Interpreting Parables

The parables of Christ are actually very profound. Much spiritual wisdom is buried in these treasures.

Sometimes people miss the main point of parables. I want to pose the concept to you that one main point is usually the purpose of Jesus' parables. Sometimes we dig so much into the details that we come up with false doctrines.

For instance, let's examine the parable of the children of light verses the children of the world.


Luke 16:1 And he said also unto his disciples, There was a certain rich man, which had a steward; and the same was accused unto him that he had wasted his goods.
Luke 16:2 And he called him, and said unto him, How is it that I hear this of thee? give an account of thy stewardship; for thou mayest be no longer steward.
Luke 16:3 Then the steward said within himself, What shall I do? for my lord taketh away from me the stewardship: I cannot dig; to beg I am ashamed.
Luke 16:4 I am resolved what to do, that, when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses.
Luke 16:5 So he called every one of his lord's debtors unto him, and said unto the first, How much owest thou unto my lord?
Luke 16:6 And he said, An hundred measures of oil. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and sit down quickly, and write fifty.
Luke 16:7 Then said he to another, And how much owest thou? And he said, An hundred measures of wheat. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and write fourscore.
Luke 16:8 And the lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely: for the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.
Luke 16:9 And I say unto you, Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations.
Luke 16:10 He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.
Luke 16:11 If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?
Luke 16:12 And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man's, who shall give you that which is your own?
Luke 16:13 No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

This parable is actually difficult to understand at first. Obviously Jesus is pointing out that sometimes worldly people are wiser than Christians. However, we realize what the worldly person did was wrong. He cheated his master. The point of the parable is not to cheat people. The point is to use the time and talents you have wisely. In particular use the time and talents Jesus has given you here so that He will give you an "eternal home".

As always there is a big fancy word that the religious world uses for this. If someone tries to take a parable and make every detail of it stand for something, then he is said to be trying to interpret the parable "allegorically".

It's interesting that Jesus only interpreted one of His parables for us in this manner. As you probably figured out, that is the parable of the sower. In various accounts we actually have recorded exactly what Jesus meant by each type of seed and so on.

I found it interesting recently when a Bible student mentioned that scholars argue over the inspiration of the text in the Bible where Jesus actually interprets the parable of the sower. Many scholars feel there is no way Jesus would have done this and feel that over time people have interpreted the parable and it has become accepted that Jesus said these things. I disagree, and am confident that Jesus did interpret this parable. My main point in even mentioning this is how accepted it is among scholars that parables cannot always be interpreted allegorically.

One doctrine that is taught is that there are varying degrees of punishment in heaven and hell. Part of the support for this comes by allegorically interpreting parables. For instance


Luke 12:42 And the Lord said, Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his lord shall make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of meat in due season?
Luke 12:43 Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing.
Luke 12:44 Of a truth I say unto you, that he will make him ruler over all that he hath.
Luke 12:45 But and if that servant say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to beat the menservants and maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken;
Luke 12:46 The lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers.
Luke 12:47 And that servant, which knew his lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.
Luke 12:48 But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.

Some take the point that one servant was beaten with many stripes and one with few to mean that there are varying degrees of punishment in heaven or hell. I do not believe this verse can be used to support this doctrine.

The main point of the parable is to always be doing the masters will. If you're found not doing his will, you will be punished.

It's also interesting to note that there are no literal passages that mention a greater or lesser punishment in heaven or hell. Hell is spoken of as outer darkness, wailing, gnashing of teeth, worm dying not, and so on. There is not one mention of any less suffering in any particular part of GEHENNA hell. Heaven is mentioned as being glorious, without tears, without sorrow, with God being the light, and so on.

We many times make the mistake of thinking that parables are "easy". This is not necessarily true. Remember even the disciples in the Lords' time had trouble understanding some of His parables.


Mat 13:36 Then Jesus sent the multitude away, and went into the house: and his disciples came unto him, saying, Declare unto us the parable of the tares of the field.


Mark 7:14 And when he had called all the people unto him, he said unto them, Hearken unto me every one of you, and understand:
Mark 7:15 There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile the man.
Mark 7:16 If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.
Mark 7:17 And when he was entered into the house from the people, his disciples asked him concerning the parable.

May you be blessed reaping all the spiritual lessons you can from the parables of Christ.