The parables Jesus has been teaching with the last few weeks in the Gospel have been some of my favorite stories. He takes a complex situation and represents it in a way people today can understand. He teaches us about the world, what is important in life and what to avoid. What if we had a new parable that addressed what we and our children face today, in our high-tech, secular society?
Striving for the kingdom of heaven can be likened modern life. There was a man living a good life, full of blessings of all kinds: a trustworthy wife, loving children, nice career, good property and friends he could count on. As he grew older he still loved these blessings but he also became enamored with a work tool his boss gave him, a smart phone. At first, he used the phone only for calling co-workers and customers during work hours. He still focused on his family and the right priorities. But soon he began to use it for evening calls and an occasional important dinner-time email to a customer. He wasn’t talking to his kids as much during dinner. But the biggest surprise came next.
After an upgrade, he found that it could access the web much faster and he started following the progress of work deliveries and his favorite baseball team and tracking the daily activities of his distant cousins and friends. They would buzz his phone all day with little comments and odd symbols and thumbs-up. The shock was all these distractions were claiming even more of his time. His wife asked him to put it away, but it kept buzzing. The buzzing interrupted him at work, at home, at his kids’ ball games – if he even made time to go.
Before long, buying the latest model was the top priority on his mind – before braces for his son, new tires for the car, or college savings. He was constantly getting a newer phone and more apps. He had the best phone on the planet and he would spend all day long absorbed in the web sites, the people, the games, and the photos, including some Not Safe For Work. That went on for some time, but even with all the enticing things on his phone, he wasn’t satisfied. He yearned for… something more.
The man went into the phone store to see if there was something better. He stood around for a moment, feeling awkward. He looked at the new models and accessories. Then, a man he hadn’t noticed before was standing right there with him.
“Hi, I’m the manager and I’m overjoyed you’ve come in today,” the manager said. “I thought you might be ready to see me.”
“I’m just looking for…”
“Yes, exactly. I’m not sure what though,” and the searching man handed the manager his phone.
The manager told him he had a great way for the man to enjoy himself more and he explained how it would work. He tapped a few buttons on the phone and gave it back. Despite being doubtful, the man decided to try it because the manager spoke with authority.
The next day, whenever the man would go to his favorite app it would run for a minute or two and then a message would pop up. It said things like, “Take a walk outside,” or “Be nice and talk with someone nearby” or “Just breathe.” At first, it seemed odd, but he noticed his day went well and didn’t feel as hectic. He befriended a guy he’d never spoken to before, despite seeing him in the lunchroom countless times. Still, he went back and talked to the manager again, because it wasn’t what he had been searching for. After tapping and swiping a few times, the manager assured him tomorrow he’d like it even more. The next day another app popped up messages for him that said similar things. Instead of AC/DC and One Republic, it pumped out music by MercyMe and the Newsboys. His day was more relaxed and he got a lot done at work, finishing a few minutes early for a change. He was able to stop at the grocery store for his wife on the way home.
After a week, his once favorite apps didn’t start at all but brought up pictures of his wife and kids; once an old friend’s number popped up, a friend he hadn’t talked to in years. Every few days the man would go back to the store and they would talk about the phone and how it worked – but didn’t really work as expected. He’d ask the manager to fix his phone and the manager would push a few buttons and give it back to him, saying each time, “This is better, believe me.”
As time went on fewer and fewer apps were interrupting his day and he had time to focus on his family and his work and paying attention to those around him. His life wasn’t cluttered with meaningless noise.
He after a while, he’d reconnected with his kids and his wife, even some distant friends – in person, not via an app. He went back to the manager once more.
“Did you know how important to me the apps on my phone were the first time I came to you?”
“I did,” the manager said. “But everyone who comes to me is looking for something more fulfilling than what’s filling up their time.
“So now what do I do with the phone?”
“Share what you’ve learned about it. And when you are ready, turn it over to me.”
“But I like it now. It works well.”
“I’ll give you a glorious new one that will work perfectly.”
The man nodded, for he believed him.
As was often done in the Gospel, you get the full picture with a bit of a recap. The man who is searching for something more is all of us. The phone represents his life. It was filled up with lots of apps, which are the misdirected and skewed priorities that plague his life, including sin. The manager he spoke to is Jesus, who knows what it means to be human. Talking to the manager and getting help from him portrays a good prayer life. One day, when we give our life to Jesus, He’ll give us a glorious new one with Him in heaven.
And there we’ll have unlimited minutes.