We rely on the parables of Jesus… and in many ways, rightly so. As God’s Word, and the words of our Savior and example, the 50 some parables of Christ should provide a foundation from which much of our Christian thought and practice is built off of . But that does not mean that the parables of Jesus set the limits on our use of analogy, simile, metaphor in expresses ethical and spiritual thought.
As we reach out to a secularized (and sometimes hostile) world, we need to learn to express great truths that challenge the norm, in the form of stories that appear (at first to be) harmless.
Often the best stories to do this are children’s stories. Children’s stories seem harmless, so they are often accepted with less skepticism. Additionally, a good children’s story can teach many different ages. They may be effective with a simple moral for children, but have deeper relevance as one gets older.
Often the best stories are “secular” stories. We expect Christian stories to preach to us. People are less likely to presume that a story without a Christian tagline may hit us where it hurts.
Here are a couple of my favorite secular children’s parables.
1. “The Giving Tree“, by Shel Silverstein, Harper and Row. This is familiar to many people. It was first published in 1964, and is still around. For a child, it expresses selfless love. This same message applies to adults. However, the message may even be stronger for adults who have greater experience with selfishness and love with conditions. Adults can compare the actions of “the boy” with that of the tree, and with their own actions and relationships. The story can be taken further to consider sacrificial love in terms of Jesus.
2. Stone Soup. This is an old folktale, that was the basis of a book by Marcia Brown in 1945. It is one of my favorites. For children, it can simply be a funny story about the values of generosity and teamwork. For adults it can go further.
-I have used in in missions fund-raising to demonstrate that God can do great things with what is little and seemingly useless. Once again, the idea of generosity and teamwork is included.
-The challenging concept of “catalyst” can be shown in two ways. First in terms of the traveller, and second in terms of the stones placed in the soup.
If you have other examples… why don’t you add them here????