Jesus used parables to teach. I’ve read commentaries where people thought He did it to help it stick in people’s minds more. Some said it was to confuse the spiritually blind, and still others say it was due to the cultural methods of storytelling of His day. I’m not sure as to His reasons, but a good story does help bring to light things you might not otherwise consider.
I’m not sure what classifies a parable from any other type of story. I guess I could look it up, but I really don’t want to. I mean, what exactly is the length of a parable. When does it become a story? A fable? A tale?
I’m going to attempt to tell in parable form something I’ve been contemplating for a while now. On Sunday morning, while singing hymns in our new church, I got the idea to tell it in a story, so here it is.
In a small suburb of Dallas, Texas there lived a man named Jed.
Jed, along with his wife and two children, attended a local congregation of a popular worldwide pentecostal (charismatic) denomination. Jed had a good job at a local engineering firm and his local church was alive and growing. Jed had what many feel was a pretty good life.
Jed’s local church had just built a new building and experienced growth as a result. Along with that growth brought many new faces and lots of new talents. As a result the worship team had grown significantly in skills and abilities. Additionally, people came who were skilled in computer graphics and the skills and abilities of these people began to be utilized during the worship (singing) part of the Sunday morning services. To come into a Sunday morning service with this great worship band and the sound, lights, and computer graphics was quite an experience.
Now back to Jed.
Jed’s boss also attended the same church as Jed. In fact, it was Jed who had invited his boss and shortly thereafter Jed’s boss raised his hand during a salvation invitation and “accepted Christ”. Although there was significant change in Jed’s boss, overall he was still the same difficult boss to deal with he had always been.
Overall his boss was good to Jed, but he would make crazy decisions and implement difficult policies at work. He would seemingly discipline co-workers for no reason and was just a difficult to understand type of boss; very difficult for Jed to grow close to. In general, Jed didn’t really like or understand his boss. He thought that if he was boss he could do a much better job.
Jed found it difficult to obey his boss’s seemingly strange commands and pointless policies. At every opportunity Jed did it his own way and covered it up to where his boss didn’t know.
Jed was a pretty smart guy, though. Because he attended church with his boss and because the engineering firm he worked for was a pretty tight-knit community, Jed was careful not to talk ugly about his boss openly, but he held his contempt for his boss in his heart. In fact Jed always spoke highly of his boss.
On Sunday mornings He would greet his boss with a hearty handshake. At the company Christmas parties he would say glowing things about the direction his boss was leading the company. Whenever Jed’s wife complained about Jed working late or how Jed’s boss was treating him, Jed defended his boss with “Well, he has a difficult job and is under a lot of stress”.
Jed never missed an opportunity to “suck up” to his boss and sing his praises, just in case Jed might be the next in line to manage the engineering firm. Jed felt like all of the praises would someday result in his boss taking note and heaping a blessing of some sort on Jed. A raise. A promotion. A bonus.
All the while, though, Jed held his mistrust of his boss in his heart and couldn’t wait to one day receive his reward for faithful service to both the engineering firm and his boss. He could settle in and live a better life. Be the big man. Be the boss and finally get to lead, run, direct things in a manner of his choosing.
My family and I have been attending a new church now for around six weeks. It’s very traditional. They have Sunday school. The pastor wears a suit and preaches expository sermons from sections of scripture. And they sing hymns from a hymnal. You know, boring stuff. Stuff charismatic Christians hate.
As I sang the hymns this past Sunday I was taken back to our previous pentecostal (charismatic) church that we had dedicated so much a part of our lives to. The worship band was great. The sound and graphics were great. I loved singing and entering into what I knew at the time to be God’s presence. It was during those times of worship that I felt so close to God, so much alive.
People would weep, cry, kneel, and sway. It was always described as an “awesome time in the very presence of the Lord” and was often followed up by a prophecy of how the “sacrifice of praise” was a “sweet smelling aroma” to the Lord.
But then reality would set in. The fleshy lusts were the order of business in the church. An over-indulgence in food, spending, and sports were the order of the day. I can’t believe how many people I knew who were in crushing financial debt and thought it was normal. How many people who were severely overweight and laughed it off. How the church had to hire out the upkeep of the church. How they had to quit having men’s bible studies because of the lack of attendance.
But have a “movie night” or a showing of “the big game” along with pizza, and boy did the men come out of the woodwork.
Sunday school was cancelled. Sunday evening service was cancelled. Wednesday evening turned into a reading of whatever the current fad charismatic curriculum of the day happened to be, and even that became sparsely attended.
But Sunday morning, Oh sunday morning. How people would sing God’s praises for all the wonderful things He was doing. How they would tell God how wonderful, beautiful, awesome He was. Singing, swaying, crying, and raising their hands……..and on, and on, and on. It would last for nearly half of the Sunday morning service.
Meanwhile, whispered in the background, was the mockery of the “Baptist” type of churches that didn’t “have the Spirit”. The ones that were dry and only sang hymns banged out on a piano. We sure were glad we didn’t attend on of THOSE types of churches. WE were led by the very Spirit of God.
As I sang my old dry hymns this past Sunday morning that were rich in scripture and spiritual truths, I contemplated back to our previous experiences in worship music. How the songs tugged at our hearts but were full of spiritual nonsense. How I would get worked into a frenzy and feel good about my relationship with God. About how people thought they were in the “very presence of God”, but always left unchanged. I thought of Jed and his boss.
You see, Jed was living a lie. He was singing his boss’s praises, but all the while he had no desire to be conformed into the image of his boss. Jed wanted to ultimately do it his way and thought if he sang enough of his boss’s praises and “blew enough smoke” at his boss, he would one day get his boss to take notice.
Ol’ Jed was full of “cow dung”.
Ol’ Jed saw sacrifice as more important than obedience, rather than the other way around. Which is how God sees it.
I can’t help but see this as a parallel to our modern worship services. No reverence. No awe. No desire to see that the words that are rolling out of our lips have true scriptural meaning and that we have a desire to actually do what they say from Monday throughout ALL of the week. Not just during the music show on Sunday morning.
I also can’t help but believe that God isn’t impressed with all of our boisterous “look-at-me-and-how-close-to-God-I-am” type of worship poses on Sunday mornings when our heart isn’t really all that into obeying His every command and feeding our lusts the rest of the time.
God’s not as impressed with “suck-ups” as we might like to think.
P.S.—Within about 30 mins or so of writing this post, I came across one written by Phil Johnson here that drives home my point much more professionally. Please take a look at it.