1 "Then the kingdom of heaven will be similar to ten bridesmaids who took their lamps and went out to meet the [bride and] groom. [Note: The picture here is that of a newly married couple returning from a festive reception to the groom's home where they continued celebrating and were welcomed by a late evening wedding party] 2 Five of the bridesmaids were foolish and five were sensible. 3 The foolish ones did not take enough olive oil for their lamps with them, 4 but the sensible ones took [extra] oil in containers, along with their lamps. 5 Now when the [bride and] groom were late [in arriving], the bridesmaids all got drowsy and fell asleep.
6 Then at midnight someone shouted, 'Look, the [bride and] groom are here. Come on, let us go out and meet them.'
7 Then all the bridesmaids woke up and trimmed their lamps [i.e., removed the burnt wicks and replenished their lamps with oil]. 8 The foolish ones said to the sensible ones, 'Give us some of your oil, because our lamps are going out.'
9 But the sensible ones answered, 'There might not be enough for us and you, [so] instead, you should go to the store and buy some for yourselves.'
10 And while they were away [trying] to buy olive oil, the [bride and] groom arrived, and those who were ready [to welcome them] entered the [house where the] wedding reception [was being held] and the door was shut.
11 After that, the other bridesmaids also came asking, 'Sir, Sir, [please] open the door for us!'
13 Therefore, you should be watchful, for you do not know the day or hour [i.e., when the Son of man will return].
14 "For the kingdom of heaven is similar to a man who planned to go on a trip to a distant country, so called his servants and entrusted to each of them a large sum of money [Note: The narrative that follows suggests that the man was turning over some of his assets to financial managers to invest for him]. 15 He gave one servant five talents [Note: This 'talent' was a large sum of money in the form of a certain weight of silver. It was the equivalent of sixty years of a farm laborer's wages, or about $750,000 in income]. He gave two talents to another servant and one talent to another. He gave to each one an amount in keeping with his ability [to invest it wisely], and then left on his trip. 16 The one with the five talents soon invested the money in business transactions which netted him five more. 17 In the same way the one who was given two talents made two more. 18 But the one who was given one talent went and dug a hole in the ground and buried his master's money.
19 Now after a long time the master of these servants returned [from his trip] and proceeded to go over his accounts with each of them. 20 The one who had been given five talents came bringing another five and reported, 'Master, you entrusted me with five talents. Look, I have earned five more with them.'
21 His master replied, 'Well done, you are a good and trustworthy servant. You have been trustworthy over a [relatively] few things, so I will place you over many things. Come and share in your master's joy.'
22 And the one who was given two talents came and reported, 'Master, you entrusted me with two talents. Look, I have earned two more with them.'
23 His master said to him, 'Well done, you are a good and trustworthy servant. You have been trustworthy over a [relatively] few things, [so] I will place you over many things. Come and share in your master's joy.'
24 Then the one who was given [only] one talent came and reported, 'Master, I knew you were a difficult man who reaped where you had not sown, and gathered a harvest where you had not scattered seed, 25 and I was afraid, so I went away and hid your talent in the ground. Look, you [can] have your own talent [back].'
26 But his master said to him, 'You wicked, lazy servant. [Since] you knew that I reaped where I had not sown and gathered where I had not scattered seed, 27 you should have therefore deposited my money in the bank [so] when I returned, [at least] I would have received my own money back, with interest.
28 Take the one talent away from him, therefore, and give it to the servant who had the ten talents. 29 For to every person who has [something], more will be given, so he will have plenty. But from the person who has [virtually] nothing, even that [little bit] he has will be taken away [from him]. 30 Throw out that worthless servant into the [place of] outer darkness, where there will be crying and excruciating pain.
31 "But when the Son of man comes [back] in [all] His splendor, accompanied by all the angels, then He will sit on His throne of splendor. 32 And people from all the nations will be assembled in front of Him and He will separate them from one another, like a shepherd separating his sheep from the goats. 33 He will place the sheep at His right side, but the goats at His left. 34 Then the King will say to those at His right side, 'You who are blessed by my Father, come and receive the kingdom which has been prepared for you since the creation of the world,
35 for [when] I was hungry, you fed me; [when] I was thirsty, you gave me [something] to drink; [when] I came [to you as] a stranger, you gave me a place to stay; 36 when I was without adequate clothing, you gave me something to wear; [when] I was sick, you came to visit me; [when] I was in prison, you came to see me.'
37 Then those who had done what was right [i.e., the ones at His right side] replied, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry, and feed you? Or thirsty, and give you [something] to drink? 38 And when [did you come as] a stranger, and we gave you a place to stay? Or [when were you] without adequate clothing, and we gave you something to wear? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and come to visit you?'
40 And the King will answer them and say, 'Truly I tell you, since you did all this for one of my least [significant] brothers, you did it for me.' 41 Then He [i.e., the King] will say to those at His left side, 'Go away from me, you who are cursed [by God], into the never ending fire which is prepared for the devil and his angels.
42 For [when] I was hungry, you did not feed me; [when] I was thirsty, you did not give me anything to drink; 43 [when] I came [to you as] a stranger, you did not give me a place to stay; [when I] did not have adequate clothing, you did not give me anything to wear; when I was sick, or in prison, you did not visit me.'
44 They will reply, 'Lord, when did we [ever] see you hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or inadequately dressed, or sick, or in prison, and not provide for your needs?'
45 Then the Lord will answer them, 'Truly I tell you, since you did not do it for one of these least [significant brothers of mine], you did not do it for me.'