Oil in my lamp

If we’re being honest with ourselves, I think we’re all intimately familiar with make-believe. AKA acting.


We also use sarcasm a lot, or at least I do, and that is the joke version of saying something we know to be the opposite of what is true, for humorous effect. When we use sarcasm, we’re winking at our audience, knowing they’re in on the gag.


I’m about to knock those fakes in Hollywood, but let me be the first to admit that I watch a lot of movies and I know it’s all acting and CGI wizardry, and yet I’m moved with emotion when various scenes are being played out. Most recently, watching ‘Patriots Day’ I was moved to tears repeatedly.


So, can Hollywood be filled by hypocritical fakes and I an audience member be moved by real authentic emotions? Yup, that’s what I’m saying. Who knows, in the moment, the actor may actually be moved by genuine emotion.


Recently enough that you may remember, Hollywood hosted a Golden Globes ceremony. To coin a phrase by an adroit politician, the ceremony could be described as an ‘orgy of mutual backslapping’. Additionally, it was filled with virtue-signalling, an odious, slimy act of pretending that your motives are pure as the driven snow while simultaneously ignoring decades of behavioural evidence to the contrary.


In other words, I’m righteous because I have the right motives in public, manners when everybody is looking.


The revelations of misconduct brought to public attention by Rose McGowan and Ronan Farrow regarding Harvey Weinstein must have sent a shiver through Hollywood, a town built on abuse and secrecy, but quick as a flash they co-opted the movement at the Golden Globes and all of a sudden, everyone was in lock-step, advancing in a self-righteous frenzy of self halo-buffing.


It was a monumental job of acting. However, once all the sizzle is done from the Twitter trending and testimonials, how much has really changed in Hollywood?










Without being hypocritical, I like to think that I stack up quite reasonably when compared to an industry whose bread and butter is fakery. The truth is however, that I don’t have the energy for too much pretence anymore, and moreover, honesty is something that God can work with.


After all, the first step in repentance is confession.


Quite without meaning to think about it, the other morning I woke to a song on repeat in my head, the simple, children’s song: ‘Give me oil in my lamp’.


Give me oil in my lamp,
Keep me burning,
Give me oil in my lamp, I pray,!
Give me oil in my lamp,
Keep me burning,
Keep me burning
Till the break of day.


The song is derived from Scripture where Christ is telling a parable about being ready for the bridegroom, ready for His return; all ten of the virgins in the wedding party seemed on the up and up, ready for the bridegroom (it is interesting that in our culture, the wedding party waits for the bride but in this case it is the groom that is expected).


5 of them were virtue-signalling. They had no oil in their lamps.


Right-standing with God doesn’t depend on our effort – although neither is there faith without striving – but by faith:


“For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last,[a] just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”[b]”


Romans 1: 17 NIV


I am reminded of faith when I think about the commodity of oil in the parable


The 5 foolish virgins never really had any oil, whereas the 5 wise virgins did, and it was not possible for the 5 wise to bail out the 5 foolish. The readiness of waiting for Christ in faith was not transferrable to others for the virgins in the parable, nor is it transferrable from any Christian to any non-Christian.


It seems clear from Christ’s parable that the Second Coming will demonstrate very clearly who is prepared and who isn’t, eliminating any posturing or any insincerity by those who are good at pretending.


God is perfectly capable of distinguishing the difference between a trending hashtag on Twitter and our heart.


It’s not a matter of haughtiness for the Christian though; we have to be mindful and ask that He would give us oil in our lamp. It’s easy to become somnolent, dismissive of the idea that He could return at any moment.


I look at the eastern sky some mornings and am stirred by the idea that it could all be wrapped up before the day is done. And then 10 minutes later the business of the day has begun in earnest. The business of life is interesting when juxtaposed with the sleepiness of the virgins in the face of the bridegroom’s coming.


The parable doesn’t condemn them for that –  all of the virgins rested when they shouldn’t have been, but the 5 foolish didn’t have the oil. That’s the difference.

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