Story Telling; A Tool for Teaching the Word of God
It has been said that one can do a lot of teaching, by telling stories. And here are four points that have been made in support, of using stories, to teach a lesson..
#1. Stories are memorable. They’re a lot more memorable than just stating a bunch of “facts”.
#2. Stories engage emotion. And when your emotions are engaged, you’re engaged, and you’re involved.
#3. Stories inspire action and belief. Stories tend to make you feel like you’re involved, and that in turn inspires you to act accordingly. There’s always a “moral” to every story, right? And the “moral” of the story, is the lesson that you want people to remember. And of course, the lesson, is what inspires us to believe.
#4. Stories remind people that they’re not alone. Again, involvement, because we can identify with the characters in the story. And of course that makes the story much more personal, and therefore, much more memorable.
And maybe the best example, that proves the value of stories, is that so much of the bible, is written in the form of stories. Almost the entire old testament, is just one story after another. The story of creation and of the fall of man. The story of Noah and the flood. The story of Abraham, and Lot. The story of Sodom and Gomorrah. The stories of Isaac, and Jacob. The story of the Egyptian captivity. The story of Moses and the exodus. The many stories of the wilderness wanderings, and the stories of the conquest of the land of Canaan. The stories of the judges, and of the kings, and of the captivities, and of the prophets. And then of course in the new testament, the story of Jesus; The “Greatest story ever told”, right? And then there’s the book of Acts, which tells the stories of the apostles, and of the beginnings of Christ’s kingdom, and of the early Christians, and several congregations of Christians.
Jesus Himself did a lot of story-telling. Most of His stories were parables. But I can think of one time when Jesus referred to a couple of real life events, and He used those events as examples, to teach a lesson.
And those examples are in Luke chapter 13, verses 1 thru 5. The bible says in verse 1; “There were some present at that very time, who told Him (who told Jesus) about the Galileans, whose blood, Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.” So in other words, there were some Galileans who had obviously been killed by Pilate, and Pilate used the blood of those who were killed, to mix in with other blood, most likely from animals, to offer sacrifices to the Roman “gods” so to speak. Now we don’t really know anything about what happened there, but the people that Jesus was talking to, knew about it.
And so Jesus uses this example, to teach a lesson on repentance. Jesus says, in verses 2 & 3; “..Do you think that these Galileans, were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you! But, unless you repent, you will ALL likewise perish!”
And then Jesus uses another example, to reinforce that same lesson. And the bible doesn’t tell us anything else about this occurrence either, but the people that Jesus were talking to, knew about it. So Jesus says in verses 4 & 5; “Or those eighteen, (the eighteen people) on whom the tower in Siloam fell, and killed them: Do you think that THEY were worse offenders, than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you! But, unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
In other words, these people who had these bad things happen to them, they weren’t being “punished by God” for their sins, or anything like that. But bad things do happen to people. But those people weren’t any different from anyone else. But here’s the fact that Jesus wanted them to know, and that He wants us to know; And let me put it in words that we can identify with in our lives.. Random things happen, bad things happen! Consider all of the so called, “innocent” people, who are murdered; By gangs, by thieves, by terrorists. And consider all those people who recently died when that condominium tower collapsed in Florida.
Did any of those people “deserve” to die, any more than anyone else deserves to die? No they didn’t. But sometimes, it just seems like some people are in the wrong place at the wrong time. Now that doesn’t seem to apply to everyone, does it?
But here’s something that does apply to everyone; Jesus said; “Unless you repent, you will ALL likewise perish!” Not physically, but spiritually! And that applies to everyone! And there’s no escaping that fact. And so Jesus took the opportunity, to use a couple of examples of what happened to SOME people, to teach a very valuable lesson, that applies to ALL people!
Now here’s a very well-known “story”, that Jesus used to teach a valuable lesson. It’s the parable, of “the good Samaritan” from Luke 10, verses 30 thru 37. And I’ll go ahead and read the story, even though we’re all familiar with it. Luke 10: 30 thru 37; “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead.” (don’t you find yourself feeling sorry for such a man) “Now by chance, a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. (more emotions, right?) So too, when a Levite came to that spot and saw him, he passed by on the other side. (how could they do that? How could they just pass him by?) But when a Samaritan on a journey came upon him, he looked at him and had compassion. (Yes, exactly! How could you NOT have compassion?)
