A Faith Reflection by Davy Wong on Matthew 25:1-13
Davy is the Project Secretary of Christian Education in the Hong Kong Christian Institute. She received a Bachelor of Divinity from the South East Asia Graduate School of Theology.
“On earth as it is in heaven” (Matt 6:5) that is one of the Christian’s mission we believe and to put the reign of God into practice here and now is the mission of Christians. In the parable as told in Matthew 25:1-13, how do the ten virgins inspire our reflection? They all did not know the day or the hour when the bridegroom will arrive, but the wise ones prepared oil in the jars to prevent their “lamps” from extinguishing, and the foolish did not prepare. What is the meaning of the “oil” which they prepared? It makes many interpreters at a lost hitherto. During the several centuries Biblicist had many different conjectures about the meaning of the oil and provided different meanings such as praying, bible reading or evangelization etc. But the most important concern here is: is the reign of God only for the wise with readiness?
In our society we welcome the wise in terms of economic definitions. According to the logic of market oriented economy, competitiveness or competition is used as a tool to define the foolish who are those with less ability, less market value and need a lot of social assistance such as job training and retraining in order to increase their ability, and market value or “price”. Recently, it was known that a hawker in Shum Shui Po who sold food that has passed its expiry date. However, at the same time we realise that it is a similar marketing strategy usually used by big chained supermarkets in Hong Kong but of course the expired goods have a more sophisticated label. We may think that the rich does outsmart the poor hawkers since they know how to play tricks, for instance, using cunning terms like “use best before May 2007” to cover up the expired date. Of course these alarms prompted the government to make a compromise in reconsidering new definitions on using certain words to indicate food security. All of the above reactions showed us that market value has not only becomes the only standard to measure all things, but also reflected that the power of decision-making in the economy lies with a small but wealthy group of people whose slight demeanour will shake the economy or the government to do something be it positive or negative. The artificial “definition” of the wise or the food security is hence not meaningful at all.
If we work together, the meaning of “not ready” will and can be changed.
Today, there is this so-called “Strategic Petroleum Reserve” in the international world. It means that each country needs to reserve a limited amount of oil for their use so that that oil production and reserves will not be speedily exhausted. Although the capacity of oil reservation is limited to 90 days, countries such as America and Japan can reserve more than 150 days whereas China can only reserves oil for a mere 30 days. To surpass Japan and catch up with America in terms of economic power, China needs a generous amount of energy sources. Given such reasons and the limitation of having only 30 days of oil reservation, China has to reply on coal mines that operate 24 hours non-stop and this often leads to countless casualties. In the parable, it was said, “I don’t know you” (Matt 25:12). Does this point to the wise? The foolish? Or those who do not follow the ways of Jesus?
When we try to reserve more oil to keep our lamps alight, but this contradicts to what God said that the “eye is the lamp of the body” (Matt 6:22). The “eye is the lamp of the body” could mean if we can see that there are people who are in need and by giving them a hand, our own body will be full of light, otherwise it will be full of darkness. When the wise refuses to ‘share’, they will be consumed by darkness. Jesus always treat himself as the least one, he said to us, “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers (and sisters) of mine, you did for me” (Matt 25:40). Base on this perspective, the women, the foolish or those who are labelled as below par by the society, are the least in the Jewish society in ancient time, so who is the least in our society today? Will the Church choose to learn from the wise as defined by the market oriented economy, definitions and behaviour? Does the Church depend on economic values to define the wise? Or do we reflect on the values of Jesus with the need to find out the meaning of being in community and solidarity with the poor or the least in the society, serving to develop and support their economical life in the community?