The Power of a Story

If you follow Bridget and Adrian Plass’s weekly podcast, you’ll know that last Friday they talked about telling a person an unpalatable truth. That rare moment when someone has done something really bad and someone else has to step in and tell them. 

They gave a brilliant Biblical example of this. It’s a familiar one. The bad action occurs when King David steals the wife of Uriah the Hittite. She becomes pregnant and David fails to conceal the adultery by getting Uriah to spend a night with his wife. So he gets Uriah put in an exposed position in battle so that he is killed. 

Nathan the prophet has the job of bringing home to the King the enormity of his deed. How does he do it? You’ll know of course: he tells David a story, almost a parable, really. It’s a story about a poor man who has one lamb, which he brings up as a member of the family, even feeding it at his table. (Nathan really rubs this in.) A rich neighbour, who has flocks and herds galore, entertains a visitor. Instead of having one of his own animals killed and served up for dinner, he takes the poor man’s pet lamb and serves that up. King David is furious and demands the rich man’s death. ‘You are the man’, says Nathan. Checkmate.

Spring Lamb near Haygill Farm. - - 152794.jpg
By Steve Partridge, CC BY-SA 2.0, Link

Adrian and Bridget’s example got me thinking. Imagine some Christians living in a society where one or more very rich people were not content to use their own resources, but set out to add to their riches by taking away the resources available to the poor. Should those Christians speak out? And if so, would telling a story be a good way to do it? And if so, what kind of story would be effective?

And I was going to say: Here’s a writing exercise for you.

But then I thought: the ravishing of Bathsheba was a dreadful lapse from David’s normal virtuousness. He was essentially a good, generous, and merciful king. He declined to eradicate his predecessor, Saul, when the latter was at his mercy. Instead, he put up with repeated murder attempts and death threats from him. He was kind and generous to his followers and to many of his enemies. He was modest and unassuming.

In general, that’s not the kind of person who has great power and wealth nowadays. Are we off the hook?

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