“He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying; Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back. (this Samaritan really went the extra mile, didn’t he? And that’s not even the lesson here!) But here comes the lesson, in verses 36 & 37; “Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor, to the man who fell among the robbers? The one who showed him mercy, replied the expert in the law. Then Jesus told him; Go and do likewise.”
When you hear Jesus say those words, “Go and do likewise”, How does it make you feel? Does it make you want to, “go and do likewise”? Does it get your emotions involved, and make you want to take action? It’s meant to! And so may we all, “Go and do likewise”.
But here’s another story that Jesus told, in a parable. This story has three main characters, and it will tug at your emotions; Some good emotions, but maybe some bad emotions. And you might be able to identify with the lessons taught. There’s one main lesson, and that is forgiveness. But there’s a couple of secondary lessons to be learned also. So then let’s begin reading, the parable of the prodigal son, from Luke 15, verses 11 thru 32.
“There was a man who had two sons (A lot of us have children; So already we can identify, right?) And the younger of them said to his father; Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me. And he divided his property between them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had, and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living.”
Even though this is a parable, isn’t that exactly what so many people do when they come into some money? They squander it, on themselves, and on their pleasures. Have you ever had a child of yours make some really bad decisions? It happens doesn’t it? Have WE ever made some bad decisions? It happens!
“And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.”
What kind of emotions are you feeling at this point in the story? Are you feeling kind of like.. This fool got just what he deserved! Or, are you feeling more like.. I feel so sorry for that young man, because we’ve all done some dumb things in our lives. Does the story stir your compassion, or does it stir your anger or disgust? If we feel that the young man got what he deserved, maybe we should ask ourselves, What do we deserve? What do I deserve? Is God giving us exactly what we deserve? I pray that He never does.
Let’s continue reading.. “Finally he came to his senses, and said; How many of my father’s hired servants have plenty of food? But here I am, starving to death! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him; Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”
Now what are your emotions telling you? If this were a true story, would you be feeling a bit relieved now, knowing that this young man is finally using some common sense? Maybe we’re learning that we need to be more patient with people, and bear support them, even through some poor choices, and give them the chance to make some better choices. A story like this can kind of “pull us in” and make us feel involved. And maybe we can even relate some part of our own lives with this story.
Now let’s go back to our parable.. “So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still in the distance, his father saw him, and was filled with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him.” Now that makes you feel good doesn’t it? To see real love and compassion, even though the son had made some terrible mistakes. It kind of makes us want to have compassion on someone. That was one of the four points that were made in the beginning. A story can inspire you to action.
“And the son said to him; Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” We all need to learn to be that humble. So that we can actually ask God for forgiveness. And not just forgiveness in general; But forgiveness for specific things. Even though our God knows perfectly well all the “specifics”, WE need to spell out the specifics when we ask for forgiveness.
“But the father said to his servants; Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; He was lost, and is found. And they began to celebrate.”
And that could be the end of the story, couldn’t it? A story about a wasteful youth who finally learns his lesson, and repents, and is forgiven, and everyone live happily ever after. But that’s not the end, because there’s more to the story, and there’s more for us to learn.
“Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. (in other words, What’s going on?) And he said to him; Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound!”
“Alright! Thank God! ..Said the older son. I’ve been worried and I’ve been praying that he was OK, and that he’d come back home.” No, that’s not quite what happened with the older son, is it?
We know what happened. “The older son became angry and refused to go in. So his father came out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father; Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends.”
He was angry, and he was jealous, and he was bitter, and he’s probably been holding a grudge ever since his younger brother left. Does that sound a bit like “human nature”? Unfortunately it does. And that’s exactly the “nature” that we’ve got to overcome. We’ve got to learn to be led by the Spirit, and not by the flesh.
The older son said.. “..you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!” But his father said to him.. “..Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad; For this your brother was dead, and is alive; He was lost, and is found.”
The older son had a bad attitude, he had a sinful attitude; And the younger son made some pretty bad choices. But the father forgave them both. The father didn’t scold his older son for his sinful attitude, but instead, he reasoned with him. And the father didn’t reject his younger son for his sinfulness, but instead, he forgave and welcomed him home.
We’ve sure got a lot to learn don’t we?