Parables about the Kingdom of Heaven

Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52

     There’s enough material in these five parables that you could write ten sermons. It took me four chapters to explain different ways you might interpret them in my newest ebook, In Living Color: Heaven. Here are some exerpts:

Mustard SeedFrom Chp. 6 – Like a Weed

…In second-century Jewish Palestine, mustard was the stepbrother to kudzu in our age. It was forbidden to plant mustard seed in a garden because of its disruptive impact on the orderliness of the garden. It would spread and invade every part of the planted area.

Today mustard is beneficial in small quantities, and there’s some evidence it’s good for your health. But it grows wild. It’s not a farm crop. Once it’s sown, you can hardly get rid of it. Like a weed, mustard seeds grow quickly and can take over an area.

That’s why it seems odd that Jesus compared the kingdom of the heavens to a mustard seed. Why didn’t he pick a tulip or a rose—something beautiful and aromatic that matches our visions of the afterlife? Rarely would anyone think of heaven as a nuisance plant.

A popular religion writer today says the mustard plant is a pungent shrub with dangerous takeover qualities. Something you would want only in small and carefully controlled doses—if you could control it.”

Why would anyone think the kingdom of God needs to be kept under control?

Because some people believe power, recognition, and material possessions are more desirable than bringing unity and joy to all people. The kingdom of the heavens is the movement toward the harmonious working of all things, visible and invisible, in the atmosphere and on earth.

Institutionalized religion evolved from a small garden in the backyard into a fifty-thousand-acre commercial farm. Like institutionalized agriculture, institutionalized religion feeds and cares for many people. It’s orderly and beautiful. Perfectly spaced rows of rules, rituals, and systematic theologies line the fields. Traditional concepts are planted in our minds, nurtured and protected from invasion by noxious weeds and disease. It’s a valiant effort to try to keep us safe. Bless them.

Yet to express an opinion different than the prevailing notion is not received well by those who defend the institution. The name of one popular weed-killer is “Heresy-Be-Gone”…

From Chp. 7 – Leaven

…To improve a mixture of flour and water, to expand and sweeten the flavor of the loaf, you need a living agent added to the mix. A Christian might say this agent is the “gospel,” or the “good news of a loving God.” An employee might suggest it is words that breathe a spirit of love, goodness, or unity throughout the organization. A teenager might respond to compliments and encouragement. Positive words lift and add flavor.

One-time affirmations do little when they are overwhelmed by regulation and criticism. They also need to be born of compassion and honesty. If you don’t believe your child or employee has potential, they’ll see right through the façade. Your words—no matter if they are good or critical—are like yeast. They will influence, positively or negatively, the dough into which you pound them. Your child, your spouse, your organization will become what you infuse into them.

What you want is for the aroma of leavened bread to surround you and your group—an aroma that draws people toward unity and harmonious working together like bees to a rose blossom or policemen to a Krispy Kreme donut shop…

From Chp. 8 – Hidden Treasure

…There’s a part of this parable that used to bother me. Once he found the treasure, the man buried it again so no one else would discover it. It sounded like the man had deceived the land owner. I wasn’t comfortable with the thought of duping someone out of the kingdom by deception. Shouldn’t the man have let the owner of the field know what he had found there?

Ten years after I risked everything to possess the treasure of operating my own business, I no longer viewed the “treasure” in the same way. The business had become burdensome to me. Yet someone with new hopes and a vision for new life recognized the value that remained in that business. One man’s burden became another man’s treasure. I knew what I was giving up when I sold my business. The man who sold the field in Jesus’s parable probably knew what he was selling, too…

Chp. 9 – Spring Cleaning cast net

  … cleaning my desk drawer reminded me of Jesus’s parable about the net that is cast into the sea as told in Matthew 13. The kingdom of the heavens (or the rising of unity in any place) is like a drawer in my desk that collects all kinds of things throughout the years. At the end of an age, it needs to be cleaned out and simplified. Items that were useful at one time but are no longer beneficial need to be removed. When the work of reorganizing has taken place, you feel a sense of newness—you feel organized and like everything is back together the way it should be.

We don’t do enough of this kind of spring cleaning in the church. If we did, we might see the creative, driving force toward harmony and working together of all things break through more often…

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Copyright © 2014 by Paul W. Meier. Published by Malcolm Creek Publishing, Benton, KY

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     The kingdom of the heavens is at hand. It’s within your grasp right now. Jesus said it and explained it in his parables, as well as in many other teachings. His messages take on new meanings when the kingdom of the heavens is understood as the unity and harmony God desires for the world today.

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