Many people interpret this parable as if the virgins get shut out because they didn’t plan ahead and bring enough oil. But is that how God works? Do we need to have it all together to “get in”? Here is the parable, only occurring in Matt 25:1-13 (NIV):
1 â€œAt that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.
2 Five of them were foolish and five were wise.
3 The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them.
4 The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps.
5 The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
6 At midnight the cry rang out: â€˜Hereâ€™s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!â€™
7 Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps.
8 The foolish ones said to the wise, â€˜Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.â€™
9 â€˜No,â€™ they replied, â€˜there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.â€™
10 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.
11 Later the others also came. â€˜Lord, Lord,â€™ they said, â€˜open the door for us!â€™
12 But he replied, â€˜Truly I tell you, I donâ€™t know you.â€™
13 Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.”
Jesus in the series of parables in Matt 25 is responding to the question his students asked in Matt 24:3:
“As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. ‘Tell us,’ they said, ‘when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?'”
(Matt 25 also includes the parables of the talents, and the sheep + goats.)
Note first that Jesus is here nowÂ in our hearts, and hopefully wherever we go, spreading His Love. But this series of parables does exhort us to “be ready.” A pastor at my church pointed out several things about that message in the parable, such as:
1) We don’t want to have any regrets in life as we never know when our own end, or theÂ end, may come.
NO REGERTS! ðŸ™‚
2) If they’re so wise, why didn’t the wise virgins share their oil with those who didn’t bring enough? Possibly because there are some things that can’t just be shared, like the wisdom of experience, a lifetime of conscious contact with God, a mature faith, etc. We can try to explain those things but can’t actually give them to someone else.
There are other interesting interpretations and discussions of this parable on the internet of course, including the idea that “oil” represents the Holy Spirit (or by the interpretation below it might be faith!), but i think the most important truth of this parable is:
First note that Jesus opens by saying the “kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins…” – so the “kingdom” (realm or domain) isn’t necessarily the wedding feast or the building. As Jesus tells usÂ in Luke 17:21: “the kingdom of heaven is within us” (or among us). But that aside, why did the groom shut them out and say he didn’t know them? Was it because they didn’t bring enough oil?
Or was it because they leftÂ to get more, as if they weren’t “good enough” in their current (always) flawed state? They were already invited to the wedding, or actually inÂ the wedding party, right? If you invited your best friends and family, or even your childrenÂ to your wedding, would you shut them out because they forgot their shoes, or the cake, or the ring even? No, of course not! But what if they are so afraid that you will be mad at them or not let them in, that they leave to go home to get what they forgot, just after you are announced, and miss the introduction or even the wedding itself? THEN you might say: “What are you doing; i don’t even KNOW you! Don’t you know i don’t care about lamps (except to help you see) or oil or even the ring? I love YOU. I invited YOU. If you don’t trust that i love you unconditionally then what are we even doing here?!”
[Note: I learned this concept of the parable from Robert Farrar Capon and his collectionÂ “Kingdom, Grace, Judgment” which is awesome atÂ revealing the amazing grace in Jesus’s parables. I wouldn’t interpret a parable without consulting it!]