In the earlier post, Your Favorite Parable, I was hoping that many people would respond with a choice parable and their musings on why they chose the various parables which they did. Alas, only a few people weighed in, which forces me, at least as I see it, to offer not only my favorite parable but a Top Twelve Parable list. I was thinking of a Top Ten Parable list, but for some reason a Top Twelve List seemed right to me, or perhaps I should say, “seemed righteous.” Here is my list, in ascending order – for it is better to ascend than to descend (that’s not in the Bible, but it sounds pretty sweet, doesn’t it?) - with a short synopsis of why I chose each parable. Feel free to join the discussion here or at Your Favorite Parable.
12. The Talents (Matthew 25:14-30): It gave us the word “talent” and Jesus stressed the necessity that we use them. It also means, however difficult it is to see at times, that we all have talents.
11. The Marriage Feast (Matthew 22:1-10): Those you least expect might be sitting beside you at the wedding banquet, unless we are not there, having lost our spots due to dinner plans, business and lack of care.
10. The Sower (Mark 4:3-9 or with Jesus’ explanation 4:3-20): I love the agricultural parables and even if we do not seed using the broadcast method any longer, it is easy to get the idea of putting down roots and growing or withering in rocky and shallow soil. At least it is for suffering gardeners.
9. The Wheat and the Weeds (Matthew 13:24-30 or with Jesus’ explanation 13:36-43): So easy to judge, but so hard to know the truth about a person. I have genuine joy that God is the judge (see 1. and 2.)
8. The Mustard Seed (Mark 4:30-32): The Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed? A seed that grows into a shrub? Sure, it’s a big shrub, fine, but a shrub? The Kingdom of God is not what you expect.
7. The Rich Fool (Luke 12:13-21): Whoa, whoa, whoa, say that again: money does not guarantee the health of my soul?
6. The Lost Sheep (Luke 15: 3-7): The notion that there is more joy in heaven over a lost sheep returned safely home never ceases to amaze me.
5. Sheep and the Goats (Matthew 25:31-46): Pretty clear guidelines in terms of how to treat those in need with equally clear implications in terms of the results of those choices.
4. Dishonest Manager (Luke 16:1-9): I find it a difficult parable to understand, but I like the challenge it poses: God is a God of surprises and the “dishonest manager” will be commended when he does the right thing. While I find it hard to discern precisely of what the “right thing” consists in this parable, I am comforted to know that God knows.
3. Good Samaritan (Luke 10: 25-37): God’s love can be found through anyone at any time, through the smallest or the greatest of acts. The question for me is not only am I ready to "go and do likewise," but am I ready to allow the hated Samaritan to show me love?
2. Prodigal Son (Luke 15: 11-32): As Michelle Russell wrote in the earlier blog entry,” I immediately felt welcomed and have come to realize that our Father's love is perfectly described in the person of the father of the Prodigal Son. Not only was he ready to welcome me back, he was waiting for me, greeting me with unconditional love - not dismissing my absence, but celebrating my return, and fully embracing me, whether I deserved it or not!” Ditto for me.
1. Unmerciful Slave (Matthew 18:23-35): Not because the unmerciful slave receives his comeuppance, but because of the extravagant, ridiculous nature of God’s mercy in forgiving our debt; as the NJBC 1368 states, “the debt of the servant exceeds the taxes from Syria, Phoenicia, Judea and Samaria,” but when he pleads for mercy saying he will pay it all back, God forgives him immediately. That is how God forgives us and that is our model for forgiveness.
John W. Martens