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Bible verses about confusion
Being confused can be one of the worst feelings. Are you struggling with confusion? If you are don’t worry because you are not alone. I have struggled with this as well. The things that happen every day in our lives can be confusing. We all need direction, but as Christians we can rest assure that the Holy Spirit is living inside of us and He is able to guide us and keep our mind at ease.
- “Confusion and impotence are the inevitable results when the wisdom and resources of the world are substituted for the presence and power of the Spirit.” Samuel Chadwick
- “Storms can bring fear, cloud judgment, and create confusion. Yet God promises that as you seek Him through prayer, He will give you wisdom to know how to proceed. The only way you will survive the storm will be on your knees.” Paul Chappell
- “He is not a God of confusion, of discordance, or accidental, random, private courses in the execution of His will, but of determinate, regulated, prescribed action.” John Henry Newman
Satan is the author of confusion. He seeks to cause chaos, disorder, death, and destruction.
1. 1 Corinthians 14:33 “For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.”
2. 1 Peter 5:8 “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”
3. 2 Corinthians 2:11 “in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.”
Satan tries to confuse us when it comes to sin. He says one time wouldn’t hurt. You’re saved by grace go ahead. God is OK with it. He always seeks to attack the validity of God’s Word. He says, did God really say that you couldn’t do it? We must resist by turning to the Lord.
4. James 4:7 “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”
5. Genesis 3:1 “Now the serpent was the most cunning of all the wild animals that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You can’t eat from any tree in the garden?”
Satan comes when you are down.
When you receive disappointment, when you are in some type of trial, when you sin, when you’re struggling with a certain sin, these are times when Satan will rush in and say things like you are not right with God, God is mad at you, you are not really a Christian, God has forsaken you, don’t go to God and keep on asking for forgiveness, your ministry is not important, it’s God’s fault blame Him, etc.
Satan will come in and make these lies, but remember Satan is a liar. He will do anything he can to make you doubt God’s love for you, His mercy, His grace, and His power. God is with you. God says don’t lean on your own understand which bring confusion, but instead trust in me. I got this. Even as I am writing this Satan seeks to bring confusion upon things in my life.
6. John 8:44 “You are of your father the Devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning and has not stood in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he tells a lie, he speaks from his own nature, because he is a liar and the father of liars.”
7. Proverbs 3:5 “Trust in the LORD with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding.”
8. Luke 24:38 “And he said to them, ‘Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?”
Satan will try to make you think that God is incapable of helping you in a particular situation. This situation is too hard for God. It is impossible for Him. Satan can lie all he wants because my God works in impossibility! He is faithful.
9. Jeremiah 32:27 “I am the LORD, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?”
10. Isaiah 49:14-16 “But Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me.” “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me.”
The world is under the confusion of the devil.
11. 2 Corinthians 4:4 “in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”
Confusion brings fear.
Even if God has given you a personal promise that He will make a way for you, the devil will bring confusion. He will start making you think God didn’t say He was going to provide for you. He is not going to make a way for you. You’re then going to say God, but I thought you said you will provide for me, what did I do? Satan wants you to doubt, but you must trust in the Lord.
12. Matthew 8:25-26 “The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.”
13. Isaiah 41:10 “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
14. 2 Corinthians 1:10 “He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.”
Satan sends confusion when you seek to do God’s will.
Things that are clearly God’s will for you that God keeps on telling you to do in prayer becomes confusing. Things that should be so obvious to you Satan starts planting seeds of doubt and wonder. You start to think God I thought I have been doing what you want me to do I’m so confused. This is a huge topic for me.
This has happened to me a lot for large and even small matters. For example, there have been times when I have been around others and I get a burden to help a homeless man I see and Satan says don’t give to him, people are going to think you’re doing it for show. What are people going to think, he’s just going to use the money on drugs, etc. I have to fight against these confusing thoughts all the time.
15. 2 Corinthians 11:14 “And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.”
Be careful how you live your life. You can bring confusion to others by the way you live your life. Don’t become a stumbling block.
16. 1 Corinthians 10:31-32 “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God.”
Never trust in your heart, but instead trust in the Lord and His Word.
17. Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it?”
18. John 17:17 “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.”
Satan tries to confuse Jesus.
19. Matthew 4:1-4 “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”
You might be feeling confused right now, but I want you to know that Jesus came to destroy confusion. We must rest upon Christ in confusing situations.
20. 1 John 3:8 “the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil.”
21. 2 Corinthians 10:5 “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.”
The Holy Spirit helps us overcome confusion. Pray to the Holy Spirit. Say, Holy Spirit help me. Listen to the Holy Spirit and allow Him to guide.
22. 2 Timothy 1:7 “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”
23. John 14:26 “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.”
There are many false teachers who do Satan’s dirty work and bring confusion and false teachings into the church. We must be careful because some false teachings might sound extremely close to the truth or have some truth within it. We must test the spirit with the Word of God.
24. 1 John 4:1 “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”
We must pray for wisdom. Ask yourself are you praying for wisdom? There has never been a time when I asked for wisdom and God didn’t give it to me. This is one prayer that God always answers. Pray for wisdom and pray for God’s will and God will let you know in a variety of different ways and you will know it’s Him.
25. James 1:5 “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”
Bonus: Pray to the Lord and say God help my unbelief. I believe, but Satan’s confusion along with sin is affecting me.
Mark 9:24 “Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!”
This post on Jesus’ parables is part of the August Synchroblog, a monthly event where bloggers around the world write about various topics at the same time. If you are a blogger or writer, make sure you join us next month! It’s a great way to meet other bloggers and blog readers.
Most people find Jesus’ parables to be rather confusing. If that is you, guess what? You are on the right track to understanding Jesus’ parables! Seriously.
I often laugh when I read what the disciples say to Jesus in Matthew 13:51 after He has told a string of several particularly confusing parables. Jesus says to them, “Have you understood all these things?” and they answer, “Yes, Lord!”
Frankly, I think this was a case of “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” I think that none of them understood much of what Jesus was saying (for when have they ever understood much of Jesus’ parables before?) but were all too afraid to admit that they had no clue what Jesus was talking about, and nobody was courageous enough to admit it. Too bad there wasn’t a child nearby to yell out, “Hey! I don’t understand! Tell us what you mean by these parables, Jesus!”
Well, I am not a child, and I am not one of the apostles, but let me admit it publicly, “I don’t think I understand Jesus’ parables.”
And you know what? I think that is EXACTLY what Jesus wants. In fact, confusion is the goal of the Jesus’ parables. Did you know that? So if you are confused by what Jesus says in His parables, you are on the right track. If you are confident you understand all of Jesus’ parables, you probably need to have your pride meter checked. Jesus told parables so that people would not understand what He was saying, and He had very specific reasons for doing this.
Let me show you what Jesus Himself said about the parables, and then I will conclude this post with a chronological list of all Jesus’ parables in the Gospels.
Why Jesus Spoke in Parables
You sometimes hear pastors say that since Jesus told stories, so should we. I think we could have a debate about the effectiveness of storytelling in our preaching and teaching, but one thing we cannot argue is that “since Jesus told stories, so should we.” Jesus didn’t tell “stories.” He told “parables.” Parables are very different than stories. Though there are similarities between stories and parables, stories are often given to illustrate a truth or help people remember a point that was made, while parables, on the other hand, are given to hide the truth and confuse people about the point that was made.
At least, that is what Jesus says about why He told parables.
As we all know, Jesus told parables. The apostles were always getting confused by His parables and were relieved when He finally spoke plainly to them (John 16:29). The fact that the apostles were first century Mediterranean Jews who lived and listened to Jesus for three straight years, but who were still confused by Jesus’ parables should give us hope that if they were confused, it is okay for us to be confused as well.
Yet confusion was the goal and purpose of the parables. At one point in Jesus’ ministry, the apostles come to Jesus and say, “Why do you speak in parables?” (Matthew 13:10). They were confused by what Jesus said in his parables, and the multitudes who listened to Jesus’ parables were often confused as well by what Jesus was teaching, and so the apostles were kindly telling Jesus that He might do better if He spoke plainly to the people.
