Each of the three parables in Matthew 25 sets out the different attitudes of and the different consequences for the faithful and the unfaithful. In the parable of the ten virgins, the faithful are waiting for the bridegroom, prepared with oil in their lamps and they are admitted to the feast. The foolish, or unprepared virgins are away seeking oil when the bride groom comes and to them ‘the door was shut’.
In the parable of the talents, the faithful servants who had increased their talents are told: ‘Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.’ In contrast, the unfaithful, or unprofitable servant is cast ‘into outer darkness.’
In the parable of the sheep and the goats, the sheep – those faithful saints who have spent their life in service – enter into eternal life while the goats – those who have failed to respond to the needs of their fellow men – go into everlasting punishment.
The parable of the ten virgins
“I believe that the Ten Virgins represent the people of the Church of Jesus Christ and not the rank and file of the world. All of the virgins, wise and foolish, had accepted the invitation to the wedding supper; they had knowledge of the program and had been warned of the important day to come. They were not the gentiles or the heathens or the pagans, nor were they necessarily corrupt and reprobate, but they were knowing people who were foolishly unprepared for the vital happenings that were to affect their eternal lives.
“They had the saving, exalting gospel, but it had not been made the center of their lives. They knew the way but gave only a small measure of loyalty and devotion. I ask you: What value is a car without an engine, a cup without water, a table without food, a lamp without oil?
“Rushing for their lamps to light their way through the blackness, half of them found them empty. They had cheated themselves. They were fools, these five unprepared virgins. Apparently, the bridegroom had tarried for reasons that were sufficient and good. Time had passed, and he had not come. They had heard of his coming for so long, so many times, that the statement seemingly became meaningless to them. Would he ever come? So long had it been since they began expecting him that they were rationalizing that he would never appear. Perhaps it was a myth.
“Hundreds of thousands of us today are in this position. Confidence has been dulled and patience worn thin. It is so hard to wait and be prepared always. But we cannot allow ourselves to slumber. The Lord has given us this parable as a special warning.” (Spencer W Kimball, Faith Precedes the Miracle, 252-253.)
The parable of the talents
“The Lord expects us to use our talents in his service. Those who use their talents find they will grow. One who exercises his strength finds it will increase. If we sow a seed, it will grow; if we fail to plant, it will be lost. One who possesses some insight and is attentive to his teacher will gain more knowledge and insight and will have growth in mind and spiritual understanding. Understanding increases as it is used. As we learn, we acquire greater capacity to learn. As we use our opportunities for knowledge, more opportunities come to us. How sad it is when the opposite course is followed, and talent and capacity are wasted and not used. ‘From him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath’ (Matthew 25:29).
“Talents are not given to us to be put on display or to be hidden away, but to be used. The Master expects us to make use of them. He expects us to venture forth and increase what we have been given according to our capacities and abilities (see Matthew 25:26-30). As servants of the Lord, we should use every opportunity to employ our talents in his service. To fail to do so means to lose them. If we do not increase, we decrease. Our quest is to seek out the talents the Lord has given us and to develop and multiply them, whether they be five, two, or one. We need not attempt to imitate the talents given to other persons.” (The Teachings of Howard W. Hunter, edited by Clyde J. Williams, 70.)
The parable of the sheep and the goats
“This was a wonderful concept to me. I can be Christ’s advocate by becoming an advocate for those who are the least among us. Think about Jesus before he emerged from his mortal disguise. Was he someone you would have reached out to serve? Jesus Christ was a homeless man. He was embarrassing to be around because he made public scenes. He refused to accept the authority of the scribes, the Pharisees, and the lawyers. He consorted with tax collectors, thieves, and prostitutes. He made extravagant claims-such as that he was the Son of God. He actually touched lepers. No wonder the respectable people of the day shunned him. But he will be our advocate for the eternities, this man who was despised and rejected in life.
“He was very much too much for a great many people. Is he too much for us? Is his gospel too much for us? No, it is our joy and our glory, that we can serve him by serving the least among us. ‘The least of these’ are all around us. Not one of us, myself included, does not have circumstances in her life where she is ‘one of the least.’ … Not one of us, myself included, is so overcome with problems that we cannot be a nonjudgmental listener, a helpful friend, a loving sister to someone who is also in need, a defender when someone is gossiped about, an includer when someone is marginalized.” (Chieko Okazaki, Disciples, 210.)