Jesus' Parables and Our High Schools
Governor Rick Perry just signed Texas House Bill 1287. This bill means that all Texas high schools are now required to teach a class on the Bible as literature.

Perhaps in teaching the Bible as literature, enterprising English teachers will establish a course in Biblical meta-literature: fictional characters telling fictional stories about fictional things. To help Texas teachers perform their new legally-mandated religious education, I have been trying to prepare lesson plans built around some of Jesus' short stories.

He was a little bit Raymond Carver, he was a little bit Flannery O'Connor. Jesus: a minor regional writer with some clever turns of phrase.

There are 33 unique short stories, or parables, attributed to Jesus for the purpose of moral and spiritual instruction of his disciples. Here are how the first 11 relate to modern high school life for the conflicted Texas suburban teen.

MEET JESUS, A BOY WHO IS A LOT LIKE YOU: Jesus is the flawless son of God and miracle-worker who was virgin-born, crucified, rose from the dead, and ascended to Heaven to create place of total contentment for those who believe in him and follow his teachings. Anyone who doesn't believe in him or follow his teachings is doomed to eternal torment and suffering in the afterlife.

1. "Drawing in the Net," Matthew 13:47â€"50

Synopsis: A group of fishermen cast a net into the sea. After they return to shore, the men take the fish out of the next to examine what they have caught that day. They place the good fish in one pile and throw the bad fish away.

Moral: Do not cheat on your SAT prep worksheets, even though it seems like they do not matter.

2. Laborers in the Vineyard," Matthew 20:1â€"16

Synopsis: The owner of a vineyard goes out early in the morning into the marketplace to hire gardeners. He agrees with some of the men in the marketplace to pay them a denarius each for their day's wages. He continues hiring workers throughout the day until the "eleventh hour," when he goes out to the marketplace and asks some of the men why they have been standing all day doing nothing. They tell him that no one has hired them for the day, and he decides to employ them to work in his vineyard as well.

When the day's work is over, the owner tells his foreman to begin by paying the workers, in reverse order of when they were hired. Each of the workers who began at the eleventh hour are paid a denarius each, and the workers who began earlier in the day expect to get more. However, when they are paid, the foremen gives them the same rate which they agreed to earlier: a denarius each. They start to complain about their pay, and the owner responds that they have already agreed to his rate, and they should not complain about his generosity towards the others. Jesus ends the parable by saying, "The last shall be first, and the first last."

Moral: Do not make jokes about people with bad skin; someday they might work at the DMV and be able to reject your application for an identity.

3. "The Lost Drachma," Luke 15:8â€"10

Synopsis: A woman has ten drachmas (silver coins equivalent to approximately one day's wage) and loses one of them. She lights a lamp, sweeps her house, and searches for it until she finds it. Afterwards, she celebrates finding the lost coin with her friends.

Moral: Make sure to get plenty of rest every night and eat a healthy breakfast that includes orange juice every morning.

4. "The Faithful Servant," Luke 12:35â€"48

Synopsis: An owner of a house travels to a wedding. While he is gone, some of his servants are obedient, while others ignore his instructions. When the owner returns, he rewards the servants who are on watch while he is away. The servants who were constantly on watch while the owner was gone are rewarded with a dinner where the owner waits on his servants. The owner also rewards the manager who is in charge of giving his servants food by entrusting him with all of his possessions.

However, the owner also punishes the servants who did not follow his instructions while he was away. The servant that takes advantage of his master's absence by overindulging and being drunk will not expect the day of the master's return, and when the master returns, he will be "cut in pieces" and cast out.

Moral: Never, ever put a ballpoint pen inside a mechanical pencil sharpener.

5. "The Good Samaritan," Luke 10:30â€"37

Synopsis: A traveler is journeying on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho when he is attacked by thieves. They strip him of his clothes and beat him until he is almost dead, leaving him wounded in the middle of the road. A priest walks by him on the road and steps around him, ignoring him. Afterwards, a Levite, a member of the respected rabbinical class, does the same.

