A Word Picture is Worth a Thousand Words By Jo Russell

“Draw something from the kitchen,” the elementary teacher told her first grade students.

Miss Jenkins smiled and thought, “This will build their vocabulary, get them talking and writing a story of something they know!”

Brothers Ron and Rick looked at each other. They recognized this classic teacher tactic.

“Boring,” Rick whispered.

“Yeah,” responded his six-year-old brother, Rick.

Soon the brothers grinned and took up their pencils. While others drew a refrigerator, stove, mixing bowls and spoons, Ron and Rick did no such thing.

The teacher stared at their finished picture. “I asked for a picture of something from the kitchen,” she reminded them.

The detailed drawing showed the boys’ spotted family dog sprinting from the kitchen with a chicken drumstick in his mouth.

“Just how is this connected with the kitchen?”

“Fletcher is always in the kitchen when someone gets out the food!”

A few years later, Ron and Rick’s Sunday class teacher, Mrs. Williams, gave them the same kind of vague instructions when she requested, “Draw something from the Bible.”

Soon drawing all over the class came to life in color: The brothers worked together hard on this one.

While others drew Moses, Noah, Mary, Joseph, and Jesus, Ron and Rick did no such thing.

Again, this teacher asked, “I asked for something from the Bible. Just how is this connected?”

She turned the drawing around and the other kids noticed it was a car – not just any car, but a detailed picture of Grandma’s ancient Oldsmobile: a four-door sedan the size of a small school bus. It had wing tips over the headlights and bullet-shaped taillights.

“It’s a land yacht,” the older boy explained. “You know, like when Noah built the ark and it hadn’t rained yet.”

The other kids howled with laughter.

“So much for comprehension,” the teacher sighed and wished she had explained in more detail what she wanted them to do. At this point, Mrs. Williams was not enthusiastic about the Ron and Rick’s family sense of humor.

Detailed instructions and modeling would have helped in each of these cases.

Jesus established a teaching method that helped his learners get a clear idea of moral principles he wanted them to understand. He taught in parables. These are word pictures with people in action to illustrate the story. Parables are also described as an analogy.

Jesus’ parables are still widely known today. Good Sam RV Clubs with its logo of a smiling man with a halo above his head is loosely linked to Jesus’ story. The Son of God reminds us of the importance of showing kindness to others regardless of race, creed, or social status. That is the story, “The Good Samaritan” (Luke 10:30- 37).   “The Prodigal Son” teaches us about God’s forgiveness available to us (Luke 15:11-32). Who could forget that the meaning of “talent” today is linked to skills and abilities? It comes from Jesus’ parable about the three men given talents – or sizeable monetary units of silver – to nurture while the master was away.  That is from Matthew 25:14-28. Burying one’s talent—whether skills or money–is clearly shown to leave God disappointed in us, his creations.

But even his disciples didn’t understand why Jesus taught in parables. “The disciples came to him and asked, ‘Why do you speak to the people in parables?’ He replied, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them.” [Matthew 13:11 NIV]

Parables are a clear word picture for all who hear and read, even today. They are fool-proof teaching. Read, listen, and learn. You’ll find the parables and Jesus’ teachings sprinkled liberally through Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

And you’ll never be stumped by a vague request like, “Draw something from the Bible.”

[Jo Russell is a Christian speaker, author of articles, anthology contributions, and award-winning Which Button Do You Push to Get God to Come Out? A Humorous Devotional for Women. available from Amazon.com, her speaking engagements and website, www.button-to-god.com. Enjoy chuckles and speeches, tips and excerpts in website options and weekly blog.]