The Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins

In the New Testament, there is the Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins. The story is simple: 10 young women go to await a wedding reception. The women are all virgins – their morality and spirituality is not in question here. These are not sinners and saints, these are all good people, ready to enter into the reception – a symbol equating with the kingdom of God.

But there’s a delay. The delay is long enough that all 10 go to sleep. Again, no fault on any of those who await – they are all fine up to this point.

And then the bridegroom arrives. It is time to go to meet him. All the lamps have run low on oil. Five of the virgins have brought extra oil with them – they trim their lamps. The other five ask for oil, but the first five decline. They cannot give of their oil, the other five, the foolish five, have to go out and find their own oil.

If we take a view that the oil is personal preparation, it’s clear to see how it cannot be shared. Can I share my obedience with the disobedient? Can I share my love with the hateful? Can I share my charity with the ungiving? Whatever fictions are made to stretch my virtues, the underlying fact is that these characteristics cannot truly be shared. We must attain them for ourselves.

There is no miracle that awaits the five foolish ones, to provide them with additional oil. They were righteous and without fault in many ways, yes, but they lacked yet that final bit of preparation, that final extension of faith needed to understand what is required of us to enter into the kingdom of God.

The miracle was that the bridegroom arrived. We do not know the hour or the time in which we will be called to meet Him, but we know that the hour or time will arrive. We must have the faith to endure waiting longer than we thought initially necessary. We must have the faith to accept circumstances outside our control – and the humility to accept that our ideas about God may be partially or substantially incorrect, even though we trust and believe in Him enough to make the initial preparations to meet him, as did the foolish virgins. We must be prepared to admit that our initial thoughts are incorrect and that we have much more ahead of us than simply showing up and expecting a short wait before we head on in to Heaven.

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