Once upon a time, a man was fishing from a dock. The weather was beautiful and the man was peaceful and happy. Then he noticed a boater backing his small jon-boat down the nearby ramp and into the water. He started thinking, “Oh boy, does that guy have it made! He’s not stuck on a dock, like me, waiting and hoping for the fish to come to him. He’s a free man. He can fish in one spot and if he doesn’t catch anything there, he can pull up his anchor and go somewhere else. I would do anything, just to have a little boat like that.”
The man in the boat was feeling pretty good as he fired up his seven and a half horsepower Evinrude and pulled away. He thought to himself, “I am the captain of this ship. I can go anywhere. I can do anything. If I don’t catch a fish in one spot, I can pull anchor and go somewhere else. I am invincible!”
After a while, a guy in a cool bass boat passed the man in the jon-boat. The bass boat was decked out. Swivel seats, a live well, all the gadgets, and about five times the engine that was on the pitiful little jon-boat. The man in the jon-boat thought to himself, “That guy really has it made. If I could ever get my hands on a boat like that, everything would be beautiful. I’d be a happy man.”
A little later, a dude in a great speedboat passed the guy in the bass boat. The guy in the bass boat thought, “Oh baby, that is one sweet boat. He can fish off it, but he can also pull a water skier. And he go anywhere twice as fast as I can in this old clunker. If only I had a boat like that, I would be so happy.”
Then, a cabin cruiser passed the speedboat. The dude in the speedboat thought to himself, “Now that guy has it made. When he goes out on his boat, he can stay overnight. He doesn’t have to worry about being anywhere by dusk. If he’s still out when it gets dark, he can just throw his anchor over the side and let the water rock him to sleep.”
The boater in the cabin cruiser noticed the ultimate waterfront mansion. He throttled down to take a good look. The house was fantastic. Several boats were tied up at the dock, including an oceangoing yacht, a huge speedboat, an incredible fishing boat, and a heavy duty jon-boat. The boater thought to himself, “That guy has it all. He has a boat for whatever mood he’s in. And he doesn’t have to back down a ramp or drive to a marina. He just walks out the back door, down to the dock, gets in whichever boat suits him, and goes. What I wouldn’t do to have what he has!”
A little while later, the man in the jon-boat putted by the big house. The owner was looking out the window. He had a cell phone in his ear. His lawyer was on one line, his accountant on another line, and an unhappy client on yet a third line. As he watched the jon-boat go by, he reminisced about the good old days when he had a small boat like it. “It was so much simpler, back then. Now things are very complicated. I have an unbelievable house with an unbelievable mortgage payment. I have expensive toys but no time to play with them. And I have grown kids who are waiting for me to die so they can get their hands on my money. That guy on the jon-boat may not know it, but he really has it made! I would do just about anything to go back to being like him.”
Note: One day while I was out fishing in my little boat, I saw a guy with a nice bass boat who really knew what he was doing. He was a real bassmaster, the kind of guy who runs his trolling motor with his foot while he’s standing on the bow. He passed us and we caught up with him at the boat ramp when we were getting out. He remarked that it was funny how people who fished from the dock always tried to cast all the way across the creek. The reason it was so funny was because he, having caught several fish that day, caught the best fish of the day right under that dock. Thanksgiving week is a great time of year in the U.S. Be thankful for what you have.
Jesus did most of his teaching through parables, and he was very good at it. Parables are very short and simple stories that make a point. Many parables are funny and/or ironic. They’re not generally gut-bustingly funny. They’re usually funny in a way that gets people to chuckle and nod in agreement.
It’s a literary form that has been working well for millennia and continues to work well. One of the only bad things about parables is that when you tell a story that has been around for a long time, lots of people will have heard it by the time you tell it. Some will have heard it told by someone who tells it better than you.
So, if you know a parable and you’ve practiced it enough to tell it well, give it a shot. Better yet, if you have an idea for a parable, write it up and tell it.