Scripture: Matthew 25:1-13
Key verses: (3-4) When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps.
Reflection: Be prepared! It’s the Scout motto. Is this story from Jesus just an illustration of the importance of good preparation or is there more going on here?
This parable falls in the fifth and final teaching “block” of material in Matthew’s gospel. Jesus was in Jerusalem, in the last week of his life, when he offered these teachings to his disciples. Here he described the kingdom of heaven as ten bridesmaids who were to meet the bridegroom. Five were foolish and five were wise. The wise bridesmaids took flasks of oil with their lamps. For some reason the bridegroom was delayed and all ten bridesmaids fell asleep while waiting for his arrival. I take heart knowing that all ten fell asleep! So staying awake isn’t the requirement for wisdom? I’m glad, since I haven’t pulled an all-nighter since college (actually the labor and delivery of both of my children also kept me up all night but that was a pretty different experience).
When the bridegroom approached and the bridesmaids were awakened, the foolish didn’t have enough oil for their lamps to remain lit and the wise wouldn’t share. I take heart that even sharing isn’t a requirement for wisdom (or is it?).
Jesus was teaching his disciples to prepare for the time when he wouldn’t be with them. Jesus was the bridegroom and his return means we are celebrating the fulfillment of God’s kingdom. But in the meantime, we wait. The disciples waited. The early church waited. The saints of history waited. We wait. Are we prepared for the waiting? Are we prepared for a time when we might feel God’s absence? Are we prepared for the long work of justice and righteousness, when it feels like we will never arrive at our destination? Are we filling our spiritual flasks with the oil of prayer and study, with the oil of tough conversations and challenging growth? We might fall asleep with our fatigue but let us keep our flasks ready because God’s kingdom is on the way. Maybe this will inspire you.
Prayer: Dear Lord, like the old spiritual reminds me, help me to “keep my lamp trimmed and burning” with my commitment to be a faithful disciple. Fill me up with spiritual fuel for the long journey ahead. Amen.
Author: Millie Snyder
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].