One of the potential reasons that Jesus used parables to teach people is because they make us think deeply about the principles he was interested in teaching us. They carry more meaning than lists of facts or dos and don’ts.
Consider one of his most well known parables: the parable of the sower (Matthew 13:1-9, Matthew 13:18-23). In that story, he compares the spiritual growth process to a sower who casts seed. Some of the seed falls along the path of the sower. Birds come and take it away, so it doesn’t produce anything. Jesus explains that these birds are like Satan and his demons who steal spiritual truth from people who don’t understand it. The sower then casts some seed that lands on rocky ground. This seed immediately springs up. But because it has no root, it dies quickly. Jesus shares how these are the people who don’t have good soil for roots to take hold, and so even though they respond well to spiritual truth, difficult times that surely come from trying to live it out, burn it away like the scorching sun. The sower casts yet another time, and the seed falls among the thorns. The seed grows, but is choked out by the thorns and weeds. Jesus argues that these thorns and weeds represent the cares of the world that choke out spiritual truth and don’t allow it to produce fruit. In other words, cares about money, comfort, status, or safety keep one from living out spiritual truth, and therefore producing fruit. Finally, the sower casts seed on good soil. This soil is deep, doesn’t have weeds, and is well protected from thieving birds. It produces fruit in great volumes. Jesus explains that this soil represents people who hear the word and understand it. They then produce a great harvest of spiritual fruits like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).
There is an overarching principle found in this story. Certain kinds of soil grow things well. If you plant good spiritual truth in good spiritual soil, good things will grow. If you take the time to be a sower, you can grow in some people an abundance of good fruit.
But the opposite may also be true. If you plant weedy and thorny seeds in the right kind of soil they can grow to choke out good fruit. Whether you like it or not, you are a sower in someone’s field. Everyone’s field has been prepared to grow something. Are you planting seeds of negativity, doubt, bitterness, anger, greed, worldliness, self centeredness or strife in soils that are ready to grow it. Or are you casting seeds of love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness and self control?