The Convicting Effect of a Parable

The prophet Nathan wants an audience with the king, because he has a story to share with him. David listens attentively as Nathan shares this account:

“There were two men in a certain city, the one rich and the other poor. The rich man had very many flocks and herds, but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought. And he brought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children. It used to eat of his morsel and drink from his cup and lie in his arms, and it was like a daughter to him. Now there came a traveler to the rich man, and he was unwilling to take one of his own flock or herd to prepare for the guest who had come to him, but he took the poor man's lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.” (2 Samuel 12:2-4) 

David is furious at the rich man’s injustice. So he pronounces a judgment of what should happen to this man. Nathan responds with the potent line, “YOU are the man.” And in one moment the heart of a king sinks and the realization kicks in of what he has done.

Here’s what William Barclay says about why parables are so effective: "One of Jesus' greatest reasons for using parables was this - He wanted to persuade men to pass a judgment on things with which they were well acquainted, and then to compel them to transfer that judgment to something to whose significance they had been blind. That is exactly what Nathan did with David. He told him a story, whose meaning David saw with crystal clarity. On that situation which he saw so clearly David passed a judgment. 'Now,' said Nathan, 'take that judgment and apply it to yourself."

My first response when I hear one of Jesus’ scenarios is to react in horror to the actions of the priest and the Levite who passed the wounded man (Luke 10), or to the older brother who was envious of celebration in his brother’s returning (Luke 15), or to the self-righteous proclamations in prayer of a Pharisee (Luke 19), or to the servant who had been forgiven his insurmountable debt but refused to forgive someone else a minor debt (Matthew 18). But then I see Nathan following my reaction with, “Caleb, you are the man.” These stories describe me and the actions I have taken in moments in my life, sometimes repeatedly - what are even behavioral patterns that I have failed to acknowledge. So let the parable do its work by bringing you a mirror into your own heart. May the words convict and may they transform. 


To His Glory,