What does it mean to be a wise person? In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus ended the sermon by talking about the wise and foolish ones. He said those with wisdom were the ones who heard his words and obeyed them and compared them to those who built their house on the rock so that when the rains came, the winds blew and storms arise their home would stand. He said the foolish built their house on the sand and when the tornado arrived it would be demolished. So in this text, the wise were the people who on hearing the message of the Lord would obey the teachings.
In Matthew 25 Jesus spent the whole chapter discussing the second coming of the Lord. In doing so he told three stories, one was about five wise and five foolish virgins who went out to meet the bridegroom to go to the wedding feast. In the second story, Jesus told about a master going on a trip and calling three servants to him and giving them amounts of money based on their abilities. How they used the gift determined how the master treated them when he arrived home. The third story was about the Lord’s coming and his judgment of the people. He explained that he would come again with all his holy angels and all the nations would appear before him for Jesus consideration. The amazing thing was the standard he used in judging them. Those on the right were called before them and told to “come you blessed, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me, I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink, I was a stranger, and you took me in, I was naked, and you clothed me, I was sick and in prison, and you came to me.”
They had no idea how to respond. The question was “when Lord did we do that?” “Since you did it for one of the least of these, my brothers or sisters, you did it for me.” Those on the left were told the same thing except they hadn’t been there for the least and thus not for the Lord.
Focus on the first of the stories. Jesus’ picture was of a wedding feast as was typically carried out in his day. When a young man became engaged to a woman, he went back to his home and prepared for the living arrangements for him and his new wife. Typically it meant the adding of a room to his parent’s house. When he completed it, he returned to have the wedding feast and carry his new wife back to their new home. As he approached the engaged one’s house, it was normal for those to be involved in the wedding to go out to meet him and travel with him to the home of the bride. There was something of a game behind the whole thing. Those who missed the appointed gathering with the bridegroom missed the wedding feast. They were not sure when he would come, so it was vital that they come prepared for any delay. That is the point of the wise having extra oil and the foolish depending on the oil in their lamps to be sufficient.
In this story, Jesus is the bridegroom coming to receive his bride which is the church. The oil represents our preparation to meet him when he comes again. The fact we don’t know when the Lord will return makes it necessary to be ready at any time. The wise prepare for the coming by being those who go the extra mile in being pleasing to God. They are the same people Jesus referred to back in the Sermon on the Mount who when compelled to go one mile would go two. The foolish represent the people who try to get by doing the very least they can do to be prepared to meet Jesus. They aren’t looking for the best they can do but the least they can do and be accepted. The question often raised is how much to I have to do to be prepared, or how much must I give to please God? God’s longing is for us always to be looking for the doors God opens for us so we can do the best we can in God’s favor. The point isn’t that God is always watching for us to mess up or make sure we punch all the right buttons. It is about the attitude we have in serving God. Our longing is to be the best servant possible, not to be the one who is nearly right.