The heading of this parable, as read in the New International Version (NIV) and Good News Bibles, does not immediately give the reader an impression that the virgins or young women would eventually be divided into two groups. At the first reading one has the impression that they would be treated as one group throughout. This is true of several other parables.
In verse 1, you do not see two groups. They are ten virgins taking the same things (lamps) with the same purpose (to meet the bridegroom). It is in verse 2 that the division emerges. They are no longer ten virgins but five wise and five foolish virgins. I really like the step by step development of this parable. Up to this point (verse 2), the reader is not told why the ten virgins are divided into two different groups. Despite giving some details, the next two verses (3 and 4) still do not really show why one group would be wise and the other foolish. Why would taking extra oil in jars make someone wise? How many of us take extra this and that when we travel or keep extra this and that in our homes?
It is from verse 5 that the picture starts to be clearer as to why taking extra oil was a wise decision. Maybe the carrying of the extra oil was something the foolish virgins considered cumbersome. It might have looked smart to simply carry the lamp without an “unnecessary burden/luggage”.
A couple of years ago there was a very interesting cartoon in one of our local newspapers. It showed that the weather report the previous evening had indicated that it would rain the following morning. As such people were advised to take umbrellas with them. Unfortunately, it did not rain in one of the areas. The cartoon showed someone who had taken an umbrella to work shouting at one of the staff at the weather station for making him take an umbrella for nothing. The following day it rained and the man was soaked because he had left his umbrella.
HIV and AIDS and other emerging issues demands that, as individuals, families, communities, churches and all the other groups, we do something “extra” in our Christian walk. Going to church without doing something to assist the less privileged is not enough. That would be like carrying a lamp without extra oil. We need extra oil, otherwise we might be like the five foolish virgins. Remember that we do not know when Christ will return. As we wait for Him, we must be prepared for the challenges of the time.
To think about: If this parable were to be written about you as an individual, a family, church or member of the community, about the way you respond to issues of HIV and AIDS and the many abuses flooding the world, would you be among the wise or foolish?
Written By: Rev. Lloyd Khanyanga, Director FLAEM, Malawi, CCoH facilitator and CABSA representative