Wisdom that Shines


This Week's Scripture:

Jesus said, “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. 
But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise replied, ‘No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’ And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut. Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I do not know you.’ Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.

— Matthew 25:1-13


This is a confusing parable!  It’s not so much that there is a twist to it, but that it has a “mean girl” edge.  What could Jesus possibly want us to know about the kingdom of heaven from this story?

When we look at the circumstances in which he tells this parable, we discover that Jesus has been talking about the “end times” and our need to be aware of the coming of the kingdom.  In that sense, this is more a story about beginning than ending and our need to be aware of this.  What does it mean to be ready for the kingdom of God to begin and the old ways to end?

The contrast between a wise person and a foolish one is a persistent theme throughout scripture.  Wisdom and foolishness have nothing to do with one’s IQ.  Rather, they are more about whether or not we live in a life-affirming way that shines forth with the love of God.  The lamp oil in the story is that life-affirming wisdom that creates light for those around us.  The wise bridesmaids have plenty of oil to keep their lights burning.  The foolish do not.  Unfortunately, wisdom is not something we can share with another.  It’s our own—unique to each of us.  The foolishness of the five without extra oil is that they have not lived wise lives of faith.

Jesus wants us to “keep awake.”  This is not about going without sleep 24/7.  Both the wise and foolish bridesmaids take a nap until the bridegroom comes.  Awake for Jesus means that we reflect carefully on our lives, that we grow our unique wisdom by living in life-affirming ways, shining forth God’s love.  Finally, to keep awake means that we remember that there is an endpoint to our lives.


Reflect on this week’s scripture.  Are there any words or ideas that especially resonate with you or challenge you? 

What are the ways you are wise?  Make a list of all the ways that you uniquely shine the love of God.  These don’t need to be anything spectacular.  Focus on how you bring more beauty, goodness, and truth into the world.

What are the ways you are foolish?  Make another list.  Likely, you will notice that these are the ways that you aren’t living who you truly are as God’s child.  Don’t be hard on yourself, just honest.

What does being “awake” look like for you? 

How do you wait for the kingdom of heaven?

This Week's Prayer:

Jesus, our Coming King, You call us to wise-living as we wait for you.

Help us to stay awake, shining our lamps and sharing your love.