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Monday, November 24, 2008

Parable of the Virgins

The first parable from Matthew 25 is found in versus 1 through 13. A little Protestant cultural note, this is the bit that inspired Give Me Oil In My Lamp, a vacation bible school staple from my childhood.

Here's the story, there are 10 bridesmaids, or virgins depending on your translation, waiting for the bridegroom. But, the bridegroom arrives late, "[t]hen all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, 'Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.' The wise ones tell them no, and while the foolish ones are in town getting oil the doors to the marriage banquet are locked and they are left out.

First, no question about what this story is about. Jesus didn't come back right away. There was concern about people losing the faith. And this story is a warning about such conduct. You should stay true, because you do not know the day or the hour on which Jesus will return.

Let's separate the advice from the motivation. The time to live well is now, don't wait. No matter how things look right now, you should do what is right. I think that is good advice. Maybe the event is not the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, but is the death of a loved one, it is an economic down turn, it is a chance to help someone in need, whatever.

Of course, this is hardly a unique teaching. What do you think, is it too much of a stretch to read this for anything other than its apocalyptic meaning?

1 comment:

Matt Dick said...

I think it's a stretch of the original intent of the author, but I think it's a useful stretch. We don't need to reserve the reception of wisdom just for passages that mean what the author intended, do we?

The passage is trying to make sense of the fact that the earlier writings make it very clear that Jesus was coming within the lifetime of the readers of the gospels. If you choose to only read it as a historical admonition to wait for the second coming, then you're missing what value the passage can bring to your life.

But as you said, it's hardly unique, so is it uniquely valuable?