Author: Ron Graham
Such Great Mistakes
—Parables that Jesus told
Our first lesson in this series looked at Seven Themes which run through the various parables that Jesus told. Now, in this second lesson we consider another theme evident in many of the parables, namely the great and terrible mistakes that people make.
These mistakes relate of course to the seven themes that our previous lesson outlined.
The parables that Jesus told often portray people making tragic and terrible mistakes, or on the other hand, being wise and avoiding such mistakes. People generally seem blind to the terrible mistakes they are making in life.
Christ’s poignant stories so vividly show up these mistakes, that it is hard to remain blind once the point of a parable sinks in —if only you will let it. A burden of Jesus's teaching is to enlighten humankind, to help us realise the mistakes we have made, and how we can overcome them.
Usually the wisdom of our times tells us that the mistakes we are making are things like not thinking positive, not managing our time and money, not practising meditation and relaxation, not planting trees, or not giving up smoking.
Those, and a hundred other things, may well be serious mistakes, but they do not compare with the enormity of mistakes made on a spiritual level. These mistakes are utterly simple. Even a child can understand them. Yet people go on making them whether blindly or deliberately.
Examples in the Parables
Let's look at some examples of how the parables point out the great mistakes. You may think of other examples, and even other great mistakes and failures, nevertheless the four below will be sufficient to give a general picture.
1 Not accepting God's kind invitation
The Excuse Makers (Luke 14:16-24)
God has kindly invited us to partake of eternal life in his heavenly kingdom (Revelation 22:17), and it would be a terrible mistake to knock back that invitation, for we have no real excuse to do so.
Jesus likened this mistake to people's response when the head of a household put on a big banquet and invited many to come. Everyone turned him down and made flimsy excuses. This made the man angry and he withdrew his gracious invitation to them.
2 Not hearing and doing God's word
The Two Builders (Luke 6:46-49)
Jesus Christ is "the true God and eternal life" and he "enlightens every man" (1John 5:20, John 1:9). We would be foolish not to listen to Jesus and do what he says.
Jesus told a parable in which he pointed out that to come to him, hear his word, and act upon it, is like wisely building a house on a rock foundation. To be without this foundation is a terrible mistake, and will lead to disaster.
3 Failing to see the sin in oneself
The Foolish Pharisee (Luke 18:9-14)
The Bible says, "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" and one can be justified only through Jesus Christ (Romans 3:23-24). Most people, however, don't realise this. Many think they are righteous enough on their own to satisfy God.
To point out this fatal mistake, Jesus pictures a Pharisee in prayer next to a tax gatherer also in prayer. The Pharisee's prayer was self-righteous, prideful, and greatly mistaken. The result was that he was not justified (made right). The sin he did not recognise in himself condemned him in God's eyes.
4 Not getting ready for the judgment
The Rich Fool (Luke 12:16-21)
The Bible says, "It is appointed unto man once to die, and after this comes the judgment" at Christ's second coming (Hebrews 9:27-28). Our first priority in life should be to prepare for this appointment, for we could be called to it at any moment.
Tragically, most people make no such provision, and live as though death is not a reality. They put their time and effort into the comforts of this life and thus miss out on all the joys of Heaven. Jesus told a simple story of a farmer busy gathering into barns more and more goods, unaware that he had only hours to live
1. What great mistake is illustrated by a parable about excuses?
2. What great mistake is illustrated by a parable about a Pharisee praying?
3. What great mistake is illustrated by a parable about a farmer who gathered much into his barns?
4. What great mistake is illustrated by a parable about two builders?
5. To what other aspect of the parables are these great mistakes related?