again. Will you be ready?