Finally, a Samaritan -- a resident of the region of Samaria, traditionally looked down on by those Jesus preached to -- walks by the traveler on the road. The Samaritan takes pity on the traveler, bandages his wounds, places him on his donkey, and walks him to the local inn. He gives the innkeeper two denarii, and tells him to take care of the man, using the two denarii as payment. Furthermore, the Samaritan tells the innkeeper that whatever extra costs the traveler incurs will be charged to the Samaritan upon his return.

Moral: Teachers are people too. Remember: last night they might have had a fight with their spouse or significant other, and that is why it may seem today like their genitals are made of hard crust.

6. "The Seed Growing Secretly," Mark 4:26â€"29

Synopsis: A man scatters seeds of grain on the ground. Whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed grows, but the man can't comprehend the process which causes this to happen. The seed eventually becomes a full stalk of grain, which the man harvests.

Moral: Apply early for your upperclassman parking permit in order to ensure that you get a good spot.

7. "The Lost Sheep," Matthew 18:12â€"14, Luke 15:1â€"7

Synopsis: A shepherd has one hundred sheep in his flock. One of the sheep goes missing, and he leaves the rest of the flock in the pasture to find it. After he finds it again, he brings the sheep home on his shoulders and rejoices with his friends and neighbors.

Moral: A member of the janitorial staff is not a good person to go to for advice regarding an unwanted pregnancy.

8. "The Mustard Seed," Matthew 13:31â€"32 Mark 4:30â€"32 Luke 13:18â€"19

Synopsis: A mustard seed, one of the smallest seeds in the world, is planted in the ground. When the tree springs up from the seed, a seed which is typically only about 1mm in diameter becomes one of the largest plants in the garden.

Moral: Nobody actually LIKES doing math. Pity those who feel compelled to excel at calculation.

9. "The Pearl," Matthew 13:45â€"46

Synopsis: A merchant goes into the marketplace looking for excellent pearls. When he finds an expensive pearl, he sells everything that he owns to buy it.

Moral: School is not an appropriate place to talk about religion or controversial politics. Say what you think, but do not be a bully.

10. "The Prodigal Son," Luke 15:11â€"32

Synopsis: The youngest of a master's two sons requests that his father give him his portion of his inheritance from the farm. He takes the money to a faraway country and wastes it on prostitutes and "riotous living." After all of his money is gone, the country experiences a horrible famine, and the son is destitute. He becomes the servant of a man from the country, who hires him to feed his pigs. He became so hungry that he wanted to eat the husks that were given to the pigs.

At this point, the son bemoans his state and realizes that even the servants of his father have plenty of bread to eat. He decides that he will return to his father and humbly ask to become one of his servants. He travels back to his father, but while the son is still a long distance away, his father runs up to embrace and kiss him.

The son admits his guilt, and says that he is no longer willing to be the master's son. Despite his son's prodigality, the father commands his servants to bring the best robe, ring, and shoes for his son to wear, as well as to kill the fattest calf and to prepare it for the meal. The master rejoices, saying, "For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found."

The older son who has stayed to work for his father comes out of the field to hear music and dancing, and he asks one of the servants what's happening at the house. The servant tells him that his brother has returned. The prodigal's brother becomes angry and complains to the father that he has served him while his brother has devoured his share of the family's wealth with prostitutes.

His father responds, "Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine. It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found."

Moral: A study hall during the last period of the day is a good way to get an early start on your night's homework.

11. "The Sower", Matthew 13:3â€"23 Mark 4:1â€"20 Luke 8:5â€"15

Synopsis: A farmer goes out to scatter seeds to reap in the harvest. Some seeds fall along the path and are eaten by birds. Others fell on rocky areas with shallow soil levels, and although they began growing quickly, the plants withered because they had no roots. More of the seeds landed where there were weeds and thorns, and the plants were strangled and did not prosper.

But when the farmer sowed his seeds on good soil, an enormous crop of more than one hundred times what he sowed was produced. Jesus ends the parable by pleading, "He who has ears, let him hear."

At this point, Jesus' disciples ask him why he speaks in parables. Jesus responds, "Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand."

Moral: Consider an extracurricular activity that challenges you. Remember: colleges are always looking for well-rounded students!

Posted by kevin on Sat, 13 Sep 2008 02:27:46 -0400 -- permanent link

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