Summary: This sermon addressed the problem of hypocrisy based on the Parable of the Ten Virgins. Hypocrisy can only be cured by recognizing it and by discovering Jesus' unhypocritical love for us.
It’s foolish to be a pretender. Just ask John Corcoran. John never learned to read in elementary school. Somehow the teachers just kept passing him along. When he got to high school he became at expert at cheating. He turned in other people’s work. He said he couldn’t read letters, but he could read the system, and he could read people. He learned how to fake his way through college and graduated from Texas Western College with a teaching degree. For the next seventeen years he taught high school students without being able to read or write. Somehow he always arranged to have others do the reading and writing for him. John eventually left teaching, and he did learn to read and write, but his story is an amazing example of how it is possible to be a pretender. (Charisse Yu, "Retired Teacher Reveals He Was Illiterate Until Age 48," 10News.com)
Pretending can be very dangerous. People have pretended to be doctors, airplane pilots, lawyers, and police officers. They can get away with it for a while, but eventually there comes a day of reckoning. By far the most dangerous thing people can do is to pretend to be a Christian.
The Parable and It’s Meaning
Jesus spoke this parable to keep us from being pretenders or in other words “hypocrites.” The meaning is straightforward. First, Jesus tells us that the world will come to an end. “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.” The kingdom of heaven is now mixed in with the kingdoms of man. There is much sin and suffering in this world, but those who hope in Jesus have found salvation. He came to conquer with holiness, obedience and love. His death became the sacrifice for the sins of all. But not all accept this. In fact, most do not. The day will come when Christ will return – not in humility and grace for salvation, but in power and glory for judgment. In addition there are some who are associated with this kingdom, but they are not really in it. These are the foolish virgins or bridesmaids who have lamps but no oil for them. They know that Jesus is coming, but they are not ready. They do not have true faith. The wise and foolish virgins fall asleep. We will all fall asleep in death unless we live to see the last day. Finally the cry will be made: “The Bridegroom cometh!” At that time the foolish bridesmaids will recognize their lack of oil or true faith in Christ. They will ask the wise maidens for some of their faith. But, alas, it will be too late. No one can be saved by the faith of another. While they are trying to find that faith, the Bridegroom will arrive, and the doors will be shut. Though they will cry out: “Lord, Lord, open to us!” He will answer, “Verily I say unto you I know you not.” They are excluded because they have proven to be pretenders.
Since the Bible speaks so often and so strongly against the problem of hypocrisy it is essential that we understand what it is. Do you remember the story of Job? Job was a righteous man, but God allowed him to be tested by Satan. His friends came and began trying to figure out why Job was suffering. They accused him of being a pretender (Job 8.13). We have to be careful about throwing the accusation of “pretender” around. Sometimes Christians go through periods of weakness, temptation or testing, but that doesn’t mean they have turned away from Christ. The other extreme, however, is to use the cover of “weakness” for that which in reality is “lack of faith.” How do we know which is which?
The most common characteristic of the pretender is that they associate themselves with Christians. With their lips they profess to be disciples of Jesus, but in their hearts they are far from God (Isaiah 29.13; Mat 15.8). There are many examples in the Bible: Cain worshiped but didn’t have faith. King Saul offered sacrifices but didn’t trust in the Lord. Judas walked with Jesus for three years, but didn’t believe in him. The true test of faith is not found in the knowledge of God. You do not need faith to know about God. Some of the greatest Bible scholars of all time were not believers. The test of faith is not in works. There have always been many “noble pagans” who are good and upright people. They do many things for others, and yet they do not have faith in God. The test of faith lies in repentance. If you are sorry for your sins, and if you believe that only Jesus can save you from your sins, then you are a true believer. Pretenders rarely talk about repentance. They are uncomfortable with it. You will not find them in their rooms alone crying out in their prayers, “Lord have mercy on me!” The repentant heart is the most difficult thing to fake! The pretender may go to church for different reasons. They may go to gain knowledge. Most go to do a good deed (or to keep the pastor from visiting them!). But they don’t go because they know they need Jesus’ forgiveness. They don’t go for the cleansing of repentance and forgiveness.