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The Folly of Mindless Motion

Published on

April 4, 2022

In Matthew 25, Jesus speaks of the Kingdom of heaven using the parable of the ten virgins on their way to a wedding banquet; five foolish virgins and five wise virgins. Scholars say it was the Jewish custom for the Groom to prepare a place for his Bride (c. John 14:3) either in his house or in his father’s house. Then the Groom would then go to the Bride’s home, and there would be a small party at her house — which could sometimes cause delays if it was anything like Nigerian parties.

After the said small party, the Groom and his Bride would return to the place he had prepared (say, his father’s house) for the marriage feast or banquet (usually lasting seven days). The ten young ladies would be somewhere between the home of the Bride and the house of the Groom’s father, and they would wait for the Bride and Groom to pick them up on their way to the marriage feast — this way, they can gain entrance. If they missed this procession, they would be treated as “mo gbo mo ya” (i.e. I was not invited, but I heard, and I came), and the doorkeepers/bouncers would turn them away from the banquet.

While there are various interpretations of this parable with references to the second coming of Christ, rapture, post-rapture events, the end of the age, etc., especially given the context of verses that came before it and after it, the focus today would dwell on something much more straightforward.

For some inexplicable reason, whenever this parable was referenced (in my childhood memory), it was always mentioned that the wise virgins had “extra oil”. This was often used to teach going the extra mile, praying more, studying more, applying oneself to the tenets of our Christian faith more, “just enough is not enough”. While these teachings remain valid, as pointed out in 1 Tim 4:8 (spiritual training is profitable for all things), in no account of the parable do we find that the wise virgins had “extra oil” and foolish virgins had “just enough”. What we find is something much more “foolish”.

Then the Kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Now, five of them were wise, and five were foolish. Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them, but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. — Matthew 24:14

What was the point of carrying the lamp then if they had no oil? They had no plans of using the lamps and only took them to “feel among”, or rather, complete the packaged look/appearance — going through the motions, a.k.a. mindless motion. The result is that they had the appearance and framework/infrastructure to be lights but lacked the power to execute. In other words, they had a form of godliness, complete with looks, head-knowledge and a dash of “Christianese speech” to match but denied the power thereof (c. 2 Timothy 3:5). As the foolish virgins found out, this is not something that can be “transferred”. You have to buy for yourself (c. Proverbs 23:23); you have to gain this for yourself. It is belief, it is faith, and no one can “believe for you” regardless of how much they love you. I would rather ask honest questions from a place of doubt and in seeking answers through study, teachings and conversations, gain understanding, find faith and strengthen beliefs, than mask said doubt with mindless motions that exude an appearance of virgins with lamps that can be lit — when in actual fact, there is no oil.

At some point, we would need to ask ourselves what we truly believe and what “motions” we are simply going through — just because. We would need to ask questions and seek answers that truly ground us in what we believe and not simply go along because it is the “order of the day”, completely void of understanding. It may work for a while, but like the seven sons of Sceva found out (c. Acts 19:11–20), there is a limit to what surface-level actions without true belief can accomplish.

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. — Philippians 2:12–13

Prove all things; hold fast to that which is good — 1Thessalonians 5:21

Itoro Nehemiah

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