Ten Virgins

This is the original living room discussion which resulted in the booklet with the same title.


Substance of Life

I’ve been thinking lately about the meaning of the parable of the ten virgins. In this parable, Jesus is talking to his disciples about lives that aren’t genuine through and through. (Matthew 25:1-13) At least one major thing He is saying here is that there were five who looked good from the outside but there was no substance underneath—no guts to them. There was something concealed. In talking with the disciples, He explodes with all of these parables to “beware of the yeast of the Pharisees,” which is hypocrisy. He is showing them that one of the Keys of True Knowledge or Keys of True Reality has to do with genuineness in life. You can kind of sense that with different people you run into. They say a lot of the right things, but you just can’t connect on a deeper level. You feel like you are standing on the outside looking in. If you had to trust your feelings, the conclusion that you would reach just about every time is, “I feel like they are hiding something. I feel like I’m not getting the real person here. There’s something going on that I can’t put my finger on. Sometimes they say things that are ambiguous. I can take what they say several different ways; some good, some bad. When I ask them about it they say, ‘No. I didn’t mean that.’ But somewhere in my gut, I think they did mean that!” You see little slips in consistency, but there is no good way to get at them. You can’t seem to touch them. So, one of the Keys of Knowledge He is talking about here is the opposite of hypocrisy. It has to do with sincerity and genuineness.

The five virgins without substance are going to lose their souls. They were in the right place at the right time, but they didn’t have the inner workings of the thing—the oil, the guts of it were not there. Something on the inside was empty and cold, and didn’t shine forth light the way that the other virgins did. Being in the right place at the right time with the right morality means nothing if there is no light shining. He talks about the eye being the lamp of the body (Matthew 6:22-23). If there is darkness within, it shows out through the eyes. However, there’s a clarity in the eyes of those who are for real. I know that’s not the primary point, but in this context, the issue is that the Key to Knowledge and the Key to Life is to be repulsed by and renounce any form of deceitfulness, leading on, not saying the real thing, not speaking your real feelings, prancing around something with double meanings or half truths or things that are half revealed in order to preserve something or fortify something or promote something. Things presented that way contain the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. That common thread runs through all of the parables and all of His teaching about this Key of Knowledge, the Key of Life. The enemy in each case is something that’s not genuine, something that is not true through and through.

There are a thousand ways to approach this. You might be able to say different things about people you don’t know very well, as to why you can’t connect with them. As for the people you do know well, you should be able to be real with each other. If you can’t seem to connect, and you were to sort through all your feelings as to why, you could reach the conclusion that you’re not getting the real thing here—there’s something missing. There is something that is being withheld. There is a double life of some sort in here. I’m not getting the real thing. It’s not genuine. Now, you can deal with just about any kind of weakness if there’s a humility and a sincerity about it. There’s no obstacle too big. But no matter how good they are outwardly, you can’t connect with them if there’s anything that is not sincere or genuine. There will always be a gap there. No amount of relationship, no amount of things that you do with them or conversations you have will ever really break through as long as there is something they are holding back. You’re just not dealing with the real person. That’s woven through this whole passage of scripture. He ends it with the punch, to beware of the yeast of the Pharisees.

Life in the Body

So, how does this relate to discerning the Body and the life of the Body of Christ? Well, the nature of the Body of Christ, of lives woven together that can’t be ripped apart, is that it is built on the foundation of genuine, honest, sincere, mutual appreciation of the words of Jesus to each other’s lives with a sincere response from the heart. If you have that, absolutely anything can be worked out. If you don’t have that, everything is worthless. That’s right at the root of what it means to have “Body Life.” Discerning the Body involves being able to bare our hearts and walk in sincerity and truth. To let the real us show through. No half-truths or manipulating and managing our words to hide things. We think we are doing others and God a favor by doing that, but in fact we are being liars by withholding truth or manipulating truth. The yeast of the Pharisees—hypocrisy—is very detrimental. The Body of Christ is to be pleasing to God as well as to be able to work together. Any relationship will be greatly hindered by such hypocrisy. It is so important that Jesus said it here and in numerous other places. You can be a virgin, you can be in the right place at the right time, you can be waiting for Jesus just as surely as anybody else, but you can’t make it if there is something cold and dark on the inside.

It is in the same context with “see to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness. Therefore, if your whole body is full of life, then no part of it is dark.” Here is the lamp of the Body. Then he goes on to talk about the lamp.

