“Then the Kingdom of Heaven will be like ten bridesmaids who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. The five who were foolish didn’t take enough olive oil for their lamps, but the other five were wise enough to take along extra oil. When the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep. “At midnight they were roused by the shout, ‘Look, the bridegroom is coming! Come out and meet him!’ “All the bridesmaids got up and prepared their lamps. Then the five foolish ones asked the others, ‘Please give us some of your oil because our lamps are going out.’ “But the others replied, ‘We don’t have enough for all of us. Go to a shop and buy some for yourselves.’ “But while they were gone to buy oil, the bridegroom came. Then those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was locked. Later, when the other five bridesmaids returned, they stood outside, calling, ‘Lord! Lord! Open the door for us!’ “But he called back, ‘Believe me, I don’t know you!’ “So you, too, must keep watch! For you do not know the day or hour of my return (Matthew 25:1-13).
I know what you’re thinking: “What does this have to do with work? Isn’t it talking about being ready for the return of Christ?”
But consider this. These 10 bridesmaids had one job: to have lit lamps when they met the bridegroom. And you learn there was a problem from the get-go. Five were wise and the other five were foolish.
The Greek word for foolish is where we get our word for moron from. Its meaning is not so much being silly or stupid; rather it’s being morally worthless. For the word wise, they are both practically and relationally wise. They are thinkers and in their right minds. But I don’t want to dwell on their character, but rather the results of their character.
First there was the waiting. How good are you at waiting, at being patient, especially at work? The bridegroom is delayed. How are you affected when you work is delayed? Projects are delayed. Fellow coworkers are delayed. Results are delayed. Do you feel like you’re suffering? Remember:
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything (James 1:2-4).
We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us (Romans 5:3-5).
If you’re facing trials and suffering at work, consider that God has you in a process which will yield in you, maturity, completion and hope.
The other symptom is distraction. Did you lose the purpose; you may have even lost God’s purpose.
But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.” But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:40-42).
Let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith (Hebrews 12:1-2).
Distraction can keep you from your purpose; it can even keep you from Jesus. For Martha, Jesus was in the just in other room, but she got wrapped up in the prep. She needed to refocus, and fix her eyes on Jesus.
Today’s One Thing
Back to the bridesmaids. The Apostle Paul tells us: But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently (Romans 8:25). They knew to wait patiently for the bridegroom. His schedule was not their schedule. But they were prepared to wait, and they weren’t distracted. Reread the above passages from James and Romans. Can you see how God’s process in the midst of trials and suffering can have a profound impact upon your work? For those who are watching, give them something great to see. Maybe you can help them to fix their eyes on Jesus.
Read our first blog in the Labor Day blog series.