Parables

 

His disciples asked him what this parable meant. He said, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables

Luke 8

A parable is a short fictitious story that illustrates a moral attitude or a religious principle. Jesus often spoke in parables (46 of them in all). His parables often use humble imagery and are often paradoxical. Being short and memorable they were appropriate for an oral culture. Well known examples are the parables of the Good Samaritan of the Prodigal Son.

At this page we provide a few modern stories or parables that can be useful when discussing the predicaments and dilemmas that we face.

The Parable of the Green Car

Electric automobile charging

Credit: Unsplash

The Parable of the Blind Golfers

Credit: Daily Mail

A priest, a doctor and an engineer are playing a round of golf. All is going well until they reach a group ahead of them who are playing badly and slowly.

 

They ask the greens-keeper why this group is playing so slowly. He replied, “These men are firefighter heroes. They all lost their eyesight while rescuing children from burning buildings — they are totally blind. In recognition of their service we allow them to play here for free.”

 

The priest says, “What heroes. I will offer prayers of gratitude for their sacrifice and I will pray for their recovery. I will also look for resources to make their lives more comfortable.”

 

They turn to the doctor who says, “There have been big advances in eye surgery recently. I will contact some ophthalmologists that I know; they may be able to offer medical help.”

 

They then all look at the engineer who says, “Why don’t they play at night?”

This parable appears to point to the foolishness of the engineer and his lack of empathy. He sees a way to speed up the golf game, but he fails to recognize the human side of the situation. He does not understand that the way in which we treat others is just as important as problem solving.

 

And yet . . . the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Matthew 21) appears at first to be about the young man who wastes his fortune, and then returns to his father for forgiveness and acceptance. But a deeper reading of the parable soon makes us consider the other actors in the drama: the older brother and the father. How do we interpret their actions? Is the parable really “about” the young man, or is it about his father and brother? There is no answer — that is the nature of parables, they make us think.

 

So it is with the golfers in this story. Is it about the engineer, or does it really tell us more about the doctor and the priest? Both the doctor and the engineer look for solutions. The doctor will try to mend the eyesight of the blind men, the engineer thinks of ways to speed up the golf game. But what is the priest doing to improve the situation?

 

As we say repeatedly at this site, ecological, environmental and resource predicaments are bearing down on us. Time is pressing. Science (the doctor) and technology (the engineer) may be able to help us reduce the pace of change and/or reduce the impact. But they cannot change the overall trajectory. They cannot provide solutions.

 

The challenge for the priest in the story, and for the church in our world in its current state, is to develop responses that neither the scientist or the engineer can offer.