Metaphors Teach Us So Much

Jan 02, 2023

1.2.23  Metaphors teach us so much


The Bible is full of metaphors from Canaan as the Promised Land, that is, the kingdom of God on earth, to Jesus’s death on the cross and His resurrection as a promise of new life for us after every big or small “death” we go through in this life. Metaphors help us to look beyond the obvious to more subtle meanings and expand our interpretations of the obvious to what God is offering each of us.


If Jesus’s death on the cross—that horrible painful end of His life on this earth–had been all that the cross stands for, then we are forever tied to His horrendous death. As we understand more and more about the resurrection and the cross, the cross becomes a lighter and richer symbol of all we are to learn here on earth, of the new life that is awaiting us after every “death” we go through.


We use metaphors in our own speech often as we compare one thing to another.  Weeks ago I called fall the season of spice because the leaf colors are changing to the colors of turmeric and paprika and cinnamon and more. When we read the Bible, we are to go beyond the obvious story to the deeper meaning, like the Good Samaritan helping the injured man on the side of the road who had been ignored by the priest and the Levite [Luke 10:25-37]. The story is about more than the good Samaritan helping the man, and the priest and Levite not helping. It has implications in our lives, too. Are we ignoring the needy who we come across? Or are we offering the help they need? Why would we ignore them? And what would it take for us to help them, to actually see them?


Jesus is another part of the metaphor for us, because, if we study who He was and what He did for the poor and needy, the sick and disabled, and the troubled, we see His life pointing us to a similar focus. Now, there are many ways to help someone in need through working at non-profits, through supporting legislation that helps them, to assuring that our church members are willing to help, and more. It’s not just about giving money to charities who help the poor and needy, but also about getting involved with them, getting to know them, their aspirations and their history, their hopes and dreams, and their challenges. Love means doing more than just a handout; like the Samaritan, who bandaged his wounds, brought the man to an inn, and left some money so that He would be taken care of. The other metaphor of interest in this parable is that the one who helped was not a Jew, he was a Samaritan who was not considered an equal of the Jews. The one who was an outcast was the one who actually helped the man.


The inn keeper is accepting this injured man, grateful I am sure for the Samaritan’s help in his care. Nothing is said about who the man who was helped was. Was he a Jew, a Samaritan or someone of another group? We don’t know. We only know that he was in pretty desperate need. And what does that say about us? Do we only care for our own? Or do we help people who are different from us, maybe people set aside in our country which is full of prejudices about people that make them less than the now-majority white population. Mother Teresa of Calcutta who worked with the poor calls us to help in a different way: “there is a much deeper, much greater hunger[than a hunger for food]; and that is the hunger for love, and that terrible loneliness and being unwanted, unloved – being abandoned by everybody.”[1] Jesus was certainly always showing the needy love and healing. I think Jesus’s message in this parable is that it doesn’t matter who we are or who those who need help are, we are to help them, to be the Good Samaritan to them, to show them love above all.


Questions to ponder over the week:  What lesson does this parable offer you? What is Christ calling you to do with and for the poor and needy? Are you willing to follow Jesus in this way? If not, what would you have to give up in order to follow Jesus’s call to you?


Blessing for the week: May we be the people of God who follow Jesus and help the poor and needy as He calls us. May we be ready to not just give money, but to get to know the people and their lives and really be supportive in other ways, too.


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Two Announcements

  1. I am giving away a 10-week journaling guide to Jesus’s Two Great Commandments. If you are interested, email me at and I will email it to you, free of charge.
  2. My latest books, “Called to Help the Poor and Needy” and “A Study Guide to the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount” are now in bookstores and on line. The first is about the more than 2,000 verses in the Bible which detail God’s instructions for caring for those in need. The second is a journaling/pondering guide to Jesus’s most complete sermon.



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