Parables - A Summer Devotional

*NOTE: In order to complete your subscription, click the CONFIRM button within the email you receive confirming your subscription.

Devotionals are emailed each Monday at 5am.
If you missed a week, signed up after Monday, or want to revisit something you read, scroll down to see the archive.

In case you missed it...

Did you miss an email? Do you want to go back and re-engage a past week? Check out the archive below!

Week 1 - Great Banquet

by Gina Stuckey - Pickerington Campus

16 Jesus replied: “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. 17 At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ … 22 “‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’ 23 “Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full.”

Luke 14:16-17, 22-23


The parable of The Great Banquet in Luke 14:15-24 is part of Jesus’ teaching about the Kingdom of God. It highlights the inclusivity and generosity of God’s invitation to salvation. Through the imagery of a grand feast, Jesus shows how God extends His invitation to everyone, regardless of their social status, background, or even their moral performance.

In this parable, a man prepares a lavish banquet and invites many guests. However, when the time comes, the invited guests make excuses and refuse to attend. In response, the host instructs his servant to bring in the poor, crippled, blind, and lame from the streets and alleys. When there is still room, he sends the servant to compel people from the roads and country lanes to come, ensuring that his house is filled.

The host represents God and the Kingdom of Heaven. Just as the man wanted his home to be full, God desires everyone to join the great banquet. His invitation is extended to ALL people, not just the proper and polished believers. God wants to fill His home with sinners like you and me and enjoy a great banquet with us!

How often do we lose sight of God’s invitation and fail to respond? Moreover, how often do we fail to recognize the many small invitations from God throughout our days? Just last week, I missed the opportunity to have dinner with my family, an invitation (that I’ve prayed for) to witness to one of my two. I made an excuse. I was selfish. My reason? I was tired. I didn’t want to make the drive. Are those three extra hours (that I spent watching Netflix) more important than my family’s eternity? Did I miss an opportunity to invite them to the great banquet? God presents us with many invites throughout our day. Invitations to be obedient and to be a witness for Him. What invitations have you missed because you were too busy? What excuses are you making?

Think about it – there are times when you prioritize other activities over spiritual growth and fellowship with God. Just as the invited guests in the parable made excuses, we often find ourselves distracted by daily demands, missing out on the invitations God offers.

This week, be attentive to God’s invitation to you and respond accordingly. Make the choice to pursue a relationship with Him now rather than making excuses. Additionally, let’s look intentionally for the many small invitations to share His invitiation with your 2@2. Pray that He would open doors and give you opportunities to share His invitation with them this week.


Questions to Consider
  1. When was a recent time that you recognized God inviting you into something?
  2. What excuse(s) do you generally make that prevent you from accepting God’s invitation?
  3. How can you create opportunities to share God’s inclusive invitation with your 2@2?

Pray

God, thank you for your generous invitation to your Kingdom. Help me to prioritize my relationship with you above all else. Forgive me for the times I’ve made excuses and neglected your call. Give me a heart that embraces your inclusivity and a spirit that invites others to experience your love. Amen.


Going Deeper
  1. Read Luke 14:15-24
  2. Read Romans 10:14-15 to understand your role in sharing the Gospel invitation.
  3. Reflect on Acts 1:8. Consider Jesus’ promise of the Holy Spirit empowering believers to be His witnesses to the ends of the Earth.

 

Week 2 - Mustard Seed

by Sam Vavzincak - Pickerington Campus

He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.”

Matthew 13:31-32


As a child, one of my family’s favorite ways to pass time on a Friday night was going to a video store. Walking through the aisles and seeing all the new releases on the shelf was consistently a highlight of my week, although agreeing as a family on which movie to rent was a little less fun. I didn’t know it at the time, but the video store my family frequented, along with thousands of others across the country, would soon be put out of business by a company called Netflix. Before Netflix became the standard for streaming services that it is today, they were a small DVD-by-mail company that serviced 137 people when their website first launched. This company, with such a humble, insignificant beginning, would unexpectedly become the most successful streaming service to date. It seemed unimaginable at the time that a company so small would grow to become something known all over the world, but this parable teaches us that things that start small may grow to be tremendous in reach and power.

