Oil for your Lamp
Matthew 20:9 - Matthew 23
The very first time I heard the story of the Ten Virgins I loved it.
I don’t know if it was because I loved weddings so much, or if it was because I loved learning about the Second Coming.
Either way, having two favorites combined together in one story made Matthew 25 one of my favorite chapters to read.
Several years ago I purchased a small oil lamp.
I was curious to know how many hours the flame would stay lit. I filled the lamp to the brim with olive oil. Then I carefully lit the wick. It was a stormy afternoon, and I placed the lamp on the counter in the middle of my kitchen. Throughout the day as I did my housework I would pass by the little lamp and stop to admire the beauty of its glow.
It took four hours before the lamp burned itself out.
My children were just coming home from school, and I wanted them to see how beautiful the lamp had been. So I filled it to the brim again, lit a match, and held it up to the wick. This time, instead of a beautiful, soft flame there was a small flame with a lot of thick, black smoke.
I quickly blew it out and then tried to light it again.
The result was the same ––black smoke began to fill the kitchen.
I pulled out the instructions I had received with the little lamp. As I read through I was taught an important principle ––before the lamp could be relit, it had to be trimmed.
Trimming the lamp required cutting off the used and blackened portion of the wick leaving only the clean, unused portion of the wick that hadn’t been burned yet.
It was this clean, unused portion of the wick that burned with a pure flame.
I didn’t miss the symbolism.
My thoughts quickly turned to the opportunity we have each week to trim the blackened portion from our own lives ––to become clean again.
In the story of the ten virgins there is a crucial realization that comes once the lamps had been trimmed. Five of the virgins were lacking enough oil to relight the flame.
When I was younger it bothered me that the wise virgins did not share their oil. I wondered how they could be wise if they were not compassionate ––isn’t sharing part of the Lord’s gospel?
As time has gone on I have realized an important truth––the virgins didn’t share their oil because they didn’t want to…they didn’t share because the oil couldn’t be shared.
See if this makes sense…
If you pay your tithing and experience the blessings that come as the windows of heaven are opened in your behalf, you can tell me about your experience but you can’t give me your testimony of what it is to prove the Lord.
That is something I must obtain for myself.
The same is true of reading the Book of Mormon. You can bear your testimony of how it has changed your life, of the spirit that it brings into your heart, of the heroes you have learned from and grown to admire…but if I want to know those things for myself I will have to read the verses and allow them to permeate my own heart.
The oil is gathered drop by drop over a lifetime of experiences that lead us closer to the Lord.
President Spencer W. Kimball defined those drops of oil for us a few years ago when he said:
“There are oils that keep the gospel burning brightly. One type of oil is the oil of family prayer. It illuminates us and makes us bright and cheery but is difficult to obtain at midnight. One drop or two will not keep the lamp burning long. …
“Another type of oil is the oil of fasting. The last midnight is late to start disciplining our lives in preparation for the great day of the Lord. …
“Another oil that is not available at midnight is the indispensable oil of home service. This rare oil of service is accumulated through visits to the sick, through lending a helping hand. …
“There is another oil that all will need—rich or poor, sick or well. Its light is brilliant and increases with use. The more that is used, the more that is left. It is easy to purchase in the day but not available at night. This is the tithing oil."
"Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps.
And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out.
But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves.
And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut. (Matthew 25:7-10)
Spiritual preparedness cannot be shared in an instant because we each fill our lamps drop by drop in our daily living. (Elder James E. Faust)
Wherefore, be faithful, praying always, having your lamps trimmedand burning, and oil with you,
that you may be ready at the coming of the Bridegroom—