I’ve had this thought off and on over the years - and I am sure others have too.
Jesus used parables that fit the time and place where he was preaching - a time of kings not democracies - a largely agrarian society - not city dwellers like so many today. There are so many nuances in the parables that his audience of the time understood, but that we can struggle with.
So - - -
If Jesus were walking the earth today - what parables would he use?
What analogies would fit best in today’s society and culture where animal husbandry is very different and very remote from many people…Where the society as a whole is so much different…
Look no further than the Cotton-Patch Bible. It basically replicates the entire Bible in “modern, Southern” language, including the parables.
Compare RSV Matthew 9:14-17:
14 Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast,[c] but your disciples do not fast?” 15 And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come, when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.
16 And no one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch tears away from the garment, and a worse tear is made. 17 Neither is new wine put into old wineskins; if it is, the skins burst, and the wine is spilled, and the skins are destroyed; but new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.”
To the Cotton-Patch Version:
Then John’s followers came to him and asked, “How come we and the church members go to worship services all the time, but your students never attend?” Jesus asked them, “Does the wedding party hold a prayer meeting while the wedding is going on? Rather, when the ceremony is over and the bride and groom are gone, then they may have a worship service.
“Nobody ever uses new, unshrunk material to patch a dress that’s been washed. For in shrinking, it will pull the old material and make a tear. Nor do people put new tubes in old, bald tires. If they do, the tires will blow out, and the tubes will be ruined and the tires will be torn up. But they put new tubes in new tires and both give good mileage.”
Jesus may have used technology analogies if he’d been born in our times, but I rather doubt it. After all, not everyone has modern tech, nor do we need it to survive, but everyone needs to eat. I think Jesus made use of agrarian analogies mainly for this reason. We can all understand that plants begin as seeds, that they grow, that many things can hinder that growth, that crops need sun and water and tending, that harvests are gathered, etc.
Such things need no explanation–not even for those totally into tech. Anyone who has ever tried to grow a simple tomato plant knows about such things. I don’t think Jesus largely used plants merely because of the times into which he was born, but rather because they are better analogies for his presence among us (especially in the Eucharist for he is “our portion and our cup” as Ps. 16:5 puts it) than are man made things.
Yes - but on the other hand, in today’s economy does the parable of the lost sheep ring as true? It seems that in today’s culture, the loss of 1 out of a hundred would be seen as too small to bother with leaving the 99 to go look for it. There is a difference in outlook.
Just a thought…
I like the notion of using tech analogies. I think that enough people are into tech that it could be useful.
Well, if one component necessary to the operation of a computer is missing, what does the tech do but abandon working on everything else to find the one that is lost. It would imply that every part is important, just as every human being is important, or as St. Paul noted, if even the smallest part of the body suffers the whole body suffers. So, I believe such an analogy could be used as Jesus intended.
It isn’t so much what object is chosen for analogy, but rather understanding the meaning behind the analogy. I believe Jesus used ones that not only related to the people of his day, but have universal appeal precisely so we would look into their meaning beyond the surface objects he used.
This means that we must have more than a superficial grasp of Jesus’ mission and it’s meaning for us in our times.
Well I’ve never tried to plant a tomato plant, but I drive a car every day. In fact, I’ve never really understood the parable of the “wineskins” until I read this just now:
Nor do people put new tubes in old, bald tires. If they do, the tires will blow out, and the tubes will be ruined and the tires will be torn up. But they put new tubes in new tires and both give good mileage.”
Now it’s like, “oh yeah, now I get it. That’s true.”
I mean, some of these things have become so “mythologized” and sacred, words like “wineskins” and “mustard seeds” and such now have this holy, sanctified weight to them. We forget that when Christ was speaking these parables the first time, these examples he gave were as common or as ordinary to the people of the time as if he was talking about “cell phone chargers” or “car tires” in our time. And that’s really the way it’s supposed to resonate.
This is why Christ established a Church after all, to bring the universal messages out and make them relevant to every age, using examples that would be common and understandable to every age.
Of course, what makes sense to someone living in a technological society doesn’t to someone living in an agrarian society. And much of the world still live in agrarian societies.
We have to remember that Jesus’ own disciples didn’t have a clue what he was talking about, nor the crowds, either. He had to explain it to them. We’ve had 2000+ years of people explaining the parables, so we “get it” for that reason. But, they’re not obvious to everyone without explanations no matter what objects are used in the parable–because they are meant to convey meaning beyond the merely physical understanding of our world.
I dont think Jesus would be totally against technology, but I do think he would be against all this materialism, consumerism, greed by people, AND corporations, companies. I think he would be telling people to avoid all this shopping, and materialism, probably have some rough things to say to HUGE companies as well, who think of nothing but money, sales, greed.