Every time we hear this parable the same point is made—it was foolish to have no oil for their lamps. But one thing has always struck me from the outset of this little story. Why were they carrying lamps in the first place if they didn’t also pick up some oil? It’s like carrying a gun in a dangerous place but no ammunition. It’s like carrying a hair dryer to a primitive campsite. It’s like peeling a five pound bag of potatoes with no pot to cook them in. Why bother?
Does that mean the story isn’t valid? Nope. I see those same foolish people every Sunday. They get up early to come to church and sit on a pew and a listen to the preacher—but they have made no commitment to God, to their Lord, or to their brothers and sisters. They do absolutely nothing all week long—no Bible reading, no praying, no serving. They live exactly the way they want to live, and usually don’t get caught. Or maybe they are relatively moral, having been taught by their parents to be good people—not because God requires righteousness of His servants. In fact, God is the last person on their minds in every decision they make.
What’s going to happen when the trumpet sounds? They will suddenly realize they did not bring any oil. They carried a lamp every Sunday and somehow thought it would light itself or give off light simply because it was a lamp, or who knows what irrational reason.
You know that word translated foolish? It means “stupid.” It’s the word moros. Look familiar? I think it’s the word we get “moron” from. Don’t be a moron. If you plan to carry a lamp, put some oil in it. And, according to the parable, carry some extra. Sitting on the pew never has saved anyone, and it won’t save you.
What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the LORD; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of well-fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats. “When you come to appear before me, who has required of you this trampling of my courts? Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations— I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hates; they have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood. Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow's cause, Isa 1:11-17.