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What are parables?


                                   The Importance of Doing

(Matthew 7:21-27; Luke 6:46-49)



The word parable actually comes from two Greek words.  Para means beside.  Ballein means I throw, or I place.  Thus, we have to throw or place beside.  In parables, Jesus, and other inspired men, laid stories that would be familiar to their listeners along side spiritual truths.  The people who were receptive to God's teaching could then learn something of God's will.


When it comes to man understanding God's plan for a spiritual kingdom, parables are specially suited to man's need.  Over the course of several lessons, it will be our purpose to learn about Christ's kingdom by studying his parables.


"Lord, Lord" Is Not Enough


Jesus knew there would be those who would call upon his name yet refuse to yield to his authority by obeying the Father's will.  He looked forward to the judgment day and said there would be those who would claim to have taught and done great works in his name who would still have to hear the Lord say, "I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!"  (Matthew 7:21-23).


There have been those who worked for God but totally rejected his will at some time in their lives.  For instance, Aaron served as Moses' mouthpiece before the people and Pharaoh.  Yet, that first high priest was also guilty of taking the people's gold and molding it into a calf for the children of Israel to sinfully worship.  Balaam knew he could not curse God's people, but taught Balak how to bring God's wrath upon them by tempting them to sin.  Judas walked with the Lord, but was able to sell him for thirty pieces of silver.  Hymenaeus and Alexander rejected the faith and a good conscience, thereby suffering shipwreck, and Demas forsook Paul. 


The Parable of the Builders


Jesus told those assembled on the mount that he was going to tell them what a man who heard his words and did what he said would be like.  Then, he told of a man who dug down until he found rock upon which to place the foundation of his house.  Boles tells us, "The hills of Palestine were subject to heavy rainstorms at certain seasons of the year, and consequently to floods; water rushing down the ravines would soon undermine the foundation, if the house was not built on a rock."  Of course, if it was built on a rock, it was safe, just as surely as the man who hears and obeys the will of God is safe.


In contrast, the Lord said the man who heard his word but refused to do the Father's will would be like a man who thoughtlessly built his house on the sand.  In Palestine, there are numerous gullies which have been formed in the ravines by the rushing waters of the rainy season.  During the dry season, they are flat and very inviting to one in a hurry to build.  Unfortunately, when the rains return, a house built on the sand is soon undermined and swept away in the floods (Matthew 7:24-27).


Lessons from the Parable


The greatest lesson of this parable is the importance of hearing and doing.  When Jesus taught his disciples the lesson on humble service, he said, "If you know these things, happy are you if you do them" (John 13:17).  Our Lord also said, "If you love Me, keep My commandments."  Later, he added, "You are My friends if you do whatever I command you" (John 14:15; 15:14).  In Luke 8:19-21, when they told Jesus his mother and brethren were waiting to see him outside, he responded by saying, "My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it."


However, Lightfoot also used the parable to gain insight into our failure to respond to the things we hear.  There are those who do not act because they delay their action.  After some time has past, the urgency of responding also passes.  Perhaps that is why Paul said, "See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil" (Ephesians 5:15-16).  Others, like the man in a hurry to find a flat place to build his house, do not want to be required to do too much to follow Christ.  Still others, like the foolish builder in the dry season, do not look ahead to the possible rains and floods in the future.  Like Felix, they choose to wait for a "convenient time" (Acts 24:25).


Lightfoot also noted that times of testing are sure to come.  In the parable, it was the rains, winds and floods.  In our lives, it can be any number of tragedies, such as losing a job, illness, an erring child, divorce or death.  It is important to build our lives on the solid foundation of Christ and obedience to his will so that we can withstand the tests! 


Discussion Questions on Parables:


1.  What does the word "parable" mean?  How did inspired men use such stories? 


2.  Why is it not enough to call on Jesus as Lord?  Give examples to illustrate your point. 


3.  Briefly tell about the parable and describe the people the two builders represent.


4.  What was the lesson Jesus was trying to teach? 


5.  What actions could you take to avoid being a foolish builder?


--Gary Hampton, author, evangelist, and preacher training school director