Matthew 25 has three parables that contain a similar lesson and warning. Simply put there will come a time when we will be held accountable for how we lived our lives and what we did with what what God gave us. The parables are:
The ten bridesmaids (1-13): the five wise ones brought extra oil for their lamps. The five foolish ones did not. In the wedding customs of the 1st century the arrival of the bridegroom was often a surprise. The guests were given some advance warning as to the week and approximate day but the hour was unknown. However, when the bridegroom arrived the wedding was held the the week long feast began. Wise and prudent wedding goers would be prepared for all contingencies. The admonition is to keep awake. Jesus is coming we need to be ready to receive him.
The parable of the talents (14-30) is a lesson in stewardship accountability. All of us have been gifted by God with the time, talents, treasures, relationships, testimonies, etc. that are in our lives. Stewardship reminds us that all that we have all that we are and all that we dream of being is a gift from God. In the parable, the five talent guy trades up and improves what he has been given -- and is commended and rewarded. The two talent guy trades up and improves what he has been given -- and is commended and rewarded. The one talent guy does not know the nature of his master -- he believes him to be harsh, hard and fear inducing -- and so, out of fear he hides what he has been given. He is punished. For you and I the lesson is simple: as a Christ follower the day will come when I will face my Lord and Master and be required to give an accounting of what I did with this life and the abundant resources that are in it. Did I use it all for myself or did I extend my Master's kingdom?
The Parable of the sheep and the goats (31-46) rings with the simple phrase: "whatever you did for the least of these you did it for me." What we choose to do for others in this life, Jesus takes personally. The face of the poor, the face of the down trodden, the face of the least, the lost, the lonely is the face of Christ. When I choose to serve others in this life Jesus takes that as service done to him. What have I done for the least of these: the hungry, thirsty, strangers, naked, sick, or imprisoned?
We would be wise to take notice and engage in ministry, use our talents and, as always, to be prepared for Christ's return.