Summary: Jesus gives us an example of how to speak to those who are outside of His family in a way that communicates with clarity the message that will change their lives.
Between Two Worlds
Matthew 13:34; 7:28-29
Does that hit close to home? This little clip gives us a vivid portrayal of one of the greatest fears of many Christians. However, it also gives us a vivid portrayal of one of the greatest fears of many non-Christians.
Everybody but Sam had signed up for a new company pension plan that called for a small employee contribution. The company was paying all the rest. Unfortunately, 100% employee participation was needed; otherwise, the plan was off. Sam’s boss and his fellow workers pleaded and cajoled, but to no avail. Sam said the plan would never pay off.
Finally, the company president called Sam into his office. "Sam," he said, "here’s a copy of the new pension plan, and here’s a pen. I want you to sign the papers. I’m sorry, but if you don’t sign, you’re fired. As of right now." Sam signed the papers immediately. "Now," said the president, "would you mind telling me why you couldn’t have signed earlier?" "Well, sir," replied Sam, "nobody explained it to me quite so clearly before!"
"Given enough time any simple thing will be explained in a complex way."
For example, the following notice was sent home with some high school students: "Our school’s cross-graded, multi-ethnic, individualized learning program is designed to enhance the concept of an open-ended learning program on the continuum of multi-ethnic, academically enriched learning, using the identified intellectually gifted child as the agent of his own learning." One parent sent back a note which read, "I have a college degree, speak two foreign languages, and four Indian dialects … but I haven’t the faintest idea what you are talking about."
1) Jesus spoke in a language which people could understand (Matt 13:34).
In one Wizard of Id comic strip, the king came down to check with the royal technicians at work on the space project. The king says, "How’s the Royal Space Project progressing?" And the technician replies, "We’ve run into a problem. There’s been a major malfunction of the primary propulsion system in the first stage vehicle." The king asks, "What does that mean?" And the technician responds, "It means the rubber band broke!"
Sometimes we use theological jargon that sounds impressive and makes us look intelligent but has absolutely no meaning to those we are talking to.
In a 1995 survey by Barna Research Group, it was discovered that non-Christians have no clue what Christians mean when some they use some of the phrases Christians often take for granted. 63% of non-Christians don’t know what Christians mean when they talk about the Gospel. 75% of non-Christians don’t know what John 3:16 is. Add to the phrases like "a broken heart", "I’ve been convicted", and "get into the Word, which non-Christians would hear quite differently. The problem for unbelievers is they hear the unspoken message from Christians, "If you don’t understand the holy lingo, you don’t belong to the holy huddle." However, 40% of Christians don’t know what the Gospel means, and 53% don’t know John 3:16.
During the 1950’s, Adlai Stevenson, the esteemed and intellectual senator from Illinois, failed twice in his bid for the White House against Dwight Eisenhower. During his second run for the presidency, Stevenson sought the advise of former President Harry Truman. The story goes that the straight-talking, "The buck stops here" president walked over to the window of the hotel room where they were meeting. Pointing to a man waiting for a bus on the street corner, Truman reportedly said, "See that man over there? Talk so that he can understand you."
Matthew 13:34 says, "Jesus always used stories and illustrations like these when speaking to the crowds. In fact, he never spoke to them without using such parables." What that verse tells us is this, “Jesus spoke in a language which people could understand.”
If I say, "rotten watermelon," what comes to mind? Most likely, whatever you are thinking isn’t pleasant, because rotten watermelons have a horrible odor! Elsewhere, Jesus spoke in a language which people could understand by contrasting good fruit with rotten fruit. False teachers are bad and putrid fruit; true teachers are good fruit. Could he have made it any clearer that false teachers originate from that which is bad or rotten?
2) Jesus spoke in a language with which people could relate (Matt 13:34).
Marriage and family therapists suggest a significant problem for marriages is the different approaches to communication between men and women. Men generally approach conversation from a mindset of transmitting information and ideas. Women generally approach conversation from a mindset of transmitting passions and feelings. Men are geared toward thinking. Women are geared toward experiencing. Men want to download data. Women want to network. But, I would guess that those dynamics have never left you thinking, "Huh" when talking with their spouse or another member of the opposite sex. And I’m equally sure no one here has ever said, “I don’t care what I said. You know what I meant!”