Comparisons and analogies can be helpful in teaching biblical principles. Jesus used parables, such as the sower and the seeds, to illustrate big ideas to his followers and disciples. Jesus used natural phenomenon that the culture could relate to, to explain spiritual concepts. In our 21st century world in the United States, farming is not always a tangible concept; not very many people are physically “reaping and sowing” in their fields, so to speak. More people tend to work at desks with computers. So hopefully this modern parable will strike a chord with some of you.
Once upon a time there was a certain girl who worked for a government agency. She collected field samples, cleaned stream gages, and other scientific collection-type work. Every time she made a visit to her sites, she was required to meticulously document all observations and measurements. When she would return to her office she would input that information onto a computer database. The software program she used required very precise inputs (like an old MS DOS program). Even a single wrong character, an extra space after a word or an ampersand, would cause an obnoxious error window to pop up and no data would be entered. As she did her diligence processing the data, she became deeply annoyed with the software. Sometimes the error pop-up would tell her how to correct it….and sometimes it wouldn’t.
Then one glorious day, an update to the software was created. It came with a Graphic User Interface (a GUI) and all she had to do was click the “GO” button and the data went straight into the database! It seemed too good to be true. She was so thankful for the GUI software that she wrote to the programmers to tell them that it was so beautifully easy, she was only ever going to use it and would recommend it to all her friends. The End.
Explanation of the parable:
In the parable the MS DOS type software is God’s Old Testament ceremonial law. In computer programming, every character matters. They are all tiny “on/off” switches telling the software what to do. One missed letter or grammatical error will cause the program to behave in an unexpected way. It requires perfect precision or else you’ll get a “fatal error.” The Old Testament law was very similar to this. There were hundreds of laws in the Old Testament, and one was required to keep them all perfectly all the time if he was to be saved by his own merit. James 2:10 says, “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.” Just like the tiny mistakes in the software would cause a “fatal error,” one tiny transgression of the law meant eternal damnation. Paul says in Hebrews 7:19 that the law made nothing perfect. In other words, the law could not save anyone. It simply showed us how sinful we are (Romans 3:20). Someone has to fulfill the whole law to be worthy to be saved by merit.
The GUI software represents Jesus. GUI software fulfills all the programming rules needed to operate the program. It performs the functions that the user would have had to type manually in an MS DOS type environment. Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament law with his life and then made us able to share in that by his death, burial, and resurrection. Through faith and repentance, we can share in the perfect life of Jesus and be counted as righteous in Him. Jesus is the guarantor of a better covenant. We no longer have to keep every jot and tittle of the law (although God’s moral and civil laws still stand, but that’s for another day). So we, like the girl in the story, ought to be thankful! Hebrews 10:1-10 is a wonderful summary of how Christ has fulfilled the law:
For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’”
When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), then he added, “Behold, I have come to do your will.” He does away with the first in order to establish the second. And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.