That’s selfish! Or not…?
I was recently reading the story of those The Parable of the Ten Virgins again. Let’s first take that story and walk through it bit by bit. Because some things struck me…
“At that time 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. The foolish ones took their lamps, but did not take any oil with them. The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps.Matthew 25:1-4
It literally says: “did not take any oil”. Nothing… So just an oil lamp… without oil. And yes, you can light that lamp, but then you light a dry wick. It will burn for a while, but then you are left with a wick that will never work again and still a dry oil lamp… oops…
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 to meet him!’ “Then 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,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’Matthew 25:5-9
The wise girls’ answer? Very clearly: No. Full stop. Another translation says “Under no circumstances”. Very clear indeed.
Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.Matthew 5:42
So why did they say No, and how can Jesus use that as a good example in Matthew 25? That is exciting!
Well… let’s look a little further… because were these 5, “foolish girls” in need? How fair was that need? Or could they have done something themselves to prevent that themselves? And then we come across this Bible verse:
For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”2 Thessalonians 3:10
Ah, look, now it’s becoming more clear. The “need” that the foolish girls had was not a real need, but a need of their own making. Oops… And then indeed it becomes the question… should you help them, if it is also at the expense of your own health? In Leviticus 19:9-10 we also come across something that says something like “put your own elbow grease in it if you want to eat”:
When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. I am the Lord your God.Leviticus 19:9-10
It does not say: “harvest everything yourself, put everything in bags and then bring ready-made products to the poor“. No, you leave it there, and they can then get it themselves, pick it up from the very edges, thresh it and prepare it for their own use. If they don’t want to do anything themselves?… well…
Even clearer what God thinks if you harvest everything for them, bag everything, take it to the poor people, although they don’t want to do anything to help themselves?
Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.Matthew 7:6
Well then, that’s very clear… If someone doesn’t want to do anything to be saved, then it stops. Or not quite? Well… it wasn’t a simple “no” either, there is more to it:
‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you.Matthew 25:9a
Not only is it “no”, but it also clearly states what would happen if they had said “yes”… then none of them would have had enough, and they would all have “starved to death”…. including the wise girls… who had prepared themselves so well. Then they would all be lost…. And that is not an option.
Is it done with the “no” and the “why”? No, after that, the foolish girl is also given advice on what they should do:
Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.Matthew 25:9b
So it’s not a “no” and done. An explanation is given as to why, and it is also explained what they have to do to get somewhere. It’s a complete message. So although the “no” sounds quite tough, there is much more to it than the “no”.
We encounter these types of situations very often in our work. If people do nothing to help save themselves (either literally or figuratively), we too are powerless and at some point we stop helping, or we don’t start with it if we know clearly that they are not going to participate to begin with. Not only does it not help, but it is also at the expense of our own resources (which have been given to us by God and which we must use well) and our own health and that of others. We could also have helped someone who does participate with his/her own solution to healing… So a “no” in this context is nothing wrong with that. Not always easy, but a biblical “no” is good.
And are we there? Well, not quite yet….
That oil being talked about is a metaphor for something. Oil appears more often in the Bible as a figure of speech, and it represents the working/grace of the Holy Spirit that must be in you. A lamp without oil is like faith without the Holy Spirit. That does not work. Full stop.
The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.1 Corinthians 2:14
And you get that Spirit of God from God… you cannot share it with someone else. It is a personal gift to you (Ephesians 1:13) that only God can give, and you cannot pass on to anyone else. So the “oil” that the wise girls had brought with them could not even be shared. One step deeper, you are saved, by God’s grace because you, personally, believe what Jesus has done for you. Your faith cannot save anyone else and no one can be saved because of you… impossible.
And we’ll leave it at that this time. There is a lot more in that passage, but for now, this was more than enough. Never forget: “Your faith cannot save anyone else” and no one can be saved by you… impossible. And the other thing we need to keep in mind is: “Is the request for help is a real request?, pay attention to your own health, you can only help someone who also cooperates in his/her rescue”.