Jesus tells the apostles in Matthew 13:11-17 (cf. Matthew 13:34-35; Luke 8:10) that the reason He speaks in parables is so that the people will “see but not see, hear but not hear.”
In other words, Jesus told parables to mask the truth, to hide it, to cloak it, to make it unclear. Jesus’ parables are supposed to be confusing! He wanted them to be confusing!
Why would Jesus do that? Didn’t Jesus come to reveal God to us? Doesn’t Jesus want people to understand the way of salvation? Aren’t good teachers supposed to teach with clarity?
Well, this actually gets us back into the whole theology of the Bible as well. If you have been honest with yourself enough to admit that some of Jesus’ parables are confusing, then you are probably also honest enough to admit that much of the Bible is confusing also. One of the reasons Jesus spoke in ways that were confusing to His audience, is because… this is what God has always been doing!
So if we want to ask why Jesus told stories that were intentionally confusing, then we also need to ask why God would inspire the Bible to be written in ways that were intentionally confusing. The answer to one question will also be the answer to the other.
And do you want to know why?
Here is why: Scripture and parables are confusing because God doesn’t want us to get life from a book. The Jewish religious leaders were trying to get their life from a book, and Jesus scolded them for it (John 5:39-40), and so also today, many people seem to think that life comes from studying, learning, and following the Bible. But it doesn’t.
Life comes from God alone. Life comes through Jesus Christ. He IS life.
And so when God inspired the Bible to be written in confusing ways, and when Jesus told parables that were confusing, their goal was not just to confuse people, but to get people to come to the source of life for an explanation. God didn’t inspire the Bible to be written just so we could have a book about God. Neither did Jesus tell parables just so we could have some profound spiritual truths. No, the Bible is a tool to lead us into a relationship with God and the parables are a tool to lead us into a relationship with Jesus.
When Jesus told confusing parables, the proper response was for people to go to Jesus and say, “What in the world? That made no sense, Jesus. What did you mean by that parable?” And Jesus always responds by saying, “Ah! I was waiting for you to ask. Let’s talk about it.” And that is what He does. He sits around and discusses the parables with those who want to learn more and who come to Him seeking a relationship. That is why He tells the apostles in Matthew 16 that their eyes and ears are blessed because they see and hear what many prophets have longed for. What did they see and hear? Not the parables…. but Jesus Himself!
This is the same way we can approach Scripture. When the Bible is confusing, the proper response is to go to God and say, “What in the world? This makes no sense, God. What were you thinking? What is going on here?” And then God can say to you, “Ah! I was waiting for you to ask! Let’s talk about it.”
Why is the Bible confusing? For the same reason Jesus’ parables are confusing: God doesn’t want us to be “people of the book.” He wants us to be people of His family. He wants us to be His sons and daughters. And as His children, when we read something in His book that doesn’t make sense to us, He doesn’t want us to shake our head, throw up our hands and say, “I’ll never understand the Bible.” Instead, He wants us to develop a relationship with Him by going to Him with our questions and concerns.
Of course, I should tell you how God often answers your questions and concerns. In my experience, He usually says something like this: “Oh yes. That text. That’s a tough one. But listen, don’t worry about that right now. Look at your neighbors over there struggling with their marriage. What do you think we can do to help them?”
If you look through Jesus’ parables in the Gospels, note that after many of them, rather than really provide much of a verbal explanation, Jesus takes His apostles to love or serve somebody. After the Sermon on the Mount, in which Jesus told several parables, Jesus goes and cleanses a leper, heals the centurion’s servant, and many other people (Matthew 8). After telling a parable about new wine in old wineskins, Jesus raises a young girl to life, gives sight to blind men, and gives a mute man back his voice (Matthew 9). This patterns is followed throughout the Gospels.
So don’t be surprised if following Jesus means following Him with lots of unanswered questions. The parables were designed (along with the rest of Scripture) to bring you into the company of Jesus. After that, Jesus shows you what the parables mean, not by answering your questions, but by leading you to love and server others.
…Which turns out to be the meaning of Jesus’ parables all along.
A List of Jesus’ Parables
Here is a list of Jesus’ parables in chronological order (Credit goes to The Narrated Bible in Chronological Order for this list).
