So yes, I do tell a lot of stories, but if people do not think I teach a spiritual lesson, they obviously quit reading before the end of each post. If I cannot make a spiritual lesson, or at least a life lesson, I don't put it on this blog. Anything else goes on my personal page, which might be every other week, counting blog links.
But let's look for a minute at the teaching style of the greatest teacher who ever lived—Jesus.
"A sower went forth to sow…"
"A man planted a fig tree…"
"The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed…"
"There was a man who had two sons…"
"But that's in the Bible," you say. Of course it is—now. It was not a part of the scriptures Jesus and the people had when he spoke it. I can just imagine someone saying about the parable of the sower, "What does that even mean? Why doesn't that so-called rabbi use a story from the scriptures?" especially since the only people who ever got the interpretation were his disciples, later, when they were alone.
And Jesus himself was just copying the prophets of the Old Testament. He told a vineyard parable in Mark 12:1-12. It was a little different from but closely akin to Isaiah's vineyard parable in Isa 5:1-7. Close enough, in fact, that the priests, scribes and elders (Mark 11:27) realized he was comparing them to those faithless people God had sent into captivity. And they were seeking to arrest him…for they perceived that he had told the parable against them (12:12). Even those people, who eventually murdered our Lord, knew that parable from Isaiah, and recognized the power of stories in teaching.
"But you aren't Jesus." Of course not, but Peter tells us to follow in his footsteps, just as his disciples did. The writers of the epistles may not have used full-blown stories but their writings are full of analogies from everyday life—about buildings, about boats, about athletes and soldiers, and a host of other things.
And so, to be a disciple, too—to imitate Jesus--I tell stories about my garden ("A man planted a vineyard…").
I tell stories about the birds outside my window ("Are not two sparrows sold for a penny").
I tell stories about my children and grandchildren ("A man had two sons…").
I tell stories about my doctor ("Those who are well have no need of a physician…").
I tell stories about my flower beds ("Consider the lilies of the field…").
I tell stories about cooking ("It is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour").
I do all those things--just like he did.
And I do my best to never tell a story on this blog that I cannot make a spiritual lesson about. You may not think it is much of a lesson, and indeed, sometimes it is small. But you might be surprised how many times the lessons I thought the least valuable caused someone to write and tell me, "That is exactly what I needed today." I'm so glad I was not too proud to post it when that happens.
So let's be careful about our complaints, and a bit more tolerant when the preacher tells a story. Or when the Bible class teacher begins class with an incident from his own life. And let's be aware of the spiritual analogies we ourselves can make from our own lives, using them to learn and grow, thinking in an eternal way rather than a temporal, carnal manner. I don't know about you, but I need all the lessons I can get to live as I should in a world full of sin.
The scriptures show us time and again teachers using everyday events to teach profound concepts. Let's follow those "approved examples," as we tend to call them. Above all, let us follow our Lord.
Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says: “‘“You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive.” For this people's heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them. ’But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear.For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it. (Matt 13:10-17)