A 5-day devotional by Martin Smith.
Jesus communicated a lot in parables. Parables are stories that have a meaning. Story telling is common in many cultures but is particularly prevalent in the Middle East, where Jesus lived - indeed it is thought that the profession of being a storyteller originated there, and who does not like a good story!
Jesus was asked why he spoke so much in parables and at one point it says, “he would not say a thing to them without using a parable.” (Mt13:34). The weird thing is that he said he used parables so that people would not understand!! Matthew 13:13 -15 says,
‘“The reason I use parables in talking to them is that they look, but do not see, and they listen, but do not hear or understand, because their minds are dull, and they have stopped up their ears and have closed their eyes. Otherwise, their eyes would see, their ears would hear, their minds would understand, and they would turn to me, says God, and I would heal them.’”
In other words listening to a parable requires our minds, ears and eyes to be open as to its meaning. As we think about some of Jesus’ parables over the next 5 days let’s open ourselves up as much as possible to let the meanings sink in. I believe as we do so with open minds the message will get through and God will speak to us.
The Parable of Hidden Treasure (Mt 13:44)
“The Kingdom of heaven is like this. A man happens to find a treasure hidden in a field. He covers it up again, and is so happy that he goes and sells everything he has, and then goes back and buys that field.”
They say “don’t put all your eggs in one basket” but I am afraid this is not in the bible! In fact as far as our trust and faith goes it says the opposite. The man in the story found something so good that, compared to it, all his other possessions faded into insignificance. In fact he sacrificed everything just so he could have the field.
I think that we can notice here that the treasure was hidden so he may have had a hard time explaining to others what the big deal was and they probably could not understand.
As we live our Christian life are we putting all our hope, trust and faith in Jesus or are we hanging on to some other things “just in case”? Are we single minded enough to not worry about what people think and remain solely focused on the treasure?
As we do so we will find real life, power and victory.
The Parable of the Sower (Mt 13:3-9)
Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Whoever has ears, let them hear.”
Despite their size and apparent inactivity seeds are actually alive. Deep inside of them they have everything necessary to grow into a large plant or tree and to bear fruit. All they need is the right environment to do so. Of all the parables that Jesus told this is the only one, I am aware of, where we are told of its meaning - it must be important then!
Let’s be clear there was nothing wrong with the seed that was spread. Every seed was alive and had every potential to produce a good crop. The issue was where the seed landed. Jesus compared this to words about the Kingdom of God. The very act of hearing God’s word has the potential to change us - whether it does or not depends on the condition of our heart. In his explanation Jesus says God’s word bears fruit in those with a “good and obedient heart” and that they “persist” until it bears fruit.
We are all exposed to God’s word - either in written form or we are even told that all nature is speaking to us. The answer is there so why aren’t we changing? It may just be that we must first change the condition of our heat to make it receptive and responsive.
Let’s try to do that and see what amazing fruit we see growing in our lives.
God bless you as you do.
Parable of the Unforgiving servant (Mt 18:23- 35)
“ the Kingdom of heaven is like this. Once there was a king who decided to check on his servants' accounts. He had just begun to do so when one of them was brought in who owed him millions of pounds. The servant did not have enough to pay his debt, so the king ordered him to be sold as a slave, with his wife and his children and all that he had, in order to pay the debt. The servant fell on his knees before the king. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay you everything!’ The king felt sorry for him, so he forgave him the debt and let him go.
“Then the man went out and met one of his fellow servants who owed him a few pounds. He grabbed him and started choking him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he said. His fellow servant fell down and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back!’ But he refused; instead, he had him thrown into jail until he should pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were very upset and went to the king and told him everything. So he called the servant in. ‘You worthless slave!’ he said. ‘I forgave you the whole amount you owed me, just because you asked me to. You should have had mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you.’ The king was very angry, and he sent the servant to jail to be punished until he should pay back the whole amount.”
35 And Jesus concluded, “That is how my Father in heaven will treat every one of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.”
This is a big one - summarised by the last words of Jesus in verse 35. It all really hinges on our view of how much we have been forgiven. Elsewhere Jesus said to some Pharisees, “whoever has been forgiven little, loves little.” (Lk 7:47) Can we grab the enormity of how much we have been forgiven and what we have been saved from? Even the smallest misdemeanour or whitest lie is an offence in the sight of a holy God. We do not have a problem however because Jesus died to take away all punishment and allow grace to be applied to us. Eternal condemnation was awaiting us - Hell that lasts forever was our fate. This was the “millions of pounds” that stood against our name and that has all been wiped out. You now stand before God clean, white and pure. Let’s just think what it cost to buy our salvation. The vicious torture and death of Jesus - and this was before you ever thought of him with no guarantee that you would accept what he did.