- New cloth on an old coat (Matthew 9:16; Mark 2:21; Luke 5:36)
- New wine in old wineskins (Matthew 9:17; Mark 2:22; Luke 5:37-38)
- Lamp on a stand (also see #6) (Matthew 5:14-15)
- Wise and foolish builders (Matthew 7:24-27; Luke 6:47-49)
- Moneylender forgives unequal debts (Luke 7:41-43)
- Lamp on a stand (2nd time, see #3) (Mark 4:21-22; Luke 8:16, 11:33)
- Rich man foolishly builds bigger barns (Luke 12:16-21)
- Servants must remain watchful (also see #44) (Luke 12:35-40)
- Wise and foolish servants (also see #42) (Luke 12:42-48)
- Unfruitful fig tree (Luke 13:6-9)
- Sower and four types of soil (Matthew 13:3-8, 18-23; Mark 4:3-8, 14-20; Luke 8:5-8, 11-15)
- Weeds among good plants (Kingdom of Heaven) (Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43)
- Growing seed (Kingdom of Heaven) (Mark 4:26-29)
- Mustard seed (Kingdom of Heaven) (Matthew 13:31-32; Mark 4:30-32; Luke 13:18-19)
- Yeast (Kingdom of Heaven) (Matt 13:33; Luke 13:20-21)
- Hidden treasure (Kingdom of Heaven) (Matthew 13:44)
- Valuable pearl (Kingdom of Heaven) (Matthew 13:45-46)
- Fishing net (Kingdom of Heaven) (Matthew 13:47-50)
- Owner of a house (Kingdom of Heaven) (Matthew 13:52)
- Lost sheep (sheep as children, also see #29) (Matthew 18:12-14)
- The sheep, gate, and shepherd (John 10:1-5, 7-18)
- Master and his servant (Luke 17:7-10)
- Unmerciful servant (Kingdom of Heaven) (Matthew 18:23-34)
- Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37)
- Friend in need (Luke 11:5-8)
- Lowest seat at the feast (Luke 14:7-14)
- Invitation to a great banquet (Luke 14:16-24)
- Cost of discipleship (Luke 14:28-33)
- Lost sheep (sheep as sinners, also see #20) (Luke 15:4-7)
- Lost coin (Luke 15:8-10)
- Lost (prodigal) son (Luke 15:11-32)
- Shrewd manager (Luke 16:1-8)
- Rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31)
- Workers in the vineyard, early and late (Matthew 20:1-16)
- Persistent widow and crooked judge (Luke 18:2-8)
- Pharisee and tax collector (Luke 18:10-14)
- King’s ten servants given minas (also see #45) (Luke 19:12-27)
- Two sons, one obeys one does not (Matthew 21:28-32)
- Wicked tenants (Matt 21:33-44; Mark 12:1-11; Luke 20:9-18)
- Invitation to a wedding banquet (Matthew 22:2-14)
- Signs of the future from a fig tree (Matthew 24:32-35; Mark 13:28-29; Luke 21:29-31)
- Wise and foolish servants (2nd time, see #9) (Matthew 24:45-51)
- Wise and foolish virgins (Matthew 25:1-13)
- Servants must remain watchful (2nd time, see #8) (Mark 13:35-37)
- Three servants given talents (also see #37) (Matthew 25:14-30)
- Sheep and goats will be separated (Matthew 25:31-46)
There are, of course, some keys which help us to understand Jesus’ parables. Among them are understanding God’s outrageous grace, what Jesus means by the “Kingdom of Heaven,” and what Jesus thinks about religion (Hint: He hates religion). It is also critical to grasp some of the historical-cultural background themes and ideas from the first century Mediterranean world. If you want to learn more about these things, I highly recommend the following resources to get you started:
Resources for Understanding Jesus’ Parables
- How God Became King by NT Wright
- Kingdom, Grace, Judgment by Robert F. Capon
- Poet and Peasant and Through Middle-Eastern Eyes by Kenneth Bailey
- Repenting of Religion by Greg Boyd
If you know of other good books on the parables of Jesus, let me know in the comment section below.
