At that time the Kingdom of heaven will be like this. Once there were ten young women who took their oil lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and the other five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any extra oil with them, while the wise ones took containers full of oil for their lamps. The bridegroom was late in coming, so they began to nod and fall asleep.
It was already midnight when the cry rang out, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come and meet him!’ The ten young women woke up and trimmed their lamps. Then the foolish ones said to the wise ones, ‘Let us have some of your oil, because our lamps are going out.’ ‘No, indeed,’ the wise ones answered, ‘there is not enough for you and for us. Go to the store and buy some for yourselves.’
So the foolish ones went off to buy some oil; and while they were gone, the bridegroom arrived. The five who were ready went in with him to the wedding feast, and the door was closed. Later the others arrived. ‘Sir, sir! Let us in!’ they cried out. ‘Certainly not! I don’t know you,’ the bridegroom answered. Watch out, then, because you do not know the day or the hour.
[The disciples want to know when Jesus will return and the New Age will begin. Jesus replies, “No one knows the day or the hour.” This is one of several scriptures that further illustrates this statement. For more on the Second Coming see Day 150. For more on the Messiah see Day 145. For more on the End of the Age see Day 128.]
The Good News version of the Bible that I am using for this blog calls the people in this parable “young women”, but in the King James translation they are identified as “virgins” so this is traditionally known as “The Parable of the Ten Virgins.” During the Middle Ages this was one of the most popular parables, the subject of countless paintings, songs, sculptures, poems, and other works of art. And why not? It’s pretty erotic imagery when you think about it. One bridegroom and ten virgins. Sounds like the start of a dirty joke or something – “A bridegroom goes to the house of ten virgins in the middle of the night…..” Well, those folks in the Middle Ages people were a pretty bawdy bunch. I’m sure this parable did indeed capture their imagination.
So here was normal wedding protocol, as I understand it. The bride normally had a bunch of bridesmaids (in this case 10 virgins) whose task was to accompany the bride from her home to the groom’s house where the marriage would be consummated. In this parable, the groom was delayed so the bridesmaids had to wait a long time for him to arrive, so they fell asleep while their lamps continued to burn. Presumably they were waiting outside or in a barn or something. When the groom arrives the bridesmaids were summoned and they were supposed to process (with their lighted lamps) into the house where they would wait in a room adjoining the bedroom where the couple would consummate their marriage. When the couple emerged with proof that the deed had been done, the wedding feast would begin.
The problem was that because of the groom’s delay in this instance, half of the bridesmaids didn’t have enough oil for their lamps so they had to run out and buy more. Not only did they miss the procession, but the feast was already underway by the time they arrived and they were denied admission to the party. But the other half of the brides were prepared for the delay. They had brought extra oil so they were able to participate in both the procession and the feast.
So in this parable it’s my opinion that Jesus is the bridegroom, the bridesmaids are the people of God, the oil is faith, and the party is the Kingdom of God. Jesus is saying that it may be a long time before he returns, and that only those who keep the faith will be prepared enter the Kingdom of God. He is saying that we can’t enter the Kingdom of God without faith. He also says that it’s going to be a bit of a wait before he returns, so an extra measure of faith is required.
It’s something we always have to work on. Many of us start out like the bridesmaids, full of faith and excitement and expectations. Ready to celebrate. But then, time goes by and things start settling into a routine and we tend to get tired and discouraged. If we allow ourselves to drift around aimlessly on the ocean of life we can find that our lamps have gone dry and our light no longer shines.
How many times has Jesus tried to impress on his disciples the importance of faith?With faith we can calm the storms, heal the sick, walk on water, move mountains, give sight to the blind, and change the world around us for the better. Here are a few examples:
Jesus turned around and saw her, and said, “Courage, my daughter! Your faith has made you well.” At that very moment the woman became well. (Matthew 9:22).
When Jesus had gone indoors, the two blind men came to him, and he asked them, “Do you believe that I can heal you?” “Yes, sir!” they answered. Then Jesus touched their eyes and said, “Let it happen, then, just as you believe!” (Matthew 9:28-29).
“It was because you do not have enough faith,” answered Jesus. “I assure you that if you have faith as big as a mustard seed, you can say to this hill, ‘Go from here to there!’ and it will go. You could do anything!” (Matthew 17:20).
