I’m in the midst of a very busy time of year. My job is in the midst of our annual conference. It’s a lot of work and very long days but some things are still very important. One of those is devotions. As I have mentioned before I am in the midst of a yearlong study on the parables of Jesus. Today since time is of the essence, I read a fairly short passage, Luke 15. While it is a short passage, Jesus tells us three stories. The parable of the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin and the Lost (or Prodigal Son).
These are three pretty famous stories all coming to a similar point. The prodigal for example seems to be about sinners who have been away and who come back and it is… to a point. But, and this is a key point for storytellers, speakers, writers and other creatives, context is everything. You see I’m of the opinion that while the parables are extremely important messages to us all, at the time of their telling, they were very pointed. Jesus was talking to a specific audience and it is in that context that we find there true meaning. So who is Jesus talking to. The first verse tells us. Jesus is teaching and hanging out with people who society looked down on. The Bible calls them tax collectors and sinners. Jesus is reaching out and sharing with the very people He came to seek and save and while these parables have something to say to those people, there is another group who is actually his target audience.
You see the Pharisees showed up and started griping that Jesus was talking to these sinners as if they were somehow better, and it is this interaction that causes Jesus to tell the stories. The first two appear to be about a lost sheep and a lost coin, but Jesus ends both of them by talking about how the heavens rejoice when sinners repent, one of them going so far as to say there is more rejoicing over one who needs to repent than over many who don’t need to repent. First of all in other teaching Jesus makes it clear we all need to repent, but he’s essentially telling these proud religious types, God still loves these people and so should you. They are my mission field and as religious leaders, they should be yours.
In the prodigal, is it about the prodigal? Of course, and this parable has been telling all of us who have been lost that we an turn around and go home for two millennia, but don’t miss the main point. When Jesus switches to the older brother he is talking to religious people who feel like they have been slighted when He doesn’t reject the lost. He is reminding those of us who follow Him not to look down on the ones we are here to reach and that religious pride will be our undoing. The angels celebrate and the Father celebrates and all we accomplish by being down on these people is missing the party.
Stories are important, but people are more important, so as you speak, as you write, as you craft your stories, as you create anything, think about who you’re talking to. What do you want them to learn? What do you want them to get out of your story? What do you want them to do in response?
Who are you talking to?