The prophetic parables of the vineyard afford their hearers an illuminating vantage point upon the intergenerational peoplehood and unified moral agency of a nation. They offer us a new way of perceiving our national selves beyond the stifling frame of secularism.
In response to a question designed to test him, Jesus presents a lawyer with a series of questions in response, which evade his trap and undermine the lawyer’s attempts at self-vindication. Through his conversation, he reveals the importance of asking the right question.
Although the parable is typically referred to as that of ‘the Prodigal Son’, the son who receives the father’s welcome has long since fallen from his state of prodigal living into one of the most abject poverty and lack. This father’s loving embrace challenges us to consider our provision of welfare and welcome to those in need among us, irrespective of how ‘deserving’ we might suppose them to be.
Although a superficial reading might suggest a straightforward interpretation of the Parable of the Talents, closer examination reveals troubling contradictions between this interpretation and the broader teaching of the gospel. Reading it as a descriptive parable of economic injustice provides us with a more satisfying, albeit grim, alternative interpretation.
King David’s actions in taking Bathsheba provide a shocking and illuminating case study in the behavior and psychology of impunity. The prophet Nathan’s employment of parabolic misdirection in his exposure of David’s sins suggests an effective manner in which such impunity can be confronted.
In Jesus’ parable of the day laborers on the vineyard, we encounter two competing views of what constitutes just compensation, one determined by ‘fairness’ and the other by need. In its commitment to the human-centered “economics of need,” the Reign of God teaches us to value work—and the worker—in a new way.
In the sphere of political decision-making, ‘the grace of doing nothing’ is usually a losing proposition. However, the parable of the wheat and the weeds invites even the angriest reactionary to consider the complexity of wheat and weeds, good and bad, us and them, and the dangers involved in precipitous action.
Adam Smith’s skill was as a storyteller of the first order. It takes one a while to realize where his appeal lies. As many have noted, his Wealth of Nations is rambling, polemical, and rather cavalier with evidence. All this sits rather strangely with the popularity of his writing, both then and now. How to understand that appeal? We suggest it may be found not in any skill at constructing careful and detailed argument, but in his ability to tell stories.