As we continue our study of complying with God’s Word, we’ll look at how to apply parables. Remember, parables usually have a central theme – a moral to the story. That should be your focal point as you seek to apply the Bible’s parables.
Actually, there are two main types of parables in the Bible. One type is descriptive, where the various everyday elements of the parable stand for something in the spiritual world. The second is prescriptive, that is, it makes a moral point by comparison. Let’s take a look at a parable of each type.
Descriptive parables describe some spiritual reality by comparing it to an earthly reality. Most often the Bible’s descriptive parables describe God’s kingdom. Here’s an example:
(3) And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow; (4) And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up: (5) Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: (6) And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. (7) And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them: (8) But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold. (9) Who hath ears to hear, let him hear. (Mat 13:3-9)
Each element in this descriptive parable stands in the place of some spiritual reality in the kingdom of God. In this case, Christ explains each element, so it’s easy to understand the parallel He made.
(18) Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower. (19) When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side. (20) But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; (21) Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended. (22) He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful. (23) But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. (Mat. 13:18-23)
The obvious application here would be to evaluate which one of the four major elements is representative of your life. Are you like…
- The way side soil?
- The stony soil?
- The weedy soil?
- The good soil?
You can figure out which one you are by how you have responded to God’s word when you hear it. If you reaction isn’t what it should be, you need to change.
Prescriptive parables illustrate one main idea, need, or problem. They usually point out a wrong attitude in the hearts of the hearers. Here’s an example:
(3) And he spake this parable unto them, saying, (4) What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? (5) And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. (6) And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost. (7) I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance. (8) Either what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it? (9) And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbours together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost. (10) Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth. (Luk 15:3-10)
Unlike the parable of the sower, where each earthly element corresponded to a spiritual reality, these parables are designed to communicate one essential point. The context makes that point clear:
(1) Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him. (2) And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them. (Luk 15:1-2)
Christ’s goal in both parables was to show that it’s right to seek that which is lost and to rejoice when it is found. Christ was correcting the bad attitude of the Pharisees and scribes toward Him self and the lost sheep He was seeking.
The application here is the same for you as it was for Christ’s original audience. What is your attitude toward “sinners?” Do you have a “holier than thou attitude?” If so, you need to repent of your pride.
Read More About It
Try your hand at interpreting and applying each of the types of parables we’ve talked about today.
- Descriptive (Mat. 13:44-46)
- Prescriptive (Luk. 12:16-21)