“The wise, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps.”

Matthew 25:4

Thursday, 12 November 2020

Matthew 25:1-13

Ever wondered why the five maidens in the parable never shared the extra oil they had with the other five who ran out? Were they mean or selfish? Did they purposefully not want their companions to have the opportunity of being present at the marriage feast?

At the end of the Sermon on the Mount Jesus tells his disciples they are to be light in the world. He says that like a city on a hilltop, they cannot hide their light. He says that a lamp is to be put on a lampstand to light up the whole house. Jesus tells his listeners that just as the light shines for all to see, so their good deeds must shine to praise God (Matt 5:16).

Jesus equates light with good deeds that are visible to others and, seeing them, will inspire people to give praise to God.

Perhaps this gives us a different insight into this parable. The five maidens with oil – which fuels the light – were not able to share their oil as the light represents their good deeds. We cannot give our good deeds away to others. Good deeds are what we choose to do.

We make decisions every day when we choose to do X or Y. Sometimes not choosing can also be a choice. What we do, our exterior actions, say something about our inner disposition. Our decisions, our choice to do good deeds, are a response to God’s gracious action and work in our lives.

Our decisions to do good deeds are personal and we cannot impose them on others or force others to do what we do. They might be inspired when they see us acting, but we cannot tell others what they should do. The five maidens with oil chose to do good deeds. They ensured their lights kept burning. The five without made a different choice and it was their choice that resulted in them not having enough oil. They had to take responsibility, and the consequences, for their decisions.

Which of your decisions, and the good deeds that flow from them, are a light on a lampstand lighting up and inspiring the lives of others around you?

Lord God,

Help me to become aware of the decisions I make and the actions which flow from them. May what I say and do be a light to others. Let my life and example inspire others to do good.


Fr Russell Pollitt SJ

Fr Russell Pollitt SJ is the Director of the Jesuit Institute and is interested in the impact that communications technology has on society and spirituality. He regularly comments on South African Politics and various issues in the Catholic Church.

director@jesuitinstitute.org.za @rpollittsj
See more from Russell Pollitt SJ
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