The Parable of the Mexican Fisherman

The Mexican Fisherman and the Investment Banker (Author Unknown)

An American investment banker was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large yellowfin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them.

The Mexican replied, “only a little while.”

The American then asked why didn’t he stay out longer and catch more fish?

The Mexican said he had enough to support his family’s immediate needs.

The American then asked, “but what do you do with the rest of your time?”

The Mexican fisherman said, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siestas with my wife, Maria, and stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine, and play guitar with my amigos. I have a full and busy life.”

The American scoffed. “I have an MBA from Harvard, and can help you,” he said. “You should spend more time fishing, and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat. With the proceeds from the bigger boat, you could buy several boats, and eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middle-man, you could sell directly to the processor, eventually opening up your own cannery. You could control the product, processing, and distribution,” he said. “Of course, you would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then Los Angeles, and eventually to New York City, where you will run your expanding enterprise.”

The Mexican fisherman asked, “But, how long will this all take?”

To which the American replied, “Oh, 15 to 20 years or so.”

“But what then?” asked the Mexican.

The American laughed and said, “That’s the best part. When the time was right, you would announce an IPO, and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich. You would make millions!”

“Millions – then what?”

The American said, “Then you could retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you could sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siestas with your wife, and stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play guitar with your amigos.”

The Good Samaritan: how politics transformed the meaning of a biblical story

The former Archbishop reviews The Political Samaritan: How Power Hijacked a Parable by Nick Spencer.

But, as most regular readers of the Bible are aware, relations between Jews and Samaritans at the time when the story of the Good Samaritan was first told were as poisonous as those between Serbs and Bosnians in the 1990s.

Any story with a Samaritan as a positive character would have been offensive; this one is made still more so by its very structure.

.. the natural expectation would be that the hero of the story would be an ordinary Israelite, a salt-of-the-earth person just like the average listener to the story. Instead of which it turns out to be a racially and religiously obnoxious figure.

.. one of the many points of the tale is not that “we” should be kind to “them”, but that we, the insiders, the elect, the normal, should be ready to recognise that we are likely to have to depend in important ways on the apparently alien and threatening stranger.

.. