The Parable of the Virgins

Searching for scripture in support of the Race to Zero Carbon.

chat Posted Mar 03, 2017 by Rezwan | Category : Narrative
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Photo by Zbysiu Rodak

How would Jesus coach the Race to Zero Carbon? When I think about Peak Oil, I often think about Jesus’ parable of the ten virgins.

Matthew 25
1“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish and five were wise. 3 The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. 4 The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps.

5The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.

6 “At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’

7“Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. 8 The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’

9“‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’

10“But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.

11“Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’

12“But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’

13“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.

Most people interpret this passage as a warning not to spiritually doze off while waiting for the Messiah to return. The problem with this interpretation is that in the parable, everyone dozes off (verse 5). Therefore “Dozing off” can’t be the limiting factor.

The main difference between the two sets of virgins is that, by the time the bridegroom comes, one set has run out of oil and the other has a surplus set aside.

Scripture doesn’t have to be limited to spiritual matters. The Bible contains a lot of practical material advice. Pharaoh’s dream about fat and skinny cows was the basis of useful agrarian policy (See Michael Pollan for more).

Likewise, the parable of the virgins carries an obvious message about practical energy policy:

Leveling up to the Kingdom of Heaven

What is the Kingdom of Heaven and why would you want to go there?

For some people, the “Kingdom of Heaven” is separate from Earth, a spiritual, afterlife reward for individual humans.

For others, the “Kingdom of Heaven” could be a metaphor for leveling up in civilization, a state of eternal sustainability and abundance, a rising above our flawed, resource intensive ways of being. We aspire to having wings like angels, to reduce our impact on Earth.

Whether it’s a spiritual goal for a good afterlife, or a material goal of sustainability in this life, the path is the same.

The only way to the Kingdom is to have surplus oil. Matthew 25 is pretty clear on that.

A Cosmic Interpretation

You can look at scripture from an individualist perspective: The planet is the background where humans, the object of divine interest, are tested. After the tests, some go to the sweet reward, and the rest are cast out with weeping and gnashing of teeth. From this perspective, the virgins are individual people.

You can also scale scripture up to the planetary level. In this case, the “virgins” could be individual planets facing the energy test and the uncertain timelines. Some planets will take care of their resources and will be able to gracefully manage the transition to the higher level of being. Others will be foolish and self destruct. (FYI, this is the plot of “Year Zero”.)

What are You Doing about the oil?

When the “Bridegroom” arrives, we need to have surplus oil, standing by.

The way we handle energy now is a test, both practical and divine.

Is there “oil in your lamp?


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What do you think? Candid comments below.  Thanks for reading!

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