Other People who Blogged on Jesus’ Parables
Here is a list of other bloggers and authors who contributed to this month’s synchroblog on Jesus’ parables. Go check them all out!
- Parabolic Living – Tim Nichols
- Seed Parables:Sowing Seeds of the Kingdom – Carol Kunihol
- Parables – Be Like the Ant or the Grasshopper – Paul Meier
- The Parables of Jesus: Not Like Today’s Sermons – Jessica
- Penelope and the Crutch – Glenn Hager
- Parables and the Insult of Grace – Rachel
- Changing Hearts Rather Than Minds – Liz Dyer
Thanks for your reply. But I am confused about Jesus being God. My understanding is that the Mormons teach that Jesus is God’s actual Son and that Satan is Jesus actual brother?? Is this correct? If this is correct, then how can there be a trinity of God, the Son and the Holy Ghost, where they are one? I get this information from my sister who is a Mormon.
God, Elohim in the Bible, is God the Father. He is the father of the spirits of all mankind. Jesus Christ, or Jehovah in the Old Testament, is the firstborn Son in the spirit world, and the only begotten in the flesh. Satan, or Lucifer in the Old Testament was one of God’s children, even a son of the morning. Isaiah speaks of Lucifer, a son of God in the following terms—
Hell from beneath is moved for thee to meet thee at thy coming: it stirreth up the dead for thee, even all the chief ones of the earth; it hath raised up from their thrones all the kings of the nations. All they shall speak and say unto thee, Art thou also become weak as we? art thou become like unto us? Thy pomp is brought down to the grave, and the noise of thy viols: the worm is spread under thee, and the worms cover thee. How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit. They that see thee shall narrowly look upon thee, and consider thee, saying, Is this the man that made the earth to tremble, that did shake kingdoms (Isa 14:9-16).
As recorded in the Book of Moses (The Joseph Smith translation of the Book of Genesis) Lucifer, who came to be called Satan, desired to take over the power of God and save all of God’s children without exception. This would have violated the principles of righteousness, and Satan’s plan was rejected, and he was cast down to hell and became the devil.
And I, the Lord God, spake unto Moses, saying: That Satan, whom thou hast commanded in the name of mine Only Begotten, is the same which was from the beginning, and he came before me, saying–Behold, here am I, send me, I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor (Moses 4:1).
The old Protestant cry that the Mormons say that Jesus and Satan are brothers is a vain attempt, inspired by Satan himself in an attempt by the inference of association, to discredit the Mormon Church. Indeed they are brothers, as all men are brothers, but Christ is at one end of the spectrum, the only Son of God who lived a sinless life, who is the Savior and Redeemer of mankind, and Lucifer, or Satan, or the devil is at the other end of the spectrum, the most wicked of all the children of God, the author of sin and unrighteousness.
The trinity of the Godhead is comprised of God the Father, the Son, Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost. The trinity of the Godhead is one in purpose, but not one entity. That concept of the mystery of the Godhead, being three but yet one, is another old sectarian notion that has no substance or foundation. So Elohim, the Father, is a God, Jesus Christ, the only begotten son is a God, and the Holy Spirit is a God. But all those who obey all the commandments of the Lord may also become gods. This is a doctrine on the Bible, not understood by the sectarian world because they have not the gift of Holy Ghost, by which the things of the Spirit are understood. As explained by Paul—
For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God (1 Cor 2:11).
The plurality of gods is plainly taught by Paul in 1 Corinthians—
For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,) But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him (1 Cor 8:5-6).
Paul is explaining that God the Father is the God (or ruler, if you will) of all mankind. If any of His children achieve godhood, they will yet be under the direction of our Father in Heaven. This concept is further clarified in a revelation from the Lord to Joseph Smith in July of 1843—
And again, verily I say unto you, if a man marry a wife by my word, which is my law, and by the new and everlasting covenant, and it is sealed unto them by the Holy Spirit of promise, by him who is anointed, unto whom I have appointed this power and the keys of this priesthood; and it shall be said unto them–Ye shall come forth in the first resurrection; and if it be after the first resurrection, in the next resurrection; and shall inherit thrones, kingdoms, principalities, and powers, dominions, all heights and depths–then shall it be written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, that he shall commit no murder whereby to shed innocent blood, and if ye abide in my covenant, and commit no murder whereby to shed innocent blood, it shall be done unto them in all things whatsoever my servant hath put upon them, in time, and through all eternity; and shall be of full force when they are out of the world; and they shall pass by the angels, and the gods, which are set there, to their exaltation and glory in all things, as hath been sealed upon their heads, which glory shall be a fulness and a continuation of the seeds forever and ever (D&C 132:17,19).
