Summary: Our primary duty as Christians is to persevere diligently in the faith, despite mixed motivations, temptations to procrastinate, to fail to prioritize, or to wisely interpret daily invents in terms of the permanent rather than the temporary.
Wise and Foolish Virgins/Christians
In Wisdom 6: 12-16 it tells us that wisdom is of such great importance,it ultimately determines our destiny.And we know that the beginning of wisdom is fear of, or obedience to and respect for the Lord God. We know also that Jesus is the Word and Wisdom of God. Wisdom as the term is used here is learning by observation the moral consequences of human behavior so as to serve God and neighbor diligently with love.
In the parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins, the difference between self-described Christians who accept Jesus intellectually but who fail to live a wise Christian life is made clear. Foolish people who regard themselves as Christians keep their oil lamp of faith lit for a limited time, but have neither the patience nor diligence to complete their moral responsibilities of doing good and avoiding or repenting for sin over an entire lifetime. They run out of oil; nowadays we might say they run out of gas. They are like the foolish builder earlier in the chapter who built his house on sand rather than the wise builder who constructed his house on rock. The rock is Jesus, the Wisdom of God. The wise builder not only hears Jesus’ words, but also follows them. He is rewarded with a durable house, one that can withstand the storms in life and serve as an eternal dwell place in heaven. He chooses wisely his foundation. The work of one who builds on sand is done in vain after a severe storm destroys his house. He fails to weather the spiritual crises in his earthly life (7:24-26).
The oil in the parable has been seen as faith, (Luther) or good works (various interpreters.) Both of these would be involved in the virtue of wisdom. Wisdom would also include being prepared for any foreseeable eventuality. The foolish virgins lacked that preparedness. They could not get it in time for the heavenly banquet. They are like those others who said to Jesus,” Lord, Lord,” but were denied the heavenly kingdom.
Loss of zeal and diligence leads to unpreparedness at the end of life on earth.The oil already in the foolish virgins’ lamps is not enough for the wedding banquet of God’s kingdom. Christ the bridegroom is delayed. His coming for the final judgment is taking longer than expected. Some expected the coming during their own lifetime, and when that didn’t happen, their commitment to doing the will of God as manifest in Jesus begins to wane, like the light of their lamps.
The lamp oil that keeps the light shining might be seen as including Christian charity, although we must avoid evil as well as do good in our commitment to doing God’s will. In charity,we must live according to the Beatitudes and be like the sheep rather than the goats, the ones who cooperate with Jesus in serving his people rather than ignoring those in need. Those whom Jesus classified as goats did not realize that what they did for the least of God’s people, they did for Jesus Himself (Matthew 25:31-46). The goat-people didn’t even understand why they didn’t make it to heaven
The foolish virgins then, who lack the wisdom to be prepared for the final judgment, will not enter into the heavenly banquet. They are like the guest who showed up for another banquet without a wedding garment. He wasn’t prepared. When he could not explain why he had not done his part in response to Jesus’ invitation to salvation, he was sent away.
It may have seemed cruel for the wise virgins, who prepared themselves for the coming of the bridegroom at any hour of the night by bringing enough oil for any eventuality, to share with the foolish ones. The wise cannot help out the foolish because each one of us must work out out own salvation; we cannot live someone else’s life for them. Like the wise virgins, those who will be saved will tell the foolish virgins what they need to do to have sufficient oil, to get it from God, who is the provider rather than merchants who were the providers in the parable. Faithful Christians might be said to be providing an opportunity for learning to serve God by their good example, however. We don’t purchase our salvation; we work it out in fear and trembling. We must all be responsible representatives of God’s love. Rather than acting cruelly, then, the wise virgins, or faithful Christians, are giving good counsel, or good advice. Time, unfortunately, runs out before the doors to the heavenly banquet hall are closed to the foolish virgins. We only have one limited lifetime to prepare ourselves to share in Christ’s Resurrection.
Still, we need to be concerned for the spiritual welfare of the foolish. If we don’t warn people of wrongdoing, we too will be held responsible. ( Ezequiel 3:18). In addition, all of us act foolishly at times, sometimes habitually. Spouses are entrusted with watching out for each other spiritually, as are friends and family members. They are in a sense like guardian angels to each other, providing good counsel, good advice. Indeed, the wise have an obligation to counsel the foolish