The Ten Virgins

Plenty of Oil

At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. … 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, 3-4

Jewish weddings in the time of Jesus began when the bridegroom and his friends proceeded with joyous celebration from his house or the house of his father to the bride’s house. There they were joined by the bride, her family, and her friends; the whole group then returned to the other house for the ceremony. This usually took place in the evening, and the procession of lamps and sound of merriment filled the darkness for miles.

The young women in Jesus’ parable of the Ten Virgins were eagerly waiting for the bridegroom to come and take them toten-virgins-2 the wedding (Matthew 25:1-13). They’d received their invitations and had accepted gladly. However, when the bridegroom was delayed and came much later than expected, five women found they’d foolishly forgotten to bring extra oil for their lamps. They begged the other five to share their oil, but they couldn’t do that—the oil would run out.

The foolish virgins ran to buy oil and hurried to the wedding. Unfortunately, by the time they arrived, the door had been locked and no one else would be admitted. Jesus ended his parable with these words to those who were shut out, “Truly I tell you, I don’t know you. Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour” (v. 13).

The context of the parable is part of Jesus’ discussion with the Scribes and Pharisees about the end of time and about Jesus’ second coming (Matthew 24-25). Jesus had warned about false messiahs and false signs (24:1-36). In this parable, Jesus warned about false security—people who assume they’ll be welcomed into the Kingdom of God, but who won’t be.

All ten virgins thought they were ready, but when bridegroom came, five lacked oil. Jesus tied the oil to his knowing them. It’s not enough to say a prayer and “accept” the invitation. A true believer lives a life of personal relationship with Jesus, of repentance and renewal in the Spirit, of receiving Jesus’ righteousness, of spending time with him in prayer.

Will you have enough oil when you face Jesus? Will he say, “I don’t know you”?


Read the parable in Matthew 25:1-13. What warnings can be found for the saved (wise) and the unsaved (foolish)?

How can you know that you’ll enter the kingdom of heaven? What are some signs to look for found in Matthew 7:17-23?

What characteristics and actions are linked to readiness in 1 Peter 3:15-17 and Titus 3:1-2? Do you consider yourself ready for Christ’s return? Why or why not?

See two other parables on wisdom and foolishness: The Rich Fool and  Build.

Nancy J. Baker

This devotion is part of a series, The Parables.


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