In some ways, there has never been a better time than today to be a Christian. Thanks to the wonders of communications technology, we’re able to connect with believers across the globe. We’re able to see what God’s doing in other cities and other countries within seconds—and with the click of a button, we can have access to the best communicators of this generation. But, in all of human history, there has never been a better communicator than Jesus.
In his three-year ministry, Jesus spoke to small groups of followers and massive crowds. So captivating was His teaching that crowds stayed and listened all day, forgetting to even go home and get something to eat (see Luke 9:10-17). Everyone—from the meekest peasant farmer to the mightiest political ruler—wanted to hear Jesus. And those who heard Him were astonished, “for he was teaching them as one who had authority” (Matthew 7:29).
As we read the Gospels, we see that Jesus commonly used parables, stories that illustrated spiritual and moral lessons. And as we read them, we often find ourselves scratching our heads and asking one question:
Why did Jesus choose to speak in parables when speaking plainly would be so much more effective?
Why So Mysterious?
In Matthew 13:10, we’re told that the disciples came to Jesus and said to Him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?”
They wanted to know: What did He expect to accomplish by not speaking plainly to the crowds?
His answer is fascinating:
To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says: “You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive. For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.” But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it. (Matthew 13:11-17)
This answer is absolutely shocking. It’s shocking because, in effect, Jesus is telling them: “I speak in parables because the truth of the kingdom of heaven is not theirs to know. They think they see the truth of my kingdom, but they don’t. They think they understand, but they can’t. If they did, they might turn and repent.”
That boggles my mind. It’s hard to grasp the idea that Jesus would not want people to know what He was saying. Yet, He didn’t.
Jesus’ explanation of His use of parables reveals that they had a two-fold purpose: to harden the hearts of some who heard, and to cause others to seek out Jesus and ask Him what He meant.
Every time He spoke, He was simultaneously excluding some and including others. Some, after hearing His particularly difficult teachings, turned away and “no longer walked with Him” (John 6:66). But others were drawn to Him. They did not simply accept the unknown, but were fueled by what they did not know to learn more. And the fascinating thing is that when people drew near, when they asked Him to explain, as the disciples did, He was happy to oblige.
Today, it’s considered fashionable by some to speak and write about the Christian faith in ambiguous terms. To “embrace the mystery” of Christianity, as some might say. To leave things mysterious, all in the name of humility. It’s true, there is much we do not understand nor can expect to understand about the “mysterious ways” in which God works. But in effect, by allowing vague, ambiguous teachings on Christianity, they’re choosing not to communicate anything at all. In doing so, men and women of faith, and often very popular ones, are actually breaking the prime rule of communication: Communicators communicate.
While there are many things that God chooses to keep secret from us, He does want us to know who He is, what He expects of us and how we can be rightly related to Him. And these things He has made clear within the pages of Scripture. He has made His will known to His creatures. And He expects those who would teach His people to make it known. So, to speak as though we can’t know with any certainty what God has made knowable—especially under the guise of following the example of Jesus—is not humility. It is the height of arrogance.
Jesus was never mysterious for the sake of being mysterious. He didn’t speak in riddles and vagaries to create a mystique. God is not a beat poet. Jesus’ parables were not meant to be a stumbling block for His disciples. Rather, all things were revealed to them by Him, for those who longed to hear.
Similarly, the role of the Christian is to patiently explain all that has been revealed with gentleness and humility, not cloak His message in ambiguity. Acknowledge what you do not know, seek to know more—and share what you can until the day when all things are made clear.
This article first appeared at The Gospel Coalition.