The bin men came early this week: an hour early to be precise, catching out two of my neighbours. One heard them and rushed out just in time with his rubbish bin, the other missed them meaning that he has a fortnight to wait before they return to empty the general bins. Watching the dustcart reversing down our cul-de-sac and observing the unpreparedness of two of my nine neighbours reminded me of a story that Jesus told:
“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.” (Matthew 25: 1-13 NIV)
My neighbour on one side uses the word ‘rubbish’ to describe anything he doesn’t like and will often say: “It’s just rubbish isn’t it?” Well I can’t think of anything more rubbish than not being ready for dustmen when the council advises us to put our bins out the night before, not at a time of our choosing in the morning. Failure to listen to the council means we are likely to be left with an overflowing rubbish bin, which is not good, especially in the summer.
The story about the virgins and the oil is a reminder that Jesus has promised He will return, but He hasn’t told us when. It could be in five minutes, five hours, five months, five years, or more. Anyone who is not ready at that moment will be left behind. And if it is you that is left behind then that really will be rubbish, won’t it?
Two men will be working together in the field; one will be taken, the other left. Two women will be grinding flour at the mill; one will be taken, the other left.
“So you, too, must keep watch! For you don’t know what day your Lord is coming. Understand this: If a homeowner knew exactly when a burglar was coming, he would keep watch and not permit his house to be broken into. You also must be ready all the time, for the Son of Man will come when least expected. (Matthew 24:40-44 NIV)