Being Prepared

“Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish. Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them, but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept.

“And at midnight a cry was heard: ‘Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!’ Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘No, lest there should not be enough for us and you; but go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves.’ And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut.

“Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us!’ But he answered and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.’
“Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.” (Matthew 25:1–13)

The Boy Scout motto is “be prepared.” Jesus’ parable about the ten virgins was about being prepared. Jesus compared the kingdom of heaven to ten virgins with lamps who went out to meet the bridegroom so that they could lead him to his bride. They had oil for their lamps, but only half of them carried extra.

Notice that all the virgins, both wise and foolish, fell asleep as they awaited their delayed bridegroom. Jesus’ point was not that we should be on constant alert. Rather, we need to always be ready.

The foolish virgins who did not bring any extra oil, ended up excluded from the wedding that followed. Paul writes that the wisdom of the world is foolishness while what seems foolish to the world is the wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:20-21). In Jesus’ parable, the wise virgins are those who burdened themselves with what seemed to the foolish virgins unnecessary extra baggage. There was no reason to anticipate running out of oil.

Parables are not allegories, with each bit in them standing for something else. Rather, there is a “moral to the story.” The moral to the Jesus’ parable is simple: Jesus wants us to be prepared to wait for him a long time, however long that might be. And while we wait, he expects us to live according to his law of love.

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About R.P. Nettelhorst

I'm married with three daughters. I live in southern California and I'm the interim pastor at Quartz Hill Community Church. I have written several books. I spent a couple of summers while I was in college working on a kibbutz in Israel. In 2004, I was a volunteer with the Ansari X-Prize at the winning launches of SpaceShipOne. Member of Society of Biblical Literature, American Academy of Religion, and The Authors Guild
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