So stay alert. You have no idea when he might arrive. (v. 13)
The master was furious. ‘That’s a terrible way to live! It’s criminal to live cautiously like that! If you knew I was after the best, why did you do less than the least?’ (v. 26)
Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’ (v. 40)
I have walked my fair share of cities, old and ancient, to see the monuments, cathedrals, and ruins of our worship, from skyscrapers honoring the god of capitalism to towering granite churches decked out in elaborate stained glass and art honoring the God of Christendom.
No matter which god they honor, you don’t have to look far into the shadows of every tower to find “someone overlooked or ignored.”
Jesus told three stories about the kingdom of heaven in Matthew 25 in the shadow of the temple. He was just leaving the temple when some of his disciples invited him to check out their construction.
I can see myself there with Jesus, staring up at the city skyline, pointing to the spires and gleaming windows. “Aren’t they amazing?” I say.
“Do you see all these things?” he asked. “Truly I tell you, not one stone here will be left on another; everyone will be thrown down” (Matthew 24:2 NIV).
Jesus proceeds to tell his disciples what the coming kingdom will be like and what they can do to prepare for it.
The kingdom will be like ten virgins waiting for the bridegroom—some will be ready and others will be left in the dark. So stay alert, Jesus said. You don’t know when the bridegroom will arrive.
The kingdom will be like three workers entrusted with great treasures—the ones who invested what they’re given are given more, and the fearful ones will have even the little they had stripped from them. So take risks, Jesus said. Don’t squander away the gifts I’ve given you.
When the kingdom comes, all people everywhere will be there before the King. Some will be invited into the kingdom because they took care of each other, even the outcasts and strangers, while others turned their backs on each other, especially the outcasts and strangers. So love generously, Jesus said. “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40 NIV).
Standing in the shadow of great monuments built by our own hands, it is so easy to focus on the wrong things. It is so easy to see only man’s great accomplishments, man’s great power, man’s great attention to man’s own pursuits.
All of that will fall away, Jesus says. Every monument will fall. What matters here is not how high of a tower you built but how far out of your comfort zone you reached, to see the outcast, to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to shelter the stranger.
Everything else will fall away, Jesus says. But my words will never fail.
The kingdom of God is built with the bricks of generous love.
Points of Reflection
- Where you live, how easy is it to overlook the individuals in the shadows?
- The next time you go out somewhere, what is one way you can actively stay alert for the movement of the Holy Spirit, take risks with what you’ve been given, and do so to love generously the least of these?
For the Kids
- What are some things that will outlast the tallest buildings?
- Who does Jesus describe as sheep in the last story? Who are the goats?
According to a study by two researchers from Harvard University, the typical human is sleepwalking through life nearly half of the time. Like the “silly virgins” in the story of the ten virgins, our brains are on auto-pilot, doing what researchers call “mind wandering.”
“They aren’t focused on the outside world or the task at hand, they are looking into their own thoughts,” writes David Rock, Ph.D. “Unfortunately, most of this activity doesn’t make us feel happy.”
Jesus calls us to be present and alert to what is happening all around us. Modern psychologists call it “mindfulness,” and ancient religious leaders have called it “living in the present.” Whatever you want to call it, it’s a defining quality of living in the kingdom of heaven.
As you go about your day, pay attention to how awake and alert you are to your surroundings. Are you like most people, going through your life on auto-pilot, or are your senses in tune with what is happening around you and what the Holy Spirit is up to?
Being alert leads to opportunities to take risks serving and loving the least of these. Develop a habit of mindfulness, live in the present, and you’ll find yourself ushering in the kingdom of heaven.