Most of us think of Jesus Christ when we think of parables. He used them so effectively in His ministry. He told stories about lost sheep and lost coins to show God’s concern for lost sinners. He used stories about farming and seeds to illustrate that the Word of God grows when planted in the hearts of people. Parables are simply short anecdotes using illustrations from nature and everyday life to illustrate spiritual truth.
When Jesus spoke in parables, He said that those who did not believe in Him would not fully understand them. I’ve found that to be true. Before putting my faith in Him, His stories were, at best, moral lessons, or generalized truths that I did not know how to apply to my life.
Since then, His parables have become rich in meaning. I see now how verses like I Corinthians 2:14 have great implication. “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.”
The Spirit of God is essential to my comprehension of truth. I know by faith, and by experience, that without the Spirit’s ministry, the parables Jesus told (and even the attempts in this column), will be seen, at best, as moral lessons or general truths. It will be hard to understand what is meant by them. Also, what is understood may not be what is intended.
While clarity in journalism is important, in the realm of parables, I must admit that, while I strive to do so, I cannot always make plain the spiritual truths that God is teaching me. Some will dismiss my parables as foolishness. Others will see them as I once saw the parables that Jesus told... “general truth and good morals”, no more. I know that the limitations of human understanding cannot take any of us beyond that.
Because that is so, and because parables are only illustrations, several things are important to remember: First, God did not intend that we discover all truth from parables. The perfect revelation of truth is the entire Word of God. The Bible opens our eyes to US: our origin, our needs, our purpose, and our destiny. It cuts through our concepts and reasoning and “tells it like it is.”
In it we also find the truth about GOD: There is no other way to know Him. He was first revealed through the “forefathers and prophets, but finally through Jesus Christ...who is the exact representation of His person.” (Hebrews 1:3) The written Word describes God, first as the forefathers saw Him, then the prophets, and finally, as the Son reveals Him.
Secondly, even the parables that Jesus told have limited application. Not every one of them will touch every reader at their point of need. Keep reading!
Thirdly, we have a tendency to filter His stories through the grid of our own reasoning and experience. Because of that, we often misinterpret and misunderstand parables. Therefore, prayer before reading His Word (and before reading anything anyone writes about it), is vital. Asking God to give spiritual understanding and wisdom to make a correct application may open up things that were once confusing or senseless.
Also, it is my desire that whatever I write be true to the Word, helpful to the reader, and a tool of understanding for the Holy Spirit, but without His ministry to me, I am subject to all kinds of fumbling. Include me in your prayers.