A Tale of Two People
By: Dan Wetzel
Speaker & Personal Coach

In A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens depicts life in London and Paris by beginning the novel “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”  As we enter 2009, I wonder how many people embrace the attitude of “it is the best of times” versus that of the alternative “it is the worst of times?”


With the coming of a new year, there inevitably seems to be two distinct groups of people, those who set resolutions or goals and those that do not.  There are people who plan and prepare for a new year as best they can, while others simply take the approach “whatever happens, happens.”


In Matthew 25, Jesus is addressing his disciples in what has become known as the Olivet Discourse and gives a very similar illustration or word picture of two distinct kinds of people…foolish and wise.


In versus 1-13 Jesus tells his disciples the parable of the ten virgins (bridesmaids) who went out to meet the bridegroom at night.  The five who were foolish went with no oil while the five who where wise took extra oil.  When announced that the bridegroom was about to arrive, the five foolish realize they have no oil and therefore ask the others to give them some.  Their request is denied and are sent off to purchase their own.  While away, the bridegroom returns and enters the wedding feast with the wise.  When the foolish return, they are shut out forever.


The context of this passage is that Jesus is equating this parable to the Kingdom of Heaven and sternly warns his disciples to be ready and prepared for the day of His return - which only the Father in Heaven knows.  While scripture has only one true interpretation, there can be many applications.  So here are a few observations to keep in mind as you make choices throughout the New Year.


Mutual Characteristics


1.      All were virgins (bridesmaids). (v. 1) Each one thought they were going to be spending the night at the same location, surrounded by the same acquaintances and eating off the same menu.

2.     All had lamps. (v. 4-5) Each person was equipped with a source of light, which if properly maintained and operated, would provide guidance through the darkness of night.

3.     All became drowsy. (v. 5) Each person was subjected to the challenge of having to wait around for the groom.  Waiting can be frustrating, especially for a special occasion and being late at night had no respecter of persons.

4.     All fell asleep. (v. 5) Each person took the time to rest and make the most of their wait time.

5.     All trimmed their lamps. (v. 7) When the announcement is made that the groom is about to arrive, each bridesmaid tries to ready her lamp.


Characteristics of the Foolish


1.     Took no oil. (v. 3) In other words, they did not anticipate any challenges and went out unprepared.

2.     Had a “give me” mentality. (v. 8a) When they realize they did not bring with them the necessary items (extra oil) to meet the challenge (of having to wait longer than anticipated) they ask the others for their oil.  They were not interested in planning ahead or doing the work themselves, they thought they could just rely on others to get by.

3.     They had excuses. (v. 8b) Self-pity did not get them what they lacked.

4.     Left out. (v.11) They lacked what was truly needed and therefore missed out on the opportunity when it presented itself.


Characteristics of the Wise


  1. Took oil. (v.4) Were diligently prepared for the challenge and setback that awaited them.
  2. Guided by principle. (v. 9a) They were not about to be taken advantage of, manipulated, bullied or pushed around by those who did not do their own work. They knew they were prepared and boldly stood on principle.
  3. Voice of Reason. (v. 9b) Rather than give some weak defense for which they stood, their response was well thought out and offered a solution to the problem.
  4. Rewarded for Readiness. (v. 10) Because they were prepared and ready for the groom, when he did arrive, they were rewarded with entrance into the feast.




There are two kinds of people in this world, those who are wise and those who are fools.  All of us have been given the gift of life.  All of us, who have received the gift of salvation and call ourselves followers of Christ, await His glorious return. All of us have been given the necessary tools to live while we wait.  All of us have challenges and obstacles in life that we must face.  All of us at times become weary, tired and in need of rest.  We all have a choice…will we plan, prepare and maximize the opportunities God places before us, or will we act foolishly and be caught ill equipped and ill prepared?  How about you this year?  Will you take the time to develop and strengthen Godly disciplines and habits?  Will you daily clothe yourself in the full armor of God or will you have a “wait and see” mentality and when the trials of life come or worse - when Christ returns - be found with no oil in your lamp?


If you find yourself having little or no “oil” (spiritual energy and stamina) in your lamp, call upon the Heavenly Father - that His spirit may be poured out abundantly into you this year for the sake of His glory.  A good place to start would be by reading and meditating on Psalm 1.  Remember, God is most glorified in you when you are most satisfied in him!


Let’s all treasure Christ supremely in 2009!