Jesus uses the parable of the mustard seed to reveal to a crowd that the kingdom of heaven would have small, humble beginnings. Certainly, this would have been a shock to the Jewish people listening to Jesus speak. They had been awaiting the coming Messiah, but they were expecting Him to come with apocalyptic power and enact immediate judgment. Jesus, however, arrived as a baby and, at the time of this teaching, had just twelve disciples. The beginning of His movement would have looked very insignificant to the people living during that time. Many people overlooked or doubted Jesus because of His humble beginning, arguing that He was just the son of Mary and Joseph, surely not the son of God. But just as a mustard seed starts small and grows into a large tree, God’s kingdom would grow to be the expansive and far-reaching community of believers that we see today.

There are many people, places, and situations in our lives that we may overlook because they seem insignificant. We may even tell ourselves that they are unworthy of our time or attention. The truth is that God moves in ways that we could never have imagined. God can use interactions as small as a mustard seed to grow His kingdom. Our front yard conversations with our neighbors may seem insignificant at first, but when we are intentional with that time, we are planting seeds that God may choose to grow into something fruitful. The language we choose to use around our friends might seem like a small decision, but God can use it to have a great impact on the trust and influence we have in those relationships. We may not think twice about how we spend our short commute to work or school, but if we use that time to grow closer to God, it can have a tremendous impact in our relationship with Him. When we are faithful in trusting God with even the small mustard seed moments in our lives, He is powerful enough to use them to grow His kingdom.


Questions to Consider
  1. When have you seen God move in a way that you did not expect?

  2. Do you trust that God can use our small acts of faith to grow his kingdom?

  3. What are some mustard seed moments that you need to start being intentional with?


Pray
God, thank you for including me in your mission to grow your kingdom. Help me to realize that I can be intentional about bringing you glory, no matter what situation I am in. Lord, I know that sometimes you work in ways that I could not predict or expect, so help me to have faith that you will use my small acts of faith to do great things for your name. Amen.

Going Deeper
  1. Read Matthew 13 to see how Jesus explains other realities about the Kingdom of Heaven.

  2. Read Joshua 2. Consider how we see small acts of faith have great impacts on us and the people around us.


 

Week 3 - Soil

by Andrew Johnson - Chapel Campus

3 Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. 9 Whoever has ears, let them hear.”

Matthew 13:3-9


Have you ever known someone who is able to get plants to grow under seemingly any conditions? Someone with a true “green thumb”? This is not how anyone would describe me. In fact, my ability to keep plants alive is exactly the opposite. Compared to my neighbor’s lawn, there is a section of our front lawn that is patchy and lacks healthy grass. I’ve tried to seed this spot, fertilize it, and water it—to no avail. Why? Because I’ve never taken the time to prepare the ground.

In many ways, we can see how the human heart is just like my section of patchy dirt. Before an idea, a concept, or a belief can take hold, our hearts need to be ready to receive it. Think of a teenager who is not ready to hear the advice his parents have to give him. No matter how wise or well-delivered the counsel, if they aren’t prepared to hear it, it will fall on deaf ears.

Jesus, of course, knew this about our hearts, and it’s at the center of his parable. To put it simply, the condition of your heart determines your receptiveness to Jesus’ teaching.

Within this passage are three parts. First, the parable itself, then his explanation for why he chose to speak in parables, and lastly the explanation of the parable. The story itself is simple. It’s about a man who throws seed indiscriminately on every surface around. Some of this seed fails to grow at all, some of it springs up for a short period of time, and some of it produces an incredible crop.

This story brought about a question from the disciples. We might expect them to ask, “What does this story mean?” But instead they ask, as many of us have thought, “Why do you teach in parables?” They wanted to know why Jesus didn’t just speak clearly. Why would he hide the truth he wanted to communicate in a story?

13 This is why I speak to them in parables: “Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand. 14 In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: “‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. 15 For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes.

Again, the condition of your heart determines your receptiveness to Jesus’ teaching. Among Jesus’ audience that day, there were those with hearts that were soft and ready to learn about God’s Kingdom. To them, the parables made sense. They were able to accept the explanations. There were also those who, though seeing, did not see, and though hearing, did not hear. Their hearts were not prepared to receive his message. They perfectly illustrated the story Jesus was telling.

When it comes to receiving spiritual truth in your own life, how prepared is your heart? Are you like the path so hard that the seed can’t even sink in far enough to sprout? Or, like the rocky soil, willing to consider what you’re hearing, but ultimately, no root can take hold because of the difficulties that you’ll face if you fully surrender to Jesus? Or are you like the thorny areas where your faith can’t produce fruit because of the cares and concerns of life? All three of these “soils” describe people today just as much as they did in Jesus’ day. If we are honest, all three of these soils can describe us at various times in our story.

