28 October 2013

thoughts from sunday.

This week in Sunday School the lesson was on Self-Reliance.  This is a topic that has always confused me in our church because more frequent than the lessons on self-reliance are the lessons on bearing each other's burdens and home and visiting teaching and service.  My brain thinks these ideas contradict each other just a little bit.

Yesterday, when I sat in class thinking about the seemingly contradictory principles trying to reconcile them both, I remembered another story that also seemed to be contradictory to our principles.

It's the story of the Ten Virgins from the Old Testament.  As a little kid in Primary, it seemed an awful lot like the moral of this story was something like "don't help them, no sharing, leave them behind!!"  And how wrong did that seem?  My primary brain did not like this moral of the story.

But recently I've tried to study it a little more and I think I've decided on a new moral that I am more comfortable with.  In the parable, the bridegroom is almost literally (well, as literal as you can get in a parable) in the presence of each of the virgins.  He is there, the time for the ten women to meet him has come, and there is no time to scramble or ask for oil.

I think, if the parable had started out a year, or even a week before the bridegroom came, the five virgins who where prepared would have happily shared their oil.  We have always been taught that sharing our testimony (a common explanation for what the oil in the story is) with others strengthens our own, and helping others is also a blessing to us.  And I think the reason they didn't share their oil is less because their wouldn't be enough for themselves, but it's more that there wouldn't be enough to sustain the five who were unprepared.  They would only make it so far on borrowed oil.

Today you can only make it so far on someone else's testimony, belief system, or charity. If you want their help to be sustaining, you have to take what they're teaching you and develop it on your own.  If you ask someone to share their oil with you (or whatever you are asking of them), you better be prepared to learn how to cultivate it on your own, or else you have only wasted your own time.

I think now is the acceptable time to help everyone we can.  Now is when we teach and serve and share oil with each other, but in a way that is genuinely helpful.  We build everyone up to be prepared for the arrival of the bridegroom in the hopes that when he is there in front of us, we are all prepared with our own oil and we don't have to leave anyone behind.  I really believe that the five virgins who were able to go to the marriage with the bridegroom where genuinely sad that the other five could not be with them, and if there had been more time they would have done anything to help them.

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