“Do not be greedy.”

Discussing the meaning of “parable,” a student used as her example Jesus’ parable of the lost sheep, and explained it thus:

Do not be greedy. If you have plenty of something and happen to lose one, do not panic over the one. Remember you have plenty more.

I do like the student’s idea as it applies to getting and spending in the workaday world; some multibillionaires and megacorporations might take a lesson from her. But surely the picture of a shepherd giving a philosophical shrug and saying “Oh, well, I lost a lamb. I still have 99, so what’s the big deal?” is disconcerting–a lamb isn’t quite the same as a dollar, or a hairpin, or even a piece of jewelry, say. I hate to think of that little lamb off on its own in a land of cliffs, rivers, and predators. And that’s one lackadaisical shepherd. When will he panic–when the number drops below fifty? twenty? three?

Her explanation is going to cause a fundamental shakeup in the Church.

It’s not as if I didn’t mention the allegory-like purpose of a parable: to translate spiritual lessons into familiar, concrete stories that lead to an idea that parallels the lesson. If the student understood that, then for her, God responds to the loss of a soul with a big shrug: “Well, I have plenty more good people; what’s one sinner more or less?”

The most beautiful stained-glass window in the Congregational Church in Woodbridge, NJ, church of my childhood, was “The Good Shepherd.” A sweet-faced Jesus held a shepherd’s crook in his hand and carried a happy lamb in his arms. I knew what that window, which faced the altar and consequently to which I sang when I was in the Junior Choir, meant.

But I guess times change.

A lesson for the modern age, perhaps.

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About RAB

Teacher of English writing and literature (college-level); academic-freedom activist; editor and copy editor; theater director, costumer, actress, playwright. View all posts by RAB

2 responses to ““Do not be greedy.”

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