The last option is the heart that is soft, ready, and receptive. When our heart is soft, God will reap an incredible harvest in our life. There is no limit to what God can do with a heart that is primed to accept his Word, but in order to have this kind of heart, we must humbly approach the teachings of the Bible. We must be able to surrender our fears, worries, agendas, and cares and replace them with the security and direction that can only come from our Creator.


Questions to Consider

  1. Taking an honest evaluation of your heart, which soil best describes you at this moment?
  2. Of the bad soils, which do you most regularly deal with?
  3. Thinking of your current circumstances, what are some “crops” that God could produce if you were more receptive to His teaching?
  4. Who is someone that can help you improve the condition of your heart?

Pray

Father, thank you for creating and knowing my heart. Thank you for being willing to let your truth fall on any and every soil. Guide me and show me how I can make my heart more receptive to your teaching. Amen.


Going Deeper

  1. Read Romans 8:5-6 and reflect on how living in accordance with the Spirit is a result of having a heart that is soft toward the teachings of God.
  2. Read James 1:19-27. Consider how James tells us we can “humbly accept the word planted” in us (verse 21).

 

Week 4 - Talents

by Carla Hughes - Lithopolis Campus

“Again, it will be like a man going on a long journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey.”

Matthew 25: 14-30


Matthew uses the example of a man who entrusted his servants with gold to show how God entrusts each of us with resources and God-given abilities. Even though each person received a different amount of gold, they each received a large amount (one bag of gold equals 20 years of wages). How we use those reflects how we see Him and how important we regard our responsibility to steward those resources and abilities.

In verses 16-18, it is clear what each man did with his gold: “The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground, and hid his master’s money.”

The first two did their work promptly, with intentionality, and were successful. They were prepared to give an account to their master. The third man did little except bury the gold. This man did not use the gift to introduce God’s Kingdom into the world. Instead, he hid it. He did not put in much effort or intentionality. His excuse was that he buried the gold out of fear of his master. His laziness is reflected in his choice.

In this parable, these bags of gold represent our resources of time, money, ability, and authority. The main point of this parable is that our readiness for Jesus’ return and our relationship with Him is revealed by our stewardship of resources He has given us. That is convicting! That readiness requires each of us to be intentional with those resources to do what God has called us to do. The first two men had a reverence for God and the gift they were entrusted with. The third man used fear as an excuse and held onto the gift by burying it. His sin was laziness. This unwillingness to work reflects a lack of trust in the One who gave the gift. The reward for the first two men is happiness (joy) in the presence of the Lord. The third man is punished and separated from God. God takes the sin of laziness seriously.

This parable is a reminder that we cannot allow fear to keep us from doing what God has called us to do.

Honestly, I have been lazy so many times with the resources God has given me. Mostly because I selfishly wanted to do what I wanted to do. I did not want to commit to leading that group or serving or giving because I preferred to do the things I wanted to do. I made my desires the priority. My focus was not on Him but on me. Doing what I wanted was easier and required less effort and work. And sometimes, perhaps like the third man, I feared failing, so I did nothing. The result- I missed out on being part of what He planned for me to make Him better known. I missed the joy.

So… what have you done with what God has given you? Your knowledge? Time? Money? Abilities? The sins of what we don’t do (omission) can be more dangerous than the sins of what we do (commission). It is clear that we were put on earth to do God’s work using resources He supplies us with. What resource are you choosing to “bury” to pursue your plan? What excuse do you have for not using the resources He has given you? Is it fear of failing? Is it the idol of convenience or comfort? Is it self-centeredness?

Take time this week to reflect and list the resources God has given you. Note how, or if, you are using them with intentionality, perseverance, and effort. What excuses are you leaning into? Have you been frozen by fear? Write down a plan to start with one resource to use for Him. Choose to honor God by using the resources He has given you. Pursue the joy.


Questions to Consider
  1. What gift has God given you that you have not yet used?
  2. What excuses or fears are roadblocks for you?
  3. How can you make using the gift a regular part of your life?
  4. Who would be a good accountability partner to encourage you?

Pray
God, thank you for giving me resources and gifts to make you better known. Please forgive my laziness and excuses regarding these. Please show me the resources I need to begin to use and ways I can do this for the purpose of making you better known. I want to be in your presence and experience your joy. I love you and am grateful that you choose to use me for your Kingdom purposes. Amen.

