Last week’s article was titled, Will Your Family Have Food? In it, we shared lessons-learned by those severely impacted by the conflict in Sudan that began unexpectedly on the 15th of last month. Many people, perhaps most, had almost no food or water after just three days of fighting. Only those who thought, planned ahead, and stored extra essentials for unforeseen challenging times were able to meet the needs of their family.
As if to drive this important lesson home, this week I read a parable that Jesus shared during his ministry on earth. It involved ten unmarried women who longed to attend a wedding feast. In the cultural context of the time, it may have been that such a gathering represented one of the few opportunities for these women to meet unmarried men and thus find a spouse of their own. Whatever the reason, it’s clear from the Parable that all ten women desperately wanted to enter the wedding feast. Here’s the full account from Matthew 25:1-13:
Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. For 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, they all became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.
Jesus describes the women who thought, planned ahead, and who were ready for an unforeseen contingency as wise. The Greek word used for wise in this passage is “phronimos.” My working definition of this word is, “To be thoughtful and cautious, to have practical skills and sound judgement.” It’s the same word Jesus used when in Matthew 10:16 he sent his Disciples alone into a situation in which he said they would be like sheep among wolves.
Another key word in this passage can be found in the last sentence. Jesus ends the Parable with a warning for those who were standing before him, and for us who almost two thousand years later would read this account. He tells us to “Watch.” The Greek word used here is “grēgoreuō.” This word means to, “Keep awake, remain vigilant, and to pay attention.” In other words, it means that we are to be ready. We are to be ready for the coming return of Jesus, and we are to be ready for the very challenging times that will precede His return.
The wisdom of being ready ages well. I suspect that all who heeded these words of Jesus over the past two thousand years were glad that they did so. And I suspect that there are millions who were sorry that they did not. If the latter could speak to us now, it’s likely that they would loudly echo the words of Jesus. It’s almost certain that they would encourage us to be ready spiritually, physically, and in numerous other ways. May we take these words to heart, and may we learn as we seek God’s wisdom through his word. Amen!