Summary: Matthew 25:1-13 is a parable about two groups of maidens or virgins---the prepared and the unprepared.
THE TEN VIRGINS
"Although Douglas MacArthur graduated from West Point at the top of his class, he continued to prepare himself for service to his country. He studied every military textbook he could get his hands on. He visited battlefields and personally reviewed the tactics which the victors and the losers used. While other young officers were playing cards or practicing their golf swing, MacArthur ignored the social whirl to make himself better prepared as a future leader. He even insisted on having his appendix removed just in case it would ever cause him to be incapacitated with an attack of appendicitis at a crucial time later in his career. Douglas MacArthur’s preparedness proved wise. As the key military leader in the Pacific theatre of operations during World War II, he had personally responded to his country’s call to duty years before the actual crisis of war by preparing himself to be a top general.
Each Christian can have that kind of commitment to Christ’s rule and prepare himself or herself for service. Are you preparing yourself to serve Christ? Are you responding to His call by being ready to lead?" (William P. Barker ed. Tarbell’s Teacher’s Guide. 86th Annual Volume. Elgin: David C. Cook Publishing Co. 1990, p. 123). One can only wonder how history might have turned out differently had not General MacArthur been prepared. He lived in the present and yet he always prepared for the future by what he learned from the past struggles of others.
THE ATTENTIVE IN ATTENDANCE
To be present but not paying attention is not a good thing. No one can go to school and be in attendance and expect to do well if he or she is not paying attention. Paying attention is what keeps us prepared for what is or what will come next. I once heard of a car accident that happened because the driver was too busy fooling with the car stereo while on the road. He wrecked because he was not paying attention and keeping his eyes on the road. The same kind of things are true in life and on the job, we have to do more than show up, we have to pay attention. If we are not paying attention then we will get caught off guard with our failure to respond the right way for what is coming next.
To be present and not be prepared is a bad thing. The motto of the US Coast Guard is "Semper Paratus" which translates from Latin into English "always prepared". That is the trouble with the five foolish virgins. They were present but they were not prepared. By the way the Greek word used for "foolish" is the same root word from which we get the word "moron". It is possible for someone to be educated and smart enough to know better and yet still be foolish because he or she were present but ill-prepared.
It was the tradition of the bridesmaids to be prepared to meet the bridegroom who might show up at any time. The virgins (bridesmaids) were supposed to have lamps that were lit for when the bridegroom might arrive in the evening. They were supposed to have oil that they would need to relight their lamps should the need arise. It was certain that the bridegroom was coming, but it was not always certain as to when. The virgins who had extra oil were always prepared. The virgins who were unprepared were foolish. In the actual custom, those without a torch would have been considered to be a "party crasher" or a (bandit) "brigand". (Kenneth L. Barker and John R. Kohlenberger III eds. Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary. Volume 2. D. A. Carson. "The Ten Virgins". Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1994, p. 113). The sad thing was that while the foolish virgins in this parable went to go and buy some more oil, the door was shut before they got back (Matthew 25:10 (quickview) ). They asked to be let in, but the bridegroom told them that he did not know them (Matthew 25:11-12 (quickview) ). They had no one to blame but themselves. They wasted the opportunity.