Does this help us to forgive others? They really do only owe us a few pounds in comparison to what Jesus did. It really all starts with a decision. Let’s make that decision to forgive the person or people who have wronged us - no matter how we feel! It is the decision that God sees and this is more important than our emotions. When we make that decision to forgive it makes all the difference.
Go on - I pray you it today.
Parable of 3 Servants (Mt 25:14-30)
“At that time the Kingdom of heaven will be like this. Once there was a man who was about to leave home on a trip; he called his servants and put them in charge of his property. He gave to each one according to his ability: to one he gave five thousand gold coins, to another he gave two thousand, and to another he gave one thousand. Then he left on his trip. The servant who had received five thousand coins went at once and invested his money and earned another five thousand. In the same way the servant who had received two thousand coins earned another two thousand. But the servant who had received one thousand coins went off, dug a hole in the ground, and hid his master's money.
“After a long time the master of those servants came back and settled accounts with them. The servant who had received five thousand coins came in and handed over the other five thousand. ‘You gave me five thousand coins, sir,’ he said. ‘Look! Here are another five thousand that I have earned.’ ‘Well done, you good and faithful servant!’ said his master. ‘You have been faithful in managing small amounts, so I will put you in charge of large amounts. Come on in and share my happiness!’ Then the servant who had been given two thousand coins came in and said, ‘You gave me two thousand coins, sir. Look! Here are another two thousand that I have earned.’ ‘Well done, you good and faithful servant!’ said his master. ‘You have been faithful in managing small amounts, so I will put you in charge of large amounts. Come on in and share my happiness!’ Then the servant who had received one thousand coins came in and said, ‘Sir, I know you are a hard man; you reap harvests where you did not plant, and you gather crops where you did not scatter seed. I was afraid, so I went off and hid your money in the ground. Look! Here is what belongs to you.’ ‘You bad and lazy servant!’ his master said. ‘You knew, did you, that I reap harvests where I did not plant, and gather crops where I did not scatter seed? Well, then, you should have deposited my money in the bank, and I would have received it all back with interest when I returned. Now, take the money away from him and give it to the one who has ten thousand coins. For to every person who has something, even more will be given, and he will have more than enough; but the person who has nothing, even the little that he has will be taken away from him. As for this useless servant—throw him outside in the darkness; there he will cry and gnash his teeth.’
We sometimes call this the Parable of the Talents. The idea is that we have been given gifts from God and God wants us to use them. It can be seen as quite a ‘pleasant’ story and there are lots of positives - particularly if you are using your gifts. Just briefly, however, I would like to focus on the responsibility that we have, which is alluded to in the last verse.
Burying of gifts can happen for many reasons. We may not feel worthy of them or bold enough to use them. We may look at others and think we could never be like that. We may even just hide them away and wait for another time. The parable makes it clear that all these reasons are not valid. Notice that each of the servants were given gold and we must understand that we have all been entrusted will a gift. Not using it for the benefit of others is not an option.
It is interesting how the servant who buried his gift said he was afraid - but the master said he was bad and lazy. This helps us understand that even if we are afraid, if we persist we can push through. Again it is a matter of choice and desire. I am praying that you will make the choice to use all of what God has given you and when you meet him you will hear the words, “ well done good and faithful servant”.
Parable of the House Builders (Lk 6:46-49)
“Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and yet don't do what I tell you? Anyone who comes to me and listens to my words and obeys them—I will show you what he is like. He is like a man who, in building his house, dug deep and laid the foundation on rock. The river flooded over and hit that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. But anyone who hears my words and does not obey them is like a man who built his house without laying a foundation; when the flood hit that house it fell at once—and what a terrible crash that was!”
You know sometimes huge events can pivot on a single action. I have been interested in the nuclear power station explosion at Chernobyl following the successful HBO series on TV. Such a devastating event with long term consequences was finally triggered by the turn of a single switch. I feel this is what Jesus is saying here. If you will just do what my word says and be obedient to it, your life could be so much different. He says that doing this will allow you to stand when the storms hit and you will make it through, and even prosper, in them. The cost of cleaning up the outcome of the Chernobyl disaster has run into billions, affecting 1000s of people and with many deaths. We can avoid fall out in our own lives by getting one thing correct - obedience!
Sometimes we may all struggle with this concept as there can be a bit of a rebel in all of us. Let’s remind ourselves, however, of the paradox that slavery to Christ is true freedom. The closer we walk with him and the more we apply his word the surer our footing will be.
I am praying that this will be your experience. Bless you!