Click here if you don’t see subscription options
John W. MartensSeptember 22, 2010

In the earlier post, Your Favorite Parable, I was hoping that many people would respond with a choice parable and their musings on why they chose the various parables which they did. Alas, only a few people weighed in, which forces me, at least as I see it, to offer not only my favorite parable but a Top Twelve Parable list. I was thinking of a Top Ten Parable list, but for some reason a Top Twelve List seemed right to me, or perhaps I should say, “seemed righteous.”  Here is my list, in ascending order – for it is better to ascend than to descend (that’s not in the Bible, but it sounds pretty sweet, doesn’t it?) - with a short synopsis of why I chose each parable.  Feel free to join the discussion here or at Your Favorite Parable.

12. The Talents (Matthew 25:14-30): It gave us the word “talent” and Jesus stressed the necessity that we use them. It also means, however difficult it is to see at times, that we all have talents.

11. The Marriage Feast (Matthew 22:1-10):  Those you least expect might be sitting beside you at the wedding banquet, unless we are not there, having lost our spots due to dinner plans, business and lack of care.

10. The Sower (Mark  4:3-9 or with Jesus’ explanation 4:3-20): I love the agricultural parables and even if we do not seed using the broadcast method any longer, it is easy to get the idea of putting down roots and growing or withering in rocky and shallow soil. At least it is for suffering gardeners.

9. The Wheat and the Weeds (Matthew 13:24-30 or with Jesus’ explanation 13:36-43): So easy to judge, but so hard to know the truth about a person.  I have genuine joy that God is the judge (see 1.  and 2.)

8. The Mustard Seed (Mark 4:30-32): The Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed? A seed that grows into a shrub? Sure, it’s a big shrub, fine, but a shrub?  The Kingdom of God is not what you expect.

7. The Rich Fool (Luke 12:13-21): Whoa, whoa, whoa, say that again: money does not guarantee the health of my soul?

6.  The Lost Sheep (Luke 15: 3-7): The notion that there is more joy in heaven over a lost sheep returned safely home never ceases to amaze me.

5. Sheep and the Goats (Matthew 25:31-46): Pretty clear guidelines in terms of how to treat those in need with equally clear implications in terms of the results of those choices.

4.  Dishonest Manager (Luke 16:1-9):  I find it a difficult parable to understand, but I like the challenge it poses: God is a God of surprises and the “dishonest manager” will be commended when he does the right thing. While I find it hard to discern precisely of what the “right thing” consists in this parable, I am comforted to know that God knows.

3. Good Samaritan (Luke 10: 25-37): God’s love can be found through anyone at any time, through the smallest or the greatest of acts. The question for me is not only am I ready to "go and do likewise," but am I ready to allow the hated Samaritan to show me love?

2. Prodigal Son (Luke 15: 11-32): As Michelle Russell wrote in the earlier blog entry,” I immediately felt welcomed and have come to realize that our Father's love is perfectly described in the person of the father of the Prodigal Son.  Not only was he ready to welcome me back, he was waiting for me, greeting me with unconditional love - not dismissing my absence, but celebrating my return, and fully embracing me, whether I deserved it or not!”  Ditto for me.

1. Unmerciful Slave (Matthew 18:23-35): Not because the unmerciful slave receives his comeuppance, but because of the extravagant, ridiculous nature of God’s mercy in forgiving our debt; as the NJBC1368 states, “the debt of the servant exceeds the taxes from Syria, Phoenicia, Judea and Samaria,” but when he pleads for mercy saying he will pay it all back, God forgives him immediately. That is how God forgives us and that is our model for forgiveness.

John W. Martens

More: Scripture
Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
13 years 7 months ago
I was intrigued by the lack of comment on your request for our ''12 favorite parables''.  Our Parish Adult Faith Enrichment team has just booked a speaker on parables in general/Matthean ones in particular for early next year.  I think there are many of us who don't understand what this genre is all about.  We have heard that Jesus speaks clearly to his disciples but to the rest of us in parables, so they must be purposefully muddy. No?  I would love to hear someone from the pulpit actually engage the pew occupants in a dialogue regarding what the parable for any given Sunday means.  Just to have the priest encourage us to find meaning for ourselves in it, no doubt different from his own would be so very welcome.  Then after all the congregation has offered their thoughts, he might ask... ''and what else does it mean?'' 
Blessings to you in your blog.
luckly luckly
12 years 11 months ago
Eighty-nine percent of Americans say the economy handbags is in bad shape; 57 percent say the recovery has not started and 66 percent said the designer handbags United States was seriously on the wrong track. Forty-five percent said designer purses they trust congressional Republicans over Obama to handle the economy, up 11 discount designer handbags points since March. The poll shows Obama leading five out of six potential Republican presidential rivals but cheap designer handbags in a dead heat with former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.

The latest from america

An important international conference in Rome on May 21 marks the 100th anniversary of the first Plenary Council of the Catholic Church in China. Here’s what you need to know.
Gerard O’ConnellMay 20, 2024
During an audience with a delegation from Loyola University Chicago at the Vatican on May 20, Pope Francis said, “Education happens on three levels: the head, the heart and the hands.”
Pope FrancisMay 20, 2024
The proclamation comes just two weeks after the Jesuit priest who founded Homeboy Industries received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Joe Biden.
People pick through discarded produce at the central market for fruit and vegetables in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Friday, May 10, 2024. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)
Argentina has been in a state of economic upheaval for years with two constants—a continuous increase in poverty and corresponding efforts by the Catholic Church to respond to that need.
Lucien ChauvinMay 20, 2024