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Reading the Parables

During the summer at Lydia’s, we’ve been reading parables.  The parable of the weeds and the wheat (Matthew 13:24-30), the parable of the mustard seed (Mark 4:30-32), the parable of the fig tree (Luke 13:6-9) and the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32).

What are parables, and how do they work?

A parable is a particular kind of story.  “Parable” is from the Greek parabole, means, “something cast beside.”  They’re stories that take things and throw them together in ways that confuse us.

Parables are not allegories in which each item in the story has a particular meaning.  There’s a long history of interpreting parables as if they were, but parables are much more complex.

Parables almost always have a moment of surprise, a moment of turning the expectations of the listener upside down.  And that is why they are so infuriating.  They don’t offer answers, but only provoke more questions.

Parables relate truths that we can’t fit into regular language.  They disrupt our ways of thinking and, as one commentator puts it, “our doubt around their application teases us into active thought.”  Parables ask us to stretch our minds.


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