Learning Wisdom: Matthew 25:1-13

Focus Passage: Matthew 25:1-13 (NIrV)

“Here is what the kingdom of heaven will be like at that time. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went out to meet the groom. Five of them were foolish. Five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but didn’t take any olive oil with them. The wise ones took oil in jars along with their lamps. The groom did not come for a long time. So the bridesmaids all grew tired and fell asleep.

“At midnight someone cried out, ‘Here’s the groom! Come out to meet him!’

“Then all the bridesmaids woke up and got their lamps ready. The foolish ones said to the wise ones, ‘Give us some of your oil. Our lamps are going out.’

“ ‘No,’ they replied. ‘There may not be enough for all of us. Instead, go to those who sell oil. Buy some for yourselves.’

10 “So they went to buy the oil. But while they were on their way, the groom arrived. The bridesmaids who were ready went in with him to the wedding dinner. Then the door was shut.

11 “Later, the other bridesmaids also came. ‘Sir! Sir!’ they said. ‘Open the door for us!’

12 “But he replied, ‘What I’m about to tell you is true. I don’t know you.’

13 “So keep watch. You do not know the day or the hour that the groom will come.

Read Matthew 25:1-13 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

In Jesus’ parable of the wise and foolish bridesmaids, we can learn a lot about what it takes to be known as wise. In this parable, there are some clear differences shared between the wise bridesmaids, and the foolish ones.

This parable opens by describing ten bridesmaids who all want to meet the bridegroom. All ten have the same goal, but then Matthew describes the differences between them. He tells us, “Five of them were foolish. Five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but didn’t take any olive oil with them. The wise ones took oil in jars along with their lamps.” (v. 2-4)

The first key difference between these two groups of bridesmaids is that the foolish ones didn’t bring along any extra oil in jars. Perhaps the foolish bridesmaids believed the oil was safer left at home, or maybe they assumed that there would be no delaying the wedding party’s arrival. Whatever the reason, these foolish bridesmaids did not bring extra oil.

On the other hand, the wise bridesmaids either anticipated a delay, or they thought that more oil would be good to have. Oil left at home does no one any good. They likely didn’t bring all their oil, but enough to get all the way through the night.

Then all the bridesmaids fell asleep. After being woken up, we are able to see another key difference between the wise and the foolish. Matthew describes the bridesmaids having a frantic conversation while scrambling to get ready for the bridegroom who was almost here. He tells us the foolish bridesmaids said to the wise, “Give us some of your oil. Our lamps are going out.” (v. 8)

The wise bridesmaids responded by saying, “No, there may not be enough for all of us. Instead, go to those who sell oil. Buy some for yourselves.” (v. 9)

Matthew then describes what the foolish bridesmaids did: “So they [the foolish bridesmaids] went to buy the oil. But while they were on their way, the groom arrived. The bridesmaids who were ready went in with him to the wedding dinner. Then the door was shut.” (v. 10)

Preparation and decision separated the wise from the foolish in this parable. The wise bridesmaids prepared by bringing enough oil, and that preparation let them experience the wedding. The foolish bridesmaids’ lack of preparation made for an awkward conversation and a poor decision on the back end.

Following being woken up, the foolish bridesmaids left their post in order to go get oil. This decision cost them the chance of being part of the wedding celebration.

While tradition holds that the oil represents the Holy Spirit, it is possible that in this parable, it could mean simply anything that we feel we need to have or do before coming to God. If the oil really does represent the Holy Spirit, then the only Source of it would be coming with the wedding party, with God the Father (as Father of the Groom), and God the Son (the groom). It is possible that the Father, seeing that the foolish bridesmaids had run out of oil, may have brought out some and given it to them.

But the foolish bridesmaids were nowhere to be found. They had left their post in favor of seeking oil elsewhere, and they missed out on the wedding celebration.

The key two ideas that make us wise in this parable are that we should plan ahead and bring more than is necessary incase Jesus’ return is delayed; and secondly, we should never leave our post thinking there is something more we need to have or do elsewhere. If we leave our post, we guarantee that we will miss out on the reward of being included in the wedding celebration.

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus "Reflective Bible Study" package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

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