by Brittney Chan
Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall...
1 Corinthians 10:2
Does anyone else’s parents use Scripture to validate their argument during a lecture? I know I’m not the only one! Without fail, my precious mother...please note my playful sarcasm here...will normally refer to the story of the 10 young virgins found in Matthew 25. I can hear her now: “Brittney, you know 5 were wise, but 5 were foolish, too...” as she sternly advises me on whatever issue I need counsel on. Over the years, I’ve learned that Mom is usually right in her guidance, but it still makes me chuckle when she mentions the parable Jesus told in the closing chapters of the first Gospel.
It’s no surprise that a few weeks ago when a visiting preacher read his text, my ears were tuned in to this familiar passage. But something different jumped out at me that night and it’s been on my mind ever since…
The scene unfolds as Jesus begins to compare Heaven to a wedding of that time period. As I’m sure you know, the Jews practiced a more extended and intense nuptial ceremony than we do today. It all started when a groom decided that he’d found his One. He would work to prepare a place for her; this could take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. And when he finally finished, he’d go to her father’s house to get her. Here, there may have been a small going away party for the couple, but the real festivities would start once they made it to his father’s house.
Enter the 10 virgins. The typical journey from one house to the other would involve, as you can expect: merriment, laughter and joy. The conversations would be buzzing about the couple joining together and the new life they would start. You’ve been to a wedding, right?? If there was anyone who didn’t get an invitation to the ceremony, slipping into the processional on the way to the father’s house was their only chance in! Not much attention would be on these new members of the party. It was all about the bride and groom.
There was a catch for these virgins, though. They had to be prepared and wait for just the right time when the bridegroom and his party would pass by. And that’s exactly where it all went wrong in the story that Jesus told. Half of the virgins had made adequate preparations when packing up their supplies for the mission to join in on the bridal party. And half did not. When the right time came, the foolish frantically began asking around for any oil that could be spared. But the wise answered, “Not so.”
Yes, all ten of the virgins had desired to attend the grand wedding celebrations. They all had planned and prepared and started out with good intentions. But good intentions are rarely enough. And can I pose this question concerning those who actually got in: Was their response to the foolish the thing that made them wise?
See, often times as Christians, we aim to show up for the needs of other people whenever we can; even if that means we suffer in the meantime. Our giving hearts always long to give. The caring soul searches for various avenues in which it can practice care. And we should do all of those things in efforts to show the love of God.
However, if we proceed without caution, it is easy to develop a “Savior” mentality when it comes to helping other people. We must remember: we cannot save anyone.
The wise were indeed wise because they anticipated enough oil to last the wait. However, they continued to exhibit wisdom as they recognized that an act of selfless giving at that moment would potentially rob them of their own entrance into the father’s house.
Simply put, sometimes we have to say, “No.” And the appropriate time to do so is when the circumstances could yield an outcome that would jeopardize your soul’s eternity.
Guard your soul at all costs. I believe God expects us to go the extra mile for others, but He also is the only One that can offer redemption if it is truly desired. I used to think that I could be so empathetically persuasive that people would choose to agree with me in the end and that this would be how I guided them to God. After a few failures and mistakes of my own, it didn’t take long to see the error of my thinking.
On our way to the Father’s house, let’s purpose to encourage others to join us, but never at the cost of our own relationship with Him.
Thank you for the life You have given us. We are grateful for the friendships You’ve allowed us to form and for those You’ve given us to mentor. Grant us wisdom, God, as we carry on to the Kingdom.
In Jesus’s Name,