The parables of Jesus are simple Zen-like stories that disturb and satisfy, disaffect and engage, confuse and clarify.

In the parable of The Good Employer, does the owner really expect everyone to work for the same wage, regardless of their time spent laboring under the hot Mediterranean sun? In The Talents, does the third servant deserve to be cast out into the darkness for refusing to invest his master’s capital, or is he a more sympathetic figure, just an average guy who is struggling with too much responsibility? In The Prodigal Son, does the younger brother, in the end, get a free pass for his many transgressions against the father?  How could you possibly run a just society governed by these principles?

Like many others, I have looked to the historical setting of the parables for answers. I have a business background and was often struck by the commercial forces that drove the actions of the characters and the society in which they lived. 

In the time of Christ, the economy was less complex than today. Average people possessed a clear understanding of the finances that shaped their world. Today we have little notion of where our food comes from (let alone the supply chain that delivers it). Citizens of the first century had a firm grip on their food chain, including credit, labor relations, inventory management, stewardship, transportation and taxes – not just because it was simple enough to be understood by everyone – but because their lives depended upon it. You didn’t need an M.B.A. to know the economic impact that a bad harvest would have on your village. This is difficult for us moderns to understand, viewing the parables as we do from within our highly compartmentalized and well-supplied selves.

This website is an attempt to re-tell the parables as they were lived in Roman-occupied Judea, with all the constraints, hazards and intimacy of their pre-industrial economy. Each re-telling explores the motives and actions of the characters as understood from within their wholistic society. A big jump, no doubt, but one that might make these puzzling stories a little less so.

Each narrative is accompanied by commentary and questions which are meant to evoke meditations that follow from the re-telling.

I would be happy to discuss anything on the site. Please feel free to use the Contact feature to do so.

Kevin Brady


Click on an excerpt below to read the full article.

Luke 15:11-32 The younger brother threw down his hoe and stormed angrily across the field to the farmhouse. His elder brother watched for a while, shook his head and returned to his weeding. For the two brothers, never happy with each other, this was the latest incident in the ongoing argument that was their lives. The younger brother was a free spirit, unbound by convention, who loved to sing […]

Matthew 25:14-30 Nothing was ready. Bags remained open and unpacked, with clothes neither in nor out. The servants ran from one unfinished task to another, trying their best to follow conflicting instructions from stewards who were themselves at odds. The mother of the house and her young children sat wide-eyed at the tumult within their home, now spilling out into the courtyard, where two bankers stood waiting outside with […]

Matthew 20:1-16Harvest time. The late summer sun burned just below the hillside and backlit the ancient vines rising up from the even more ancient earth. The ground was parched and packed. Only the grapes held the promise of moisture, the pulp near bursting their skins. A slight breeze rustled through the leaves and nudged a single plump grape from its stem. The grape tumbled through the brambles and split open […]


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