If Windows Can Offer Updates, Why Not Jesus? (Column 9-9-06)

If Windows can offer updates, why not Jesus?

Originally written for the Pueblo Chieftain newspaper

Many of Jesus’ stories are hard to relate to today. I mean, how many of us know what a mustard seed looks like anyway? And in the currency of Jesus’ day, how much was a talent?

So mostly for my own amusement, I decided to offer some new interpretations on a few of Jesus’ most famous parables, as if he were telling them today. We’ll start with the parable of the mustard seed.

“God’s paradise is like a dual boot microprocessor,” Jesus explained. “Even though the processors are really small, once they’re placed in the proper motherboard, they’re able to support many different operating system platforms.”

Umm, yeah. How about the parable of the talents?

“A fund manager for Salomon Smith Barney met with three of his traders. He gave $50,000 to one trader, $20,000 to another, and $10,000 to the new guy. The one with $50,000 created a diversified investment portfolio, with an equal balance of international stocks, small cap equities and commodities. Before long, he doubled his money. The one with $20,000 spread her money across municipal bonds, high-yield T-bills and blue chip performers. She too doubled her holdings. The junior trader started freaking out, worrying that he’d lose his boss’ money, so he stuffed it all under his mattress.

“The manager was impressed with the savvy of the first two traders, and offered to make them partners. He gave the new guy a broom and wished him luck in his new role as senior custodian.”

Maybe the story about new wine in old wineskins will make more sense.

Jesus and his friends go to an office party and they’re enjoying themselves. The religious leaders, all decked out in their fancy priest garb, are observing a religious fast. They’re amazed to see Jesus and his followers munching on wine and cheese.

“What’s your deal?” asks one of the priests. “I thought you were religious and stuff.”

“Evidently you didn’t get the memo,” replied Jesus. “Guys like you take the air out of a room. Loosen up – it’s a party for crying out loud. You can fast later. Look at you! Who wears a cleric’s outfit on Hawaiian Shirt Friday? Would you wear a clown suit to a funeral? You guys are a drag. Have some Havarti and chill out.”

OK, so updating the parables may not be such a good idea. In today’s terms, these stories may come across as trite or even more confusing. The point is that we don’t have to know what mustard seeds or talents are to get the message.

Jesus could have distilled his points down and just told us what we needed to know. He could have made a list of rules, told us how to live to make God happy, and then we wouldn’t have to worry if we were holy enough, pious enough or righteous enough.

The thing is that there already were hundreds of religious rules. The Pharisees gave Jesus a hard time at every turn for breaking one or more of them. Instead of trading one set of rules for another, Jesus told stories. But we still just want to be told what to do so we don’t have to worry about whether or not we are living the right way.

Douglas Adams makes a good point in his book, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. When seekers ask the supercomputer called Deep Thought for the ‘Ultimate answer to life, the universe and everything,’ his answer is ‘Forty-two.’ Deep Thought’s followers are exasperated by this unsatisfying result after 7.5 million years of waiting.

“I think the problem,” replies Deep Thought, “is that you’ve never actually known what the question is.”

Amen, Deep Thought.

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