“When the Son of Man comes,” said Jesus, “the kingdom of heaven will be like ten bridesmaids who took their lamps and went to greet the bridegroom. Five of them were sensible. The other five, however, were not so sensible. Not thinking ahead, they hadn’t taken enough oil for their lamps.
“The bridegroom was later than they’d expected and as they waited for him all of the bridesmaids became drowsy and fell asleep.
“At midnight they were roused by a shout, ‘Look! The bridegroom’s arrived! Go out and meet him!’
“Then all of the bridesmaids jumped up and began preparing their lamps. It was only then that the five who’d forgotten to bring spare oil realised the difficulty that they faced.
“‘Excuse us,’ they said, ‘but could you lend us some of your oil, please? Our lamps keep going out.’
“’We’d love to,’ said the others. ‘Unfortunately, there isn’t enough for all of us. You’d better go to a shop and buy yourselves some more.’
“‘What? At this time of night?’ cried the forgetful bridesmaids.
“‘Well, what else can you do?’ said the sensible ones.
“And as they couldn’t think of anything else to do, that’s what the forgetful bridesmaids did. But while they were gone, the sensible bridesmaids met the groom and went in with him to the wedding reception.
“Later, when the forgetful bridesmaids returned from their shopping expedition, they arrived at the venue for the reception and found the door shut. Worse, when they tried the handle, it was locked!
“‘Let us in!’ they screamed.
“‘Who are you and what do you want?’ asked the groom.
“‘We’re the other bridesmaids!’ they shouted, through the keyhole. ‘We missed you earlier because we had to go and do some shopping! But we’re here now! Open up and let us in!’
“‘Oh, really?’ said the groom. ‘But you could be anybody. I’m sorry, but you’ll have to stay outside.”
“In the same way, you too need to be prepared, because you don’t know when the Son of Man will come.
“And here’s another example for you: a wealthy man, before he set out on a long business trip, called three of his employees to his office and placed his finances in their care while he was away. To the first, he gave five talents; to the second, he gave two talents; to the third, he gave one talent – each according to his ability. Then he set off on his journey.
“The employee who was given five talents immediately set to work and earned another five talents. The employee who was given two talents immediately set to work and earned another two talents. But the employee who given one talent dug a hole in the ground and buried his boss’s money.
“After a long time, the boss came back from his trip and called them into his office to hear how they’d used his money. The employee to whom he’d entrusted the five talents stepped forward and said, ‘Sir, you gave me five talents to invest. I’m pleased to tell you that I’ve earned five more.’
“‘Well done!’ said the boss. ‘You’re a very good worker. You’ve been faithful in handling this small responsibility, so now I’m going to give you even greater responsibilities. Let’s go and celebrate your promotion!’
The employee to whom he’d entrusted the two talents stepped forward and said, ‘Sir, you gave me two talents to invest. I’m pleased to tell you that I’ve earned five more.’
“‘Well done!’ said the boss. ‘You’re also a very good worker. You’ve been faithful in handling this small responsibility, so now I’ll give greater responsibilities. Come and celebrate your promotion together with us!’
“Then the employee to whom he’d entrusted just one talent stepped forward and said, ‘Sir, I knew that you’re a harsh man. You harvest where you don’t plant and reap where you don’t sow. I was afraid of you, so I went and buried your talent in the ground. Look! Here it is still, safe and sound.’
“‘I’m very disappointed with you,’ said his boss. ‘You’re been completely useless! If you thought that I harvest where I don’t plant and reap where I don’t sow, why didn’t you deposit my money in a bank? Then at least I would have got some interest on it.’
“He turned to his secretary.
“‘Take the money from this man,’ he said, ‘and give it to the one who’s got ten talents. Those who use what they’ve been given will receive even more. In fact, they’ll have an abundance. But those who do nothing with what they’ve been given will have even that taken away. Now throw this useless man out into the darkness, where there’ll be weeping and the sounds of great remorse.’”