Book Reflection // March 4, 2023 // View Series
The Parables of Jesus by James Montgomery Boice
Chapter 10 // Matthew 25:1-13
In this parable of the Five Wise and Five Foolish Virgins, Jesus presents a story that illustrates some essential traits that are the key difference between a person being considered wise and foolish. The two sets of women are very similar. In the end, the foolish women had every intention and desire to attend the wedding banquet but missed out due to their own faulty planning and preparation.
An Essential Difference
The wise and foolish women looked a lot alike for all intents and purposes. When we meet them in the story, they seem to all be on the same page about the wedding banquet.
- All ten were invited to the wedding banquet. Indeed, the bridegroom had prepared this banquet for them and each was invited to the marriage feast.
- All ten had responded to the invitation and made the necessary arrangements and preparations to meet the bridegroom and be ushered into the banquet.
- All ten had some affection and love for the bridegroom, as they all waited patiently for him while he was delayed.
- All ten had become drowsy during the delay and had fallen asleep.
This is a parable for the church. The church is often filled with “good church people.” People who have heard the invitation of the gospel and even have the appearance of responding. People who, just like the foolish virgins, outwardly looked like a prepared virgin of the expected bridegroom. The essential difference between the wise and the foolish was in their preparation. The wise brought extra oil with them in case there was a significant delay, while the foolish ones simply brought enough to last the time they expected. The oil in the parable represents our inward preparation. The first point of this parable challenges each of us to examine our hearts for this inner preparation and ask the serious question, “Am I ready?” As Boice says, “You should be among the wise who, although they, too, had fallen asleep, were nevertheless ready.”
A Time of Crisis
The second point of the parable is that the condition of our hearts will be revealed during a crisis. “Nothing reveals more correctly what is in a man’s heart than a crushing and unlooked-for crisis.” In the parable, the only discernable difference between the wise and foolish virgins was the extra oil flask that each wise virgin brought. I wonder If the foolish virgins mocked the wise ones for their over-preparedness. Did they try to cast doubt and tell them that they have no need for that extra oil as the bridegroom will obviously arrive at the time they all expected him? It wasn’t until the crisis point hit that the true nature of their character and inner preparedness were exposed. It was the crisis that revealed the wisdom of the extra oil. It was the crisis that proved the wisdom of the five who were truly prepared to wait for the bridegroom to arrive.
Three More Lessons
First, the life of Christ within us is not transferrable. On the day of Christ’s coming, each person must stand on his own. We will each be held accountable for our inward preparation. You will not be able to stand on the faith of your mother, your spouse, or your pastor. The question put to each of us on that day will be, “Where do YOU stand?”
Second, lost opportunities cannot be regained. The foolish virgins set out to buy more oil, but the groom was already coming and they proved to be too late. We cannot keep telling ourselves that we have time to prepare for Christ’s return. We cannot keep letting these opportunities to repent and believe pass us by. We must each examine our hearts right now. Don’t fall asleep and miss this opportunity. Turn to Christ now and be prepared for the joyous arrival of the bridegroom!
Third, the Lord always comes without warning. Jesus will arrive at an unknown and unexpected time. He may call us to account at any moment. None of us are guaranteed our next breath. None of us can say that we will even be able to finish reading this sentence. Our life is but a breath and the Lord reminds us to “watch, therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”
Take warning from the wise virgins in the parable and examine your heart every day. Take the time to prepare yourself for the coming crisis. The coming crisis will arrive, and it will reveal the state of your heart. Take the time now to ask yourself hard spiritual questions about hidden sin that still clings to your heart. Honestly reflect and deal with those ugly areas of sin, shame, and guilt. Take them to Jesus in repentance and faith. Receive his mercy and grace in return. Embrace the lover of your soul and cling to him in humility and faith.
Or, to come to the parable before us, you must have a lamp, and that lamp must be fed with heavenly oil, and it must continue to burn brightly, or else you will not be ready.Charles Spurgeon