In the Bible, oil is always a symbol of the Holy Spirit – the Spirit of God within us. And that’s why I believe that when Jesus is telling this parable, He’s in large part talking to the Pharisees. Probably men who started out with lives full of joy, full of the Holy Spirit, but who, as they got older, ran out of flame, ran out of fire, and just simply became men of rules, statutes and rights. In Jesus’ words, they were whitewashed tombs. They were gorgeous on the outside but dead on the inside. They were lamps without oil. They had everything they needed to burn but no fuel. Nothing on the inside to bring light or warmth or fire.
This is the greatest temptation for every religious person. You have the lamp, you have everything that you need for burning, but no oil. That’s why Jesus says to the Pharisees, “You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. But these are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me and have life.” The Kingdom of God comes in waves, and when it comes, it’s a celebration, it’s joyful. That’s why staying full of the Holy Spirit’s oil is so important to being whole and happy students of Jesus.