“If your hand or your foot makes you lose your faith, cut it off and throw it away! It is better for you to enter life without a hand or a foot than to keep both hands and both feet and be thrown into the eternal fire. (Matthew 18:8)
Jesus answered, “I assure you that if you believe and do not doubt, you will be able to do what I have done to this fig tree. And not only this, but you will even be able to say to this hill, ‘Get up and throw yourself in the sea,’ and it will. (Matthew 21:21)
If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” (Matthew 21:22)
There are times when life is grand and everything goes right. Usually all of us have enough faith to keep us going and sane when things are going well. But other times life doesn’t go the way we want it to. The bridegroom is late and our oil runs out. Like those times when life disappoints us. Those times when we get sick. Those times when our friends and family don’t meet our expectations. Those times when it feels like God is nowhere to be found and we feel like we are on a downhill slide. You know – those times.
What is it to have faith that never quits? I think that there are two main components to faith – a disciplined mind and a healthy spirit.
What does it mean to have a disciplined, faith-filled mind? It’s like having the mind of a doctor who works on a patient until all hope is gone and the patient has died and the plug has been pulled. It is a mind that hopes for the best possible outcome even if it’s only a one in a trillion chance. It is a mind that envisions a bright future against all reason. It’s a mind that sees the darkness, looks past it, and sees improvement.
And what about a healthy spirit? Inner peace. No anger, no frustration, no stress. Love. Walking in the light. A healing presence. Gifts and ministries of the Holy Spirit flowing. Those kinds of things.
We all have different ways of keeping our lamps burning, keeping hope alive. What kind of oil do you keep on hand? Here are just a few of more the tangible things I do:
- Taking little prayer breaks throughout the day.
- Praying with others.
- Playing the piano.
- Going to my church.
- Hanging out with people who encourage and inspire me.
- Talking walks.
- Doing an act of kindness.
- Singing praise and worship songs.
- Cuddling my dogs.
- Going to Christian conferences.
- Taking a ride in the country.
- Reading encouraging scriptures – especially God’s promises.
- Taking a lot of baths and showers.
- Taking a vacation.
- Drinking tea.
- Doing volunteer work.
- Watching the sky.
- Spending time with people who love me.
- Asking someone to pray for me.
- Embracing change and making it work.
- Enjoying an inspirational movie or book.
- Serving the community through local government.
- Making new friends.
- Fixing something.
- Walking on the beach.
- Giving something away
- Learning something new.
- Taking pictures of pretty things.
- Working with the homeless.
- Eating with friends.
- Hugging and kissing.
- Asking God for advice often.
- Being kind to people who don’t like me.
- Imagining a better world.
- Enjoying a nice fire.
- Encouraging someone.
- Giving thanks and counting my blessings.
- Remembering the good times, forgetting the bad ones.
- Watching lightning bugs.
- Having a praise party.
- Pondering the eternal – life goes on.
- Maintaining an attitude of gratitude.
- Thinking about and writing down the good things that happen during the day.
- Cutting off fearful or negative thoughts before they can take root.
- Remembering to have fun.
- Enjoying the moment.
- Doing the right thing even if it’s scary.
- Writing. Telling my stories. Sharing my thoughts.
To me these are all spiritual exercises that help me keep my faith alive. These are the kinds of things that strengthen me and help me get through the hard times. These are the oil that I put in my lamp so that when things don’t go right and the unexpected happens, I am ready to go the extra mile like those wise bridesmaids.
It’s like Jesus said on Day 45. “Store up riches for yourselves in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and robbers cannot break in and steal. For your heart will always be where your riches are.” The riches you store in heaven are the life experiences that feed your soul and help you when things don’t go right. They are the things that make your spirit soar. They are the kind things that you do that resonate in the heavens and in other people’s hearts and minds. They are the things that make great memories – like special friendships, adventures, good times with family and friends, acts of kindness, beautiful sights, moments of intimacy, laughter, healing, miracles, hugs, the blessings of both giving and receiving. These are just a sampling of the kinds of things that are accumulated in the spiritual realm as we live our lives and nothing can take them away from you. These riches are the oil that keeps our lamps burning, the oil that never runs dry.
What does this scripture say to you?