The Purpose of Parables
A parable about parables
What is a parable?
What is the purpose of parables?
How do parables work?
The following characteristics of parables should be observed: (1) Parables are usually concise and symmetrical. Items are presented in twos or threes with an economy of words. Unnecessary people, motives, and details are usually omitted. (2) The features in the story are taken from everyday life, and the metaphors used are frequently common enough so that they set up a context for understanding. For example, the discussion of an owner and his vineyard would naturally make hearers think of God and his people because of the OT use of those images. (3) Even though the parables speak in terms of everyday life, often they contain elements of surprise or hyperbole (an exaggeration used as a figure of speech). The Parable of the Good Samaritan (Lk 10:30–35) introduces a Samaritan in the story where one would probably expect a layperson. The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant (Mt 18:23–34) puts the debt of the first servant at 10 million dollars, an unbelievable sum in that day. (4) Parables require their hearers to pass judgment on the events of the story and having done so to realize that they must make a similar judgment in their own lives. The classic example is the parable of Nathan to David (2 Sm 12:1–7), where David judges the man in the story as worthy of death and then is told that he is the man. Because they force one to decide, to come to a moment of truth, the parables force their hearers to live in the present without resting on the laurels of the past or waiting for the future. The parables are the result of a mind that sees truth in concrete pictures rather than abstractions, and they teach that truth in such a compelling manner that the hearer cannot escape it.