The Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins

Reflections on the Readings for Sunday 6 November 2011

Wisdom 6:12-16; Psalm 63:1-8; 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8; Matthew 25:1-13

I have always found the parable of the wise and foolish virgins disturbing. Maybe it is the image of the young girls in the dark with their lights going dim. Reading the parable again, though, I see that the story isn’t about their fear and being left in the dark, because they do manage to run off and find someone to buy more oil from. The tragedy for them is that they miss the party. I have also never liked the fact that the wise ones didn’t share what they had. But that is the way life is. There are some things that others can’t give us – we have to cultivate them for ourselves. In some respects, although others can help us along the way, each of our journeys is our own. No one else can live our life for us, or develop our self. That falls to each of us alone. Our future is built upon the foundation of the present, and wisdom and good character take a long time to build. We can’t go to bed one night a selfish, short-sighted person and wake up tomorrow a Mother Theresa. We need to be awake and aware, living our lives consciously and developing our God-given potential.

Wisdom is not reserved for the few. We can have it if we want it. The problem may be that we want the benefits of wisdom but we aren’t willing to commit ourselves to the quest. We want the party, but we’re not prepared for the wait. We’re not willing to keep vigil.

The psalm speaks of the search not for wisdom, but for God. Indeed, to find one is to find the other. According to St Augustine, our hearts are restless until they find their rest in God. The psalmist expresses it even more strongly – we are like parched land crying out for water, and to find God is to be satisfied with the richest of banquets.

Paul, writing to people who were grieving the death of some in their community, reminds us that God’s glorious future is both now and not yet. We face death and sorrow, but we can do so with hope. We live between searching and finding.

Are we like the foolish girls, keen for the party, but not serious about the journey, or are we in this for the long haul?

Here is the reading from the book of Wisdom, which isn’t found in all Bibles:

Resplendent and unfading is wisdom,
and she is readily perceived by those who love her,
and found by those who seek her.
She hastens to make herself known in anticipation of their desire;
Whoever watches for her at dawn shall not be disappointed,
for he shall find her sitting by his gate.
For taking thought of wisdom is the perfection of prudence,
and whoever for her sake keeps vigil
shall quickly be free from care;
because she makes her own rounds, seeking those worthy of her,
and graciously appears to them in the ways,
and meets them with all solicitude.

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About Jessie Rogers

I'm a Scripture scholar and Godly Play practitioner living in Ireland.
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One Response to The Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins

  1. Rich says:

    When I think of the “foolish” virgins, I am reminded of those who were of Galatia that Paul wrote to. Paul called them “foolish” Galatians who were bewitched from the truth, they were following the works of the law as part of salvation which made them foolish. Seeing the bible uses the keyword “foolish” in both passages, I believe there is some hidden wisdom here which connects those who were of Galatia and those “foolish” virgins. Interesting.

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