Going Deeper
  1. Read Matthew 13:10-12 to understand why Jesus taught with parables
  2. Read 1 Peter 4:9-11 to further illustrate how we are to use our gifts
  3. Read Luke 19:12-27 to understand more about using what God has provided

 

Week 5 - Good Samaritan

by Nina Renner - Pickerington Campus

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

Luke 10:36-37


Jesus was no stranger to being asked pointed questions. In fact, this passage in Luke 10 begins with one. A Jewish Lawyer stands up and asks Jesus, “How might I inherit eternal life?” After nailing the response, “Love God and love your neighbor,” the lawyer asks the next logical question, “Then who counts as my neighbor?” Hoping for a response that would justify his current lifestyle, he is instead met with a parable that would turn the idea of who he was called to love upside down.

Jesus begins the story by telling of a man who was attacked by robbers, beaten, and left for dead while on his way to Jericho. Two Jewish religious leaders passed by him, yet they refused to stop and offer help. When it seemed hopeless, a Samaritan man passed by and had compassion on him. He bandaged him, placed him on his donkey, and took him to an inn to be taken care of, paying for the man’s stay with his own money and promising to return to check on him later.

To give some context, Samaritans and Jews at this time were considered enemies. They would not have been seen walking on the same side of the road as one another, let alone offering any ounce of kindness towards each other. For Jesus to paint the Samaritan as compassionate and caring would have been hard for the lawyer to hear. Yet he could not deny the Samaritan had been a better neighbor to the dying man than the Jewish leaders. Instead of only loving the people he deemed worthy, Jesus’ story revealed to him that God’s command to “love your neighbor as yourself” included everyone, even the people he despised.

Like the lawyer, we have a tendency to create our own definition of who counts as our neighbor. We choose the people who are easy to serve or don’t require much of us; the ones we are already in Grace group with or see on a regular basis. We even limit who our neighbor is based on whether or not they agree with us politically. However, in the parable of the Good Samaritan, we see that everyone we encounter is our neighbor because everyone is made in the image of God. There is no exception. For the lawyer, that meant he had to change how he viewed others, even those he wanted nothing to do with. And we are to do the same.

For me, it’s easy to love people I know I get along with or have needs I can quickly and easily meet. It becomes much more challenging when I am asked to step up and serve someone I don’t know or someone I disagree with. The excuses come out: “I don’t have the time or resources…Someone else will help them… It’s not my place…” the list goes on. I begin to sound more like the Jewish religious leaders than I do the Samaritan man. I know I am not alone. We blame it on a lack of resources or time when really we have a small and selfish view of who our neighbor is.

The Samaritan refused to do nothing when he saw a need right in front of him, despite the fact the man was considered his enemy. What does it look like for us to do the same? Who in your life have you refused to see as your neighbor? Is it the coworker who’s willing to hurt others just to get a raise? The relative who says snide remarks to you at every family gathering? Maybe it’s the “keyboard warrior” you disagree with online. Whoever that person may be, we don’t get to pick and choose whether they count as our neighbor. Jesus made it clear that whoever we encounter is to be met with the same love we would show ourselves. The Good Samaritan is an excellent example of showing mercy and compassion. And just as Jesus commanded the lawyer, He also commands us: to go and do likewise.


Questions to Consider
  1. How have you defined who your neighbor is in the past?
  2. When it comes to loving and serving others, are you more like the Jewish religious leaders or the Samaritan in how you respond?
  3. Who could you serve this week whom you wouldn’t typically go out of your way for?

Pray
God, thank you for loving me, despite who I am. Help me to see each person I encounter as my neighbor, because they have been created in your image. Help me to love others well and to have the boldness to serve them, and ultimately point them to you. Amen.

Going Deeper
  1. Read the full parable in Luke 10:25-37
  2. Read 1 John 4:20-21
  3. Read Matthew 5:43-48

 

Week 6 - Tax Collector

by Russ Elam - Jefferson Campus

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Luke 18:9-14


I was so sure that I knew how to find the store we had visited before. I checked Google maps and while I did not find the store name, I was certain that it was the area that I remembered, so we planned our trip.

You already know what happened – I was guilty of misplaced confidence. In other words, I was wrong! Weeks later, when we found the store, all the details about the location, from topography to the major roads and intersections, were not even close to what I had remembered. How could I be so confident and be so wrong at the same time?

