Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered outside the gate.  Therefore, let us go forth to him outside the camp, bearing his reproach.  For we have no continuing city here, but we seek one to come.


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Gospel Tract #56

The Wise and the Foolish

by John D. Clark, Sr.

The kingdom of heaven at that time will be like ten virgins, who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were wise, and the other five, foolish. Those who were foolish took their lamps without taking oil with them, but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. When the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep. But in the middle of the night, a loud cry was made: ‘Behold! The bridegroom is coming! Go out to meet him!’ At that, all those virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. Then the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil because our lamps are going out!’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘No, lest there not be enough for us and you. Go instead to those who sell, and buy some for yourselves.’ And while they were gone to buy oil, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding feast, and the door was shut. Later, the other virgins also came, saying, ‘Lord! Lord! Open up for us!’ But he answered and said, ‘Truly, I tell you, I do not know you.’ Watch, therefore, for you don’t know the day or the hour.

The only difference between the Wise and the Foolish was that the five Wise Virgins took with them an extra vessel filled with oil. If you had been looking on at this scene, you would not have seen two groups; you would only have seen one group of ten virgins, and you might not even have noticed that some carried an extra vessel while others did not.

Consider how similar the Wise and Foolish were. They all knew (1) the bridegroom was coming, (2) when he would arrive, (3) where to meet him (4) lamps would be needed, and (5) they all grew tired and fell asleep.

The fact that the Wise Virgins took an extra vessel filled with oil along with their lamps shows that they were thinking something that the Foolish were not thinking – and their thinking had to do with the bridegroom.

The truth which the Wise recognized about the bridegroom was his absolute freedom to do whatever he pleased to do, in every situation. The Wise acknowledged the bridegroom’s liberty to do whatever he pleased to do, even to do other than what he had said he would do, if that pleased him. They spent money on extra oil which the Foolish did not spend, and they made the extra effort, which the Foolish did not make, to carry the additional load of oil to the place where the bridegroom told them to meet him because they knew him. The extra vessels were an expression of submission to him; by taking those vessels on their journey to meet the bridegroom, they were saying to him, “We are your slaves, and you are our master. We do only what pleases you; and you do only what pleases you, too.”

The Foolish Virgins acknowledged the bridegroom’s authority to give them commandments. They submitted completely to his command to meet him at that certain time and place. They did exactly what he told them to do – but they did nothing else because they did not see him as sovereign and free to do only what pleased him but as obligated to do as he said he would do. If he said it, they thought, then he had to do it. Both the Foolish and the Wise were obedient. They all came to the place where the bridegroom had commanded them to meet him, at the time he commanded them to be there. But the Foolish did not acknowledge the bridegroom’s liberty to alter his plans; had they acknowledged that, they would have brought some extra oil.

The Foolish Virgins would have described the bridegroom as faithful to them. The Wise would have described him as being faithful to himself. The Foolish pinned all their hope on what he had said. The Wise pinned all their hope on him. The Foolish trusted his words completely. They would have claimed, as a popular phrase goes, that they were “standing on the word”. But the Wise trusted him completely. They were standing on knowledge of the Word himself. The Foolish knew what he had said, but the Wise knew him who said it. The Foolish knew his words, trusted his words, and staked their lives on his words, but the Wise knew him, trusted him, and staked their lives on him. The Foolish trusted the bridegroom to do whatever he said he would do. The Wise trusted him to do whatever he wanted to do.

The Foolish knew and trusted the what, and the Wise knew and trusted the who. In reality, then, the Wise Virgins were going out to meet a different master from the one the Foolish were going out to meet. The Foolish were going out to meet a master of their own imagination. The Wise were going out to meet the master who really was.

With one exception, everything that the Foolish did, the Wise did also. But Jesus called them Foolish because of what they did not do. They did not bring extra oil. And they did not bring extra oil because they did not know the bridegroom. In John 17:3, Jesus prayed, “This is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” May God grant us all the grace to truly know Him and His Son, and to live with them forever in peace.

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