Today’s Chocolate: Splendid 70% Dark Chocolate with Orange
Today’s Passage: Matthew 25
In junior high, I somehow came by a compilation album titled Right from Wrong. I think it may have come with my parents’ copy of Josh McDowell’s book Right from Wrong, which of course I also read, because it was a book and I was myself. But the CD Right from Wrong collected several songs from such Christian bands as the Newsboys, DC Talk, and Audio Adrenaline, built around the theme of countering moral relativism. One of the tracks on this album, by perennial Christian hard rockers Petra, was “Midnight Oil,” about the Parable of the Ten Virgins.
And today’s chapter, Matthew 25, begins with the Parable of the Ten Virgins. Now you see where I was going with this. Bam, relevance.
In some respects, that Right from Wrong CD was a blatant attempt to influence the MTV generation through music. The liner notes even state outright, “We know that you listen to about four hours of music every day. It is our hope that these songs will be ‘truth with a bass line…’” But I listened to the CD, because I liked some of the songs on it, and some of them were actually decent songs. And Petra, to their credit, through “Midnight Oil” taught me the theological term “parousia.” You know what? Let me see if I can find that CD and get a photo up in here.
But, all flashbacks to my youth aside, the Parable of the Ten Virgins is about a group of virgins waiting to join a bridegroom (who represents Jesus Christ) at his wedding feast late in the evening. Five virgins bring oil for their lamps, but the other five don’t. As a result, while these five are hurrying away to buy oil, the bridegroom comes and the wedding feast starts. They’re shut out.
It’s a familiar story that I first heard as a child in Sunday school. But as I read through it this time, it struck me: is the bridegroom straight-up marrying all ten of these ladies? And why do they need lamps in order to go into the wedding feast, which is indoors and presumably well-lit? What the first-century Jewish culture is going on here?
It’s worth noting that polygamy isn’t technically prohibited by the Bible, though I and most others would fit it into the category of those things that are “lawful but not profitable” (1 Corinthians 10:23). But with the vast array of information at my fingertips here in the 21st century, I quickly found the cultural background of the parable. Our helpful friends at GotQuestions.org cite D.A. Carson in the Expositor’s Bible Commentary, who explains that ancient Jewish wedding celebrations typically took place in families’ homes. Various ceremonies occurred at the bride’s house, and then, after dark, the wedding procession would move to the groom’s house. Carson explains, “Those without a torch would be assumed to be party crashers or even brigands.” The ten virgins in the parable were likely bridesmaids, expected to meet the groom as he left the bride’s house.
So, the Parable of the Ten Virgins isn’t a tacit endorsement of polygamy, any more than the church’s collective status as the bride of Christ is. The parable is an exhortation to be prepared for Christ’s return and not to be caught without the oil of faith. Jesus tells two other parables in this chapter, the Parable of the Talents and the Parable of the Sheep and Goats. I may revisit the chapter tomorrow to look at them. Will I? You don’t know. I don’t know. There’s only one way for us to find out, and that’s to show up tomorrow and see what happens.