Luke reveals the backstory of our parable in verse 9 – “To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable.” Jesus directs this parable to address two heart issues of those listening: a confidence rooted in their own righteousness and their sense of superiority.

This parable is a side-by-side comparison of misplaced confidence and faith-affirming confidence. Misplaced confidence shifts our focus to the good we can do to fix or improve our relationship with Jesus. Faith-affirming confidence puts our focus on Jesus and all the good he has done to restore us to himself.

Misplaced confidence uses people’s differences to feed their sense of moral superiority over others. Faith-affirming confidence leads people to an honest assessment of their attitudes and actions knowing they are fully known, fully loved, and fully accepted. The security I have in Jesus encourages me to embrace a ruthless assessment of myself.

In short, a faith affirming confidence is a confidence in the goodness—past, present, and future—of Jesus and a confidence that we—not others—are the greatest hurdle to our relationship with Jesus.

One last thought to consider: as we grow in our confidence in Jesus and what he means to our lives here and now, we surrender our independence for our choices in the here and now. The more confident we are in Christ the more we become dependent on Him.


Questions to Consider

  1. How do I know my confidence is misplaced? How often am I asking Jesus to reveal my heart to me?
  2. Do I spend more time noticing what others are doing or am I focused upon my own life?
  3. Do my choices reflect a confidence in Jesus or confidence in my abilities?

Pray

Jesus, I was not aware that my confidence had actually become arrogance. All that I have in life and faith are gifts from you. I am greatly blessed and I have done nothing to deserve your goodness. Forgive my selfishness. You have also opened my eyes to how I have judged others. I have paid more attention to how they act and rather than praying for them, I have seen only their weaknesses. Forgive my self-righteousness. Amen.


Going Deeper

  1. Confidence in God: Psalm 44:1-8; Hebrews 13:5-6 (Psalm 56:4, 11)
  2. Comparing ourselves with others: John 21:15-23; Romans 14:1-23

 

Week 7 - Pearl & Hidden Treasure

by Tricia Fourman - Jefferson Campus

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure in a hidden field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.”

Matthew 13:44-46


Jesus has just finished teaching a large crowd of people at the sea of Galilee. He recognizes that his disciples are curious and confused, so he retreats to talk more privately with them about the Kingdom of Heaven.

In verses 44-46, Jesus shares two short parables that explain the immeasurable worth of the Kingdom of Heaven. The first is like a treasure hidden in a field, waiting to be discovered. The second is like a precious pearl sought after by a merchant. Both stories convey the idea that the Kingdom of Heaven is a valuable and coveted treasure. Jesus wanted his disciples to see that everything they have given their lives for is worth it and it is far more valuable than the lives they would have had without it.

The Kingdom of Heaven is the greatest treasure we could ever hope to find, and Jesus offers it to us as a free gift we could never gain on our own.

While we should be shouting about heaven, we often spend our energy focused on things with less eternal value. For many years, I worked hard to craft the perfect chocolate chip cookie. I tried different kinds of sugars, different kinds of chocolate, and different kinds of flours. I adjusted baking temperatures and baking times. Each batch I made was slightly different from the last, and when I came up with what I thought was the perfect combination, the recipe felt like a treasure! Now I make that recipe over and over, sharing my treasure with the people in my life. Sharing the ultimate chocolate chip cookie can delight someone’s taste buds, but I haven’t given them the best gift I could.

Some people chase after money or the newest gadget, others search for fulfillment in relationships, and still others seek out power or influence. These things in and of themselves are not necessarily sinful, but they will not satisfy the longing in our soul that only God can provide. Are you living like the Kingdom of Heaven is really your greatest treasure?


Questions to Consider

  1. In both parables, the main characters recognize the treasures they have found and are willing to trade everything they own to possess them. What makes the Kingdom of God so valuable?
  2. What are some of the things you need to sacrifice in order to gain more of the Kingdom’s influence in your life? Have you stopped searching for other treasures to fulfill you?
  3. We are very quick to share our favorite restaurant, helpful new gadget, or latest TV show we’ve been binging. How quick are you to share God’s Kingdom as the greatest treasure you’ve ever found?

Pray

God, thank you for giving me the greatest treasure I could ever receive in your Kingdom. Show me the treasures I am still pursuing when I should be leaning on you. Lord, help me to be brave and pursue the people in my life who need to hear about the treasure you offer. Amen.


Going Deeper

  1. Read Philippians 3:7-9
  2. Read Luke 14:25-33