The Parables of Jesus - Lesson 6
Parables of the Foolish Builder and Wise King
Objectives: By the end of this lesson the learner will be able to:
- Describe important background information that will improve the readers' understanding of this parable.
- Identify what issues a 1st century Jewish audience would focus on after hearing the parable of the foolish builder and wise king.
- Identify the major lessons conveyed allegorically by the main characters.
- Make applications of the major lessons to contemporary situations. O/H 1
Teaching Aids and Materials:
- Easy to understand Bibles for every student (CEV, RSV, NAV, NIV, NRSV, etc.)
- A chalkboard, marker board, or overhead projector.
Lesson Plan for Conducting the Class
Introduction: (about 8-10 minutes)
- Begin class by welcoming members and any visitors; make all necessary class announcements; songs.
- Lead the class in a prayer that will include asking God to help us not to become discouraged in our commitment to be disciples.
- Q: Who would like to tell about their experience of showing compassion to someone who is either generally dismissed by society or yourself? (Allow 2-3 people to respond)
- In Edinburgh there is a monument erected on Carlton Hill known as "Edinburgh's shame". At the turn of the 1900s, the city council decided to have a life-size replica of the Parthenon in Athens built on Carlton Hill to symbol Edinburgh as the Athens of the North (a city of intellect and culture). However, after they got 2 sides of the replica up, the council ran out of money for the project and it was disbanded. Instead of incurring cost to tear it down, the city decided to leave it up as reminder not to undertake any task without being prepared to cover all the costs. Today's lesson from two of Jesus' parables help to make this point with the illustration of a foolish builder and a wise king.
- Share with the learners the lesson objectives. O/H 1
- Have someone read Luke 14:28-33.
Learning Experiences: (about 20-25 minutes)
Part I: Background information for understanding the parable
…For the parable of the foolish builder
Explain to the learners that the Greek word behind tower (purgos) can point to either a circular or square structure that was erected during this time to be used either for military purposes or agricultural ones. Farmers used these structures for several different purposes: to store farming equipment or produce; to house a guard to protect crops from thieves or animals; to provide lodging. The word "tower" is appropriate but the reader must release the multiple uses of such a structure. It should also be noted that since the man has to sit down and figure his costs, we are probably not meant to imagine that this is a small structure.
…For the parable of the wise king
Explain to the learners that the scenario envisioned by Jesus here is not unrealistic. The idea of a king with 10,000 men or 20,000 may be using high numbers, but they are not unimaginable. Furthermore, the king cannot simply call it quits and go home but must find terms of peace with the one who comes with 20,000 men. Explain to the learners that Luke's readers would also recognize that the Greek word behind "ridicule" (empaizo) does not mean a simple light-hearted tease but a cruel derision.
Part II: Issues raised in the minds of a Jewish audience
Q: To what issue in these stories would a Jewish audience be very sensitive? A: If the learners have been introduced to this concept through the previous lessons, they now should be able to recognize that a Jewish audience would focus on the issue of avoiding the experience of shame or loosing face. The builder only lays a foundation and then has to stop so that what is put up so far looks foolish to others. The wise king avoids a foolish war and even death when it is clear that his army is out-numbered.
Part Ill: Lessons from the main characters
Q: Towards whom are these two parables primarily directed? A: It is directed towards half-hearted disciples. Explain to the learners that Jesus' (and Luke's) intention is not so much to warn people about becoming disciples as it is to warn disciples not to give up or they will be shamed before God. Q: Do you think that most Christians know what kind of sacrifices they will have to make as disciples of Jesus? A: It is unlikely that most Christians know the full extent of the sacrifices they will make. This parable is not asking for this. Jesus is only pointing out that if it is wise to give careful thought before engaging in some earthly enterprise, it is more significant that they do so when deciding to become a disciple. Part lV: Contemporary Applications of the main lessons Q: What "costs" do you think would have discouraged a disciple of Jesus in the first century from staying committed to following Jesus? A: There may be various answers. Here are some examples: Some disciples would have been discouraged at the thought of possibly being rejected by their Jewish family and friends. Other disciples would have been discouraged at the accusation of Gentiles that they were a threat to the morals of society. Q: What "costs" do you think discourages disciples of Jesus today from staying committed to discipleship? A: The learners may give you a number of good illustrations. Here are two: Some disciples in Third World countries are discouraged by violent persecution of Christians. Some disciples in this country are discouraged because they are portrayed through the media as gullible, unintelligent or intolerant. Q: What would these parables suggest we do as we teach others to become a Christian? A: We should teach them to think realistically about the sacrifices God will and may expect of them.
Application: (about 5-10 minutes)
- Ask the learners to think about an example of how a disciple of Jesus today might show that they did not count the cost of being a disciple. Then ask 2- 3 learners to share with the class what example they came up with. Their example should preferably include a scenario where the disciple ends up renouncing faith and not simply fail to perform a task that is asked or required of them.
Assignment: (about 2 minutes)
- Jesus used the motivation of avoiding shame to encourage commitment to discipleship. Next week be prepared to give 2-3 examples of what it would take to motivate some disciples today not to get discouraged and quit following Christ.
Review the lesson objectives. Let them know the parable for next week's lesson: Lazarus and the Rich Man
Describe important background information that will improve the readers' understanding of this parable. Identify what issues a 1st century Jewish audience would focus on after hearing the parable of the foolish builder and wise king. Identify the major lessons conveyed allegorically by the main characters. Make applications of the major lessons to contemporary situations.
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