Question: Why do the ones with the oil say, “Go buy it,” to those without? It’s not something you can “buy,” right? Is it because they didn’t have answers for the ones without oil, so they just told them to go buy it? There are times when I know I am connected to my Father and I’m doing what He wants me to do. There are other times I get caught up in “building my own paneled home” or whatever. When I find myself in that place, I turn back to Him, and realize then that I’ve not really been with Him at all. I don’t want to be caught in that place when He returns. That is, “returning to go buy some more oil.” Is that what He is talking about here?

Response: I don’t really think that was the thrust of His point as much as the fact that someone can’t share their oil with you. You have to get it on your own and if you wait until the last minute, it will be too late. I think that’s the main thrust. You’re not going to be able to get it from somebody else. The people that you hang around are not going to be able to give you your own oil. You must be willing to invest in it while there is still time. When it comes down to the end of the show, you’re not going to be able to lean on somebody else’s relationship with God and the way they have chosen to live their life.

Don’t be Found Unprepared

Question: Why did the virgins run out?

Response: He was longer in coming than they thought. It says, “The Kingdom of Heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the Bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise in this Key of Knowledge. The foolish ones took their lamps, but didn’t take any extra oil with them. The wise, however, took extra oil in jars along with their lamps. The Bridegroom was a long time in coming and they all became drowsy and fell asleep. At midnight, the cry rang out, ‘Here’s the Bridegroom, come out and meet Him.’ All the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘give us some of your oil, our lamps are going out.’ ‘No’, replied the wise virgins. ‘There may not be enough for both you and us. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’ But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the Bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with Him to the wedding banquet and the door was shut. Later the others also came. ‘Sir, sir, open the door for us.’ But He replied, ‘I tell you the truth, I do not know you.’ Therefore, keep watch for you do not know the day or the hour.”

The next story is the parable of the talents. Remember that the one guy who ended up in serious trouble was the one who buried his talent. Again, you can see the contrast between this Key of Knowledge and hypocrisy. In his heart, the reason why he did what he did showed there was some laziness there, some slothfulness. He just didn’t do anything with what he was given. That is true in part, but he exposes his heart further when he says, “I know you are a hard master. You reap what you haven’t sown. I know how terrible and hard you are.” He showed his hypocrisy. There was judgment there. He portrayed it when Jesus gave him his talent as, “Thank you, Master.” He didn’t say, “You know what, I have a hard time taking this because in my heart I feel you are a hard Master and that you are unfair in other dealings. I don’t know how to react to you right now. I don’t know what to do with this. I’m liable to go bury it because I am afraid of you.” He didn’t talk about it. He just took it with hypocrisy and judgment in his heart. The same dynamic is going on with the virgins. The primary reason the five unwise virgins do not make it, and the wise do, is their light was not from within. Inside of this one talent man, there was darkness, and how great was that darkness. Inside of his heart was a judgment against his master. “I know you’re a hard master…” And he carried this judgment in his heart as hypocrisy. We are still talking about this Key of Knowledge. The wise virgins had it. The servants who invested their talents had it. The foolish had hypocrisy. In other parables, Jesus talks about the outer darkness reserved for such fools.


So again, if you had to describe why barriers are between people—some of who call themselves believers—a lot of times it is because of this darkness, this hypocrisy. You’re bothered because you can’t get the straight shot from them. You don’t know what they are going to say behind your back. You have no confidence that what is coming out of their mouth is truth. There’s a barrier there because you’re not sure you are hearing the whole thing. When you talk to them you get a partial answer and it creates an uncertainty. It’s like trying to walk on ice. You’re looking for a crack and trying to put your foot someplace else quickly. All this tension is created in a relationship that’s not trustworthy because you’re not sure if you’re getting the real answer when you ask the question. You’re tiptoeing around trying somehow to make sense of it, but it doesn’t quite work.

Jesus is saying that it’s lethal. It’s not a personality problem. It’s a lethal spiritual problem. That’s the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.

Take it Seriously

At the beginning of the parable Jesus said that he gave each according to his ability. So even the guy who was given one talent received it according to his ability.

Another point you can make about the five unwise virgins is that if they had gone earlier to get oil they would have been okay. If they had made it right, if they had filled their lamps with true light earlier, they would have been okay. So another difference between the two sets of virgins was that the wise ones prepared themselves knowing that the hour of His coming would be uncertain. So to be a faithful, working servant is to take seriously making things right. When we become aware of half-truths or double standards in our own heart or in others, He is calling us to do something about it. He wants us to get to work to resolve those things; to make sure there are no half answers, no double words, nothing lurking in the shadows. So we act on making those kinds of things right. The Key of Knowledge is to deal with that hypocrisy and then help others to do the same thing. So we urge people out of something that Jesus categorized as lethal. So that’s at least another part of what He is trying to get at here.

