The Parable of the Onion

The bad onion I bought.

I’m a frank communicator. I don’t beat around the bush. I don’t tell a backstory. I get straight to the point. I used to preach this way too. I didn’t see the value in stories, illustrations and object lessons. It wasn’t until I worked for Rev. Delman Coates, Ph.D. at Mt. Ennon Baptist Church in Clinton, Maryland that I gained an appreciation for stories and illustrations and the power they have to help listeners grasp spiritual concepts. Today, I love a good illustration. I don’t preach or teach without illustrations or stories. When I teach children, I always have an object lesson.

Well, this weekend I bought some steaks for my family for a special Sunday dinner. I realized I didn’t have an onion, so I went to the grocery store to buy one. I rummaged through the onions to pick the perfect one for the perfect New York Strip steaks I bought from our local Dutch market. I found it too. The onion I picked smelled great. The color was great – a bright, light yellow. It was firm when I squeezed it. I had the perfect onion, or so I thought. When I returned home, I washed the onion and put it on the chopping board. I cut into it and to my dismay, the onion was rotten on the inside. I was so disappointed. The steaks were seasoned and simmering in my cast-iron skillet, but I didn’t have any fresh onions to put in the pan. Thankfully, I found some leftover onion in my refrigerator, and my special meal wasn’t ruined.

The next day, after I picked my children up from school, we made the trip to return the bad onion to the grocery store – yes I’m that person. In the car, the Holy Spirit led me to use the onion for a spiritual lesson for the children. I told them the parable of the onion. I said, “Think about this onion as you move through life meeting people and making friends. People, like the onion, can look perfect on the outside. They can be dressed up, smell good, and look nice, but on the inside, they could be rotten to the core.” I told my children that people can be just like the onion, and I let them see it. They totally got the lesson! I admonished them to take their time getting to know people so they can discover if the person is good or rotten on the inside. I also shared that God doesn’t care about what’s on the outside and how we look. God is concerned with the condition of our hearts. I asked them to always raise the question – “Are you rotten on the inside?”

We are our children’s first teachers.

My experience with the onion is a prime example of how God speaks to us and how the Holy Spirit uses situations in our lives to teach us about the Kingdom of God. Do you have any examples? How has God used everyday things to teach you spiritual lessons?

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may become clean. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which on the outside look beautiful, but inside they are full of the bones of the dead and of all kinds of filth.”–Matthew 23:25-27 (NRSV).

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