The parable of the ten virgins - Matthew 25 - is one that can be interpreted several ways. And I will not shy away from making an interpretation that may be a little different than others. I hope to keep this short and sweet, something often easier said than done when a preacher is spinning the story. As you know, ten virgins went to their bridegroom; however, in doing so, five took adequate oil to keep their lamp's trimmed, while five were so excited and caught up in the moment that even though they carried with them their lamps, they forgot to bring oil for those lamps. We know the rest of the story. When the bridegroom arrived, only the five with oil for their lamps were allowed inside the wedding feast. The others were not only left out of the feast, when they came and knocked at the door, begging and crying out, "Lord! Lord! Open the door for us!" To their dismay, the bridegroom called back, "Believe me, I don’t know you!" My unconventional interpretation of the parable is simply this: There are many - in this life - who have and hold the lamp. The one qualification needed for the late night wedding feast; however, in the long run, while they firmly clutched within their hands the lamp; they lacked the most important element needed to trim their lamps when the prper hour of the feast began: the oil! The same can be said of many who proclaim to be Christians. Sure they all have a form religion - the lamp - in the image of a certified church membership card; ordination papers; certificate of Baptism; a well-used Bible; a degree in Biblical studies or a seminary graduate; a long pedigree of family participation within the church; all the right words and understandings, in fact, many are so knowledgeable they can argue the principles with the best of them and usually come out on top; they are deeply preoccupied and engrossed with friends and family whom they fellowship with and vice versa; they can even walk the talk and talk the walk with the best of them. Even so, they lacked one thing. The inner oil to trim the lamp when the time comes to go into the feast. They lack the actual experience of knowing the Father in an intimate way, through salvation by Grace - having come to the Son in repentance and asking Him to forgive them, live in them, and be filled with the presence of the Holy Ghost. In other words, they are nothing more than a shallow, outward shell, that never developed inwardly. But they won't know this until it is time to enter the feast, which according to the parable, will be too late. We probably know and even fellowship with many folks like this. On the outside, they look and talk like us...They carry themselves as one would expect a believer to carry oneself...Nevertheless, it is on the inside that the conversion is lacking and therefore, the intimate relationship of knowing the Savior and having the oil or the presence of the Holy Ghost within, to give them the power to illuminate their lamp when the right time comes, is missing. The sad dest part of this is, that these folks don't even know that they are lacking. Like the five without the oil, they ran to the bridegroom with lamps in hand, but when it came time to enter the feast, they found the most important thing needed to illuminate the lamp was missing, and all the last minute maneuvering and pleading couldn't gain them entrance to the feast. How sad. All the crucial elements of salvation by Grace must be in place or we'll hear the bridegroom, say, "I Know you not!" It is for this reason that I must conclude that all the inward bickering between believers needs to cease. The story of the man with a tree protruding from his eye, arguing with a man who has a sliver of wood in his eye is profound. There are way too many believers, yes, even here on this board, who, while hammering and chipping away at their self-claimed spot on the totem pole [of peer acceptance], and in turn they taken a direct hit to their eye(s) with a flying chunk of wood, ending up blinded. The truth is, while church goers fight for what they believe is the best spot the peer totem pole, they often end up blinded and unable or incapable of seeing their own faults, and this in turn hurts them in the long run, as they have the lamp, just not the oil! Every church has its cliques, and instead of practicing humility, many are cuaght up in the drive to be a part of the inner-circle. The circle that has the ear of the pastor, or those who are most influential within the body. And like the five virgins, while they have the lamp in hand, in the end, they'll find they lack the most important ingredient, the oil. I pray this doesn't happen to any of us, which is why I suggest we spen more time getting our life in order, and not so concerned with our neighbors life that we spend our life debating those who we see as lacking, into the ground.