In helping others to see, it will take some real serious and continual prayer, which I think is probably underutilized. You can identify the sin for what it is and beg and plead with them to not play that game anymore. But between prayer and pleading with them to turn it around, you have done pretty much what you can do. If it becomes a serious matter, there might be need for two or three witnesses and then the church to be involved. But part of the value of day-to-day relationships is that prayer and pleading with someone will usually keep that sin from gaining a foothold in the first place. It is a day-to-day approach. It might escalate from there. After all, a double-minded man is unstable in all his ways. The sin will start to show up in other areas as more tangible things become evident. But the hope is that it will not get that far.

Trust Each Other

The last time I talked about some of these things was with a man who was sure he had something figured out just six months before. It was as if he discovered something in his heart as we talked that he did not know was there. He had been so sure of it before, but now, for the first time, he was seeing the same thing from a totally different perspective. I am sure he was totally confident and at peace with the fact that his perspective of six months ago was clear. Yet, at this point in time, if you asked him about it, he would tell you how incredibly wrong and deceived he must have been.

Question: What if you try talking to someone about something, but it doesn’t seem like they’re getting it?

Response: What you can do when someone isn’t seeing something is to say, “I know you are trying to be sincere about this subject, but there is another layer to this thing and I am absolutely sure you haven’t seen it yet. So while you can’t just roll over and play dead or pretend to see it if you don’t, I am begging you to ask God every day to show you the truth, the reality of this other layer. Because here is the bad fruit that will come if you don’t, and I’m sure you don’t want that to happen. Again, I don’t believe you are being insincere, but please realize there is a whole second side of your heart that you are not aware of yet. While it is evident to me, I trust that it’s not yet evident to you. There is no need for panic, frustration, depression, or introspection. But do ask God to open your eyes to it. Because you will really like the good things that will happen if you can see it. You won’t like the fruit if you don’t!” You can give it to them like that with trust, reassurance, and honesty. Ask them to pray about it. If you come across additional evidence you can present them with it. “See, this is what we talked about, here is another _______.”

There have been times in my thinking where ten different examples have emerged. “Do you see the common thread? This example? This example? This example? Do you remember how that turned out? Here is what you said in this conversation.” Over the course of two or three months, maybe ten different situations come up. Then you can more effectively show them the common thread that runs through all of those decisions or things they said or did or whatever. Sometimes understanding will emerge out of that. “Wow! Okay. Now I see it.” Such things are not always evident in ourselves. I’m sure we can all think of such threads in our own lives that perhaps we didn’t see at first. But a pattern developed and all of a sudden there came understanding. Even if it felt a little slippery at first, we still could see enough of it that we knew it wasn’t just everybody else’s imagination anymore.

Humility is Essential

Question: What do you do in the meantime while you are waiting for God to open your eyes to the second layer that you don’t see in yourself?

Response: You trust that there is probably something to it. If you assume there is something to it, it might modify the kind of positions you put yourself in or how you perceive yourself. For example, if I knew I had a weakness in a certain area, or at least had been asked to consider it, then by assuming that it has some truth to it, I would try to guard against situations that might bring that particular sin out. I would do it based on the trust that they are seeing this thing. I wouldn’t freeze up or shrink back. I would walk carefully and be a bit more guarded...more wise. In humility, I would be more careful. If I thought there was some connection between this thing I am about to do and the weakness that has been pointed out, I might talk to the people who have seen it in me and ask some questions: “Is this a situation where I should be more careful? How do you suggest I proceed if what you are saying is true? I probably shouldn’t do it this way, huh? Do you have another idea of how I might go about this?” It forces us to work through things with other brothers and sisters. Like Jacob who limped the rest of his life after wrestling with God and having to lean on his staff with his broken hip and worshipping in his old age. It could be true that God would leave us in a situation forever where we would need to have a messenger from Satan to keep us from being conceited. A particular weakness, a particular limp like Jacob that we carry with us in order to keep us dependent on brothers and sisters and not to become conceited because of revelation, as Paul said. So it’s not necessarily true that you will ever overcome entirely. You will need to be humble and depend on brothers and sisters. You don’t shrink back or seize up, though, because satan loves that kind of stuff. But no flashiness or pushing forward in arrogance either—“I know that’s not true. God is my rock. I have my ministry.” Pride goes one direction with it. Fear and depression go the other way. It would be like what the man with the one talent did, bury it because God is a hard master and you can’t take it anymore. “Poor little old me.” The arrogance, the presumption of pride is, “I have my ministry. I don’t care what anybody says. I am not going to let anybody make me shrink back.” God judges that kind of arrogance the same as shrinking back and disappearing. So basically, the quote that comes to mind is something I told God down in Texas years ago—“If I am just a carrot, I am going to be the best carrot you ever had. If I have no more substance to me than just to be a carrot in the garden—so be it. If you make me a toaster, I’ll be the best toaster you ever had. I’ll be devoted to you and serve as best I can. If I make twelve mistakes for every eleven things I do—so what. I’ll at least give you my best shot.” God will be pleased with me giving it my whole heart. Not with arrogance, but humility. I’m a learner, and I’m not going to be amongst those that shrink back and are destroyed.

