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A parable is a fictious story that is ‘cast beside’ (literally) a true story, in order to achieve a particular outcome. Sometimes to keep certain people out. Sometimes to ennoble a truth so that it can be better appreciated. Sometimes to function as a safe gateway for the genuine seeker to make further enquiry.
George Orwell wrote Animal Farm as a cautionary tale to warn the discerning reader about a dangerous political system, but crafted it in such a way so as to not give the censorious reader anything concrete to apply their persecuting powers. The Bible has a part in it that speaks about the Beast in terms of the number 666, for precisely that same reason.
There are other parables that are designed to refresh and reinvigorate the faith of weary travelers. Many of Tolkien’s tales fall into this category and are deliberately crafted to encourage and inspire. I sometimes wonder if that is the reason why the Book of Esther (though itself not a parable, but a true story) has not one direct reference to God, even though the Book is full of divinity; in order to reassure a jaded exile that the Lord is still enthroned and working out his good purposes.
Jesus often taught in parables, and many of them fall into the categories above. But then there were occasions when his stories were like a welcoming smile, conveying a warm invitation to know him better. The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field….
DM 4th August 2020