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. – Matthew 25:1-4 NIV
Wise vs Foolish, seems like an obvious choice: let’s shoot for being considered wise. In this parable, Jesus tells us that the virgins (also considered “The Church”) were a split proportion of foolish and wise.
Yes. In the Church today, there are those who, just like the parable of the wise and foolish builder, will choose foolishly. In the case of the builders, there are those who will hear the Word but not build their lives upon it, and in this passage above, there are those who won’t ensure they’ve got oil for their lamps. Both foolish choices suffer consequences.
Today, I want to talk about the oil because the imagery has come alive in my heart.
What is the oil? And what is the application?
Allow me to divulge the idea that, maybe, the oil is the Holy Spirit.
The Bible uses oil, among other things, as a symbol of the Holy Spirit coming upon people to heal and to be used in ministry. If our calling while we wait for Jesus to return is to be Light in the world—beyond being watchful and waiting—to truly shine, we need the Holy Spirit.
The Bible tells us we will know believers by their fruit. As in, Christians pursuing a life led by the Spirit, rather than the flesh, will produce fruit in keeping with the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
I wonder if we could similarly say that we will know believers by their lamp’s glow. A lamp isn’t beneficial if not lit, and a life professing faith without the evidence of Holy Spirit oil to let it shine, is useless. Kingdom useless, that is.
This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. – 1 John 1:5-7 NIV
The wise virgins brought jars of oil with them while they waited for their bridegroom’s return. Our wait feels long in the thick of the struggle. We are told Jesus’s return is actually quite near, though. I’d say, personally, it’s nearer than any of us could possibly realize. But when troubles abound, hope of our Beloved Bridegroom’s return dwindles.
Without the Holy Spirit feeding our lamps, we are sure to wander in confusion and darkness. We will easily succumb to weariness and despair.
The wise virgin ensures her jar is stocked with the oil she needs. She will be ready when that glorious trumpet sounds. Her lamp will testify of her life surrendered to the anticipation of His return.
How’s your oil? Is your lamp flickering? Is the darkness around you pervasive?
Each of us have been given access by faith through grace to the same Holy Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead. To disregard our necessity for and access to such Comfort, Counsel, Power, and Strength is to relinquish our calling as The Church—a set apart, virgin bride and a light in the darkness, waiting and longing for His return.
It’s foolishness! And the cost is unimaginably worse than we might realize. Yet, grace is given freely to all who kneel in humility, and the Holy Spirit is promised for all who accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
Only may we not desert the One who called us to live in the grace of Jesus by turning to another gospel, which is really no gospel at all. (Galatians 1:6-7)
Self-righteousness says I can get there on my own.
Social justice says human effort can get us there together.
Prosperity says our material wealth is tied to God’s grace.
And yet, these will all fail us if we forsake the oil in our lamps to walk in such darkness.
The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us. – 1 John 3:24 NIV
So how do we walk this out? How do we ensure our jars are full of oil, that our lamps are burning and our hearts are ready?
The book of Colossians is a fantastic place to start reading! Chapter Three speaks of Living as those Made Alive in Christ, and you can read it by clicking here. (For more reading on the book of Colossians, check out my chapter study of this New Testament book, beginning here.)
Verse one is a tickler, so allow me to indulge: “Set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.”
To close, I leave you with this prayer:
[May] God [fill you] with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. – Colossians 1:9-14 NIV