The Faithful Servant

This is something that I found in Matthew 23-25. It talks about being ready, keeping watch, working, keeping a short record with the Holy Spirit. Here’s what that meant for me. When I am tapped on the shoulder about exaggerating or things like that—I need to take those things very seriously and make it right quickly. It reminds me of what we talked about earlier, about being found doing what you are supposed to when your master returns.

It’s about being faithful with a few things. Every penny, every bite, every minute of sleep needs to be from God, through Him and back to Him. The lazy servant and the foolish virgins, etc. were all irresponsible with the few things—working, eating, sleeping, they would get drunk. Fear seems to keep them. The good servant and the wise virgins had food at the proper times; gaining more with what God had already given them. They had extra oil and were always prepared.

It’s hard work to be prepared like that. We must be willing to find Jesus and question every part of our lives. We can’t simply try to “better ourselves” or live by a list of “good deeds” like the pagans do. We must listen for the Spirit, be diligent with the little things and get rid of the crud in our lives. We must demand reality and understanding in our hearts. Jesus gives according to our abilities, so we are being wicked and lazy to say, “I can’t,” or “I’m afraid,” or “It’s too hard.” He wants to give us His Spirit—His very Self—to walk with us, and not leave one stone unturned.

There is also Luke 18:19 where Jesus talks to the rich young ruler. Jesus said, “No one is good, but my Father.” Jesus doesn’t want us to seek “being good,” but instead being honest. In what ways do we feel “rich”? What do we allow to feed us and keep us alive? Undoubtedly, Christ should be our “all in all”—that is, everything to us in every area of our lives. But if we focus on good works and the like we are trying to fill ourselves and acting as if we have no need of Christ.

I was thinking that I don’t want to just do right things for Jesus. Instead, it must be Jesus doing it through me or it’s not really for Him. I need to actively make myself available. That reminded me of Luke 12:35, “be dressed, ready for service and keep your lamps burning like men waiting for their master. It will be good for those servants watching.”

Luke 12:19: (my words) I have plenty and know a lot about God. I’m doing what I can to get by while taking life easy. I will eat, drink and be merry. God’s response to that is “This very night your life will be demanded.”

Luke 12:56, 57: “You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and sky. How is it that you don’t know how to interpret this present time? Why don’t you judge for yourself what is right?” I know Jesus was talking to the hypocrites, but I try to take it to heart myself. The Spirit inside of me is able to tell me what’s right and wrong. I don’t have to be fooled. I don’t want to be fooled, but it’s hard sometimes to fight for reality inside myself and heed the Spirit’s leading.

Luke 12:47: The servant who knows his master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows. He who is given much, much will be demanded. He who is entrusted with much, much will be asked.

Luke 11:35 and 11:41: See to it that no darkness is allowed. Give what is inside of you. Give all. Don’t give God part—like the Pharisees. Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and love your neighbor. It goes back to really loving each other from the heart.

Luke 11:28: Not only hearing but obeying what you’ve heard.

Be Ready

Question: What was your biggest impression with all of that?

Response: With the virgin parable? We were talking about this the other night with a few ladies, about the “doing part.” A bridesmaid is somebody who is totally investing in the bride. She isn’t even considering herself. In an earthly wedding, the bridesmaid comes completely ready to give her all to the bride. I want to live that way—giving all to the Bride. I don’t want to get caught up in simply being “busy” or in “trying to do the right thing,” but to really consider the needs of the Bride. I know that involves staying connected to God and continually asking Him what He wants me to do at this moment in time. I seem to stay connected for a time, and then get distracted and too wrapped up in what I am doing. I want to stop bouncing back and forth. I know there is a way to walk as Jesus walked—staying in constant connection with the Father.

The biggest thing I got from all this is I want to be ready. I want to live each day as if I knew Jesus was returning that night. I want to be ready and waiting and watching, and I want to know all that that really means. I know I don’t have all the answers. I’ve thought about asking God to make it a reality in my own life. To help me see what He wants from me and if there is anything I’m holding on to. There are times I feel like things are too hard. Then I consider the guy with the one talent, and how God gives to each according to his ability. He would never give me something that I couldn’t handle. That reassures me and helps me to be stable.


English Languages icon
 Share icon