Matthew 25:1-13

Working Preacher commentary is here.

Let me start out by saying I’m opposed to the very premise in this parable, that women should be sitting around in the dark, just waiting for some guy to arrive.

I know, I know. That’s not the point of the story.

But some days it is for me.

Some days I need to question Matthew’s assumptions about the role of women. Every day I need to question our country’s motives too. (I live in the US, but these issues may be relevant in other ways in your countries too). 

It’s easy to preach this text to say that everyone needs to take care of their own oil.

It’s easy to preach that everyone needs to do their own preparations. (I’ve done that before. Here’s an old sermon.)

But we live in a world where some of us have access to lots of oil and can fill up our lamps whenever we want to, while others do not have access to the same stores and stockpiles.

Oil lamps in Leshan, China

I can’t read this text without thinking about the ways I can casually explain away my privilege and opportunity while ignoring how difficult it is for other bridesmaids to have the same resources and opportunities to even make it to the party.

While other bridesmaids face racial prejudice when they go to buy oil for their lamps, with employees following them in the store because they don’t look like they belong, I waltz in and get what I need from courteous employees.

Other bridesmaids are so busy securing bottled water for their children in Flint, or in Louisiana—how are they supposed to also remember to get oil for their lamp? That’s something I’ve never, once, had to spend time and worry on.

Some bridesmaids spend their days worrying that their young black sons will die at the hands of police for no reason at all. How much time do those mother bridesmaids have to worry about extra oil for their lamps? The only time one of my kids has been pulled over was when he was driving some of his black soccer teammates to practice.

We need to rewrite this entire parable in the United States, a new parable where bridesmaids who have access to all the resources, stop it already with the hoarding. When other people’s lamps run low, we say, “here, I’ve got enough to share. I brought extra for you because I know your worries are not the same as mine”.

I don’t want to hear any more bridesmaids saying “No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves” as Matthew’s bridesmaids say.

We have enough to share. We are called to do so.

We worship a God who fed the Israelites in the wilderness for 40 years with manna and quail.

We serve a savior who fed the crowds on the hillsides with a few loaves and fish.

We follow a shepherd who fills our cup so it overfloweth.

Do we think for a minute God needs us to hoard what we’ve got when so many people are without oil for their lamps?

Okay, now that my revenge fantasy on Matthew is out there for the world to see…..where is the text taking you this week? Ideas for children’s time? Liturgies you would like to share? 

Marci Auld Glass is the pastor of Southminster Presbyterian Church and lives with her husband and sons in Boise, Idaho. She is a graduate of Trinity University and Columbia Theological Seminary. She serves on the boards of the Clergy Advocacy Board of Planned Parenthood, Covenant Network,  and the Mission Agency of the Presbyterian Church USA. Marci blogs at Glass Overflowing and is among the contributors to the RevGals book,There’s a Woman in the Pulpit (SkyLight Paths).

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4 thoughts on “Narrative Lectionary: Oil Crisis

  1. I love this take Marci. I am thinking about lifting up that maybe the problem is that we assume everyone needs their own lamp. Instead of telling people to go buy more oil, (metaphor for when our faith feels in short supply maybe?) that we should burn our lamps as a community together. If we are the bridesmaids whose oil runs out, can we trust that our community will support us through the darkness instead of running away looking for a quick fix?
    The Working Preacher Narrative Lectionary Podcast and the Pulpit Fiction podcast on this text were very helpful for me along with your commentary. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. I’m still trying to figure out if I want to use the traditional spiritual reading of this text or the material one. And I’m trying to connect it to the rest of the chapter of Matthew.


  2. I focused on sharing in general but used (& gave credit) your ending. I also told the Period, end of sentence documentary as an example of sharing from compassion. Thank you for your sharing your thoughts.


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