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Saturday, August 10, 2013

The Responsibility Is Yours

The Parable of the Ten Virgins
(Matthew 25:1-13 NIV) 

At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep. 

At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’

Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’ 

“‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’ 

But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut. 

Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’ 

But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’

 Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour."

While this parable speaks of the coming of the Lord, I think it makes key points applicable in more mundane matters. There is no doubt that sometimes we can be too hard on ourselves. But there undeniably are times when it is possible for us to be too easy on ourselves. Let us say that I have been without a job for an extended period. After repeated attempts to find employment without success I apply at Walmart. They interview me and agree to hire me. All I must do is attend a training session the next day and bring along my birth certificate and Social Security card. In preparation I buy khaki pants and a navy blue shirt as they stipulated. However, when I show up the next day I bring neither my birth certificate nor my Social Security card. I guess I’m kind of hoping that they will make an exception in my case and hire me anyway. (What I’m really asking of them is to set aside all requirements established by their human resources department and legal department—and these expectations of mine are to be met even before I’m hired.)

As easily predictable, they refuse to hire me. Now what self-talk should I engage in? Should I say that I must not be hard on myself or feel down because negativity is of the devil? God would surely always want me to think highly of myself. Well, yes and no. When David sinned and later wrote Psalm 51 he was hard on himself—very hard. (“For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.”) Yet in the Psalm he writes: “Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” I think it is not too strong to say that God wanted David to fully appreciate the depth of his sin and vow never to repeat it. After this recognition, He wished David to proceed positively and accomplish much. The key point is this: every time we do something irresponsible and feel bad about it, we must not blame the devil or others for making us feel bad; we must instead assume responsibility ourselves and dedicate ourselves never to repeat it. If the devil had a part to play it was in our initial irresponsibility, not in our eventual regret. The devil I’m convinced would have us view ourselves as victims and become angry and blame others for the consequences of our own shortcomings. God would have us accept responsibility and move forward.

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