We can learn a lot from parables, as long as we take time to consider what the content, context and application is. In Matthew 25 Jesus taught a cautionary lesson to those who believed, in order to warn against the danger of complacency. In a recent Bishops training meeting I led a discussion about this parable and its implications to us as church members and leaders.
1 Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom.
2 And five of them were wise, and five were foolish.
3 They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them:
4 But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.
5 While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept.
6 And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him.
7 Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps.
8 And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out.
9 But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves.
10 And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut.
11 Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us.
12 But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not.
13 Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.
We know that Jesus had directed this particular parable to those who were believers and also that he was teaching about his return, or second coming. We also know that the parable uses the Bridegroom to represent the Saviour and the virgins to be church members.
So what can we learn to apply in our lives? At first reading the tale can seem harsh, surely those who had enough oil in their lamp could share with those that didn’t, or were they just being mean?
Lets for a moment look at the symbolism of the oil in the lamp. Olive oil has deep spiritual meanings. President Nelson has said.
“… Remember, just as the body of the olive, which was pressed for the oil that gave light, so the Saviour was pressed. From every pore oozed the lifeblood of our Redeemer. Throughout the joyous days of your mission, when your cup of gladness runs over, remember His cup of bitterness which made it possible. And when sore trials come upon you, remember Gethsemane.”
Just as the Saviour paid the price in Gethsemane, which word originates from the Hebrew gath – press and shemen – oil, thus literally meaning place of the olive press. We too must pay the price, to be prepared for his coming. However we do not add oil to our lamp by suffering, He has already done that for us. We add oil through our desire to find him. Drop by drop, as we pray, read the scriptures and participate in ordinances, we add oil to our lamps. These are the most simple and obvious ways to come to know Him, who died for us. It doesn’t seem much to ask to know our Saviour?
Take a moment to ponder what you are doing in your life to fill your lamp. Perhaps we feel we don’t have time to read, study and pray? I am sure amongst the five virgins who were short of oil, there were few who purposely chose not to be prepared, they too probably felt they had good reasons to not collect oil.
Part of the reason the Lord has established a church, is so we can help each other prepare, we do not have to do this all alone. We are encouraging every ward to hold Sunday School lessons, Priesthood and Relief Society lessons and as a Stake, we have started a weekly Book of Mormon Study Group online, we understand sometimes we need structure to help us focus. We are committed to provide places that will help you collect oil !
Now a cautionary note. I have heard members suggest that the last 12 months of lock down and home centred spirituality, has in some way been an example of the parable of the ten virgins in action. That members who had oil in their lamps have faired better and have survived a sifting process. that others have been lost and there is little we can do. It is true that we all need to strive for spiritual self reliance, to prepare us for His coming and when He does come we may well have “run out of time” However WE ARE NOT AT THAT TIME YET ! Do not give up if you are spiritually low and especially do not give up trying to help others fill their lamps.
Mathew 25:10 ” And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut. “
There is still time! He has not yet come, so the door is not yet shut. Each of us has a responsibility to prepare. We also have a responsibility to help others to fill their lamps, right up to the moment, when I accept it may well be too late. I do not believe the Saviour taught this parable in a fatalistic, its to late manner. Rather it was inspire us to use all the time we have to prepare.
Surely the purpose of your ministering assignment, is in part to help put oil in lamps , yours and those you minister to. As this opening screenshot from the church pages about ministering clearly states… “nourish”
If you are interested in attending our weekly Stake Book of Mormon study group via zoom, details will be posted in our Stake Facebook Group. the meetings are 7.30 on Wednesday Evenings. Come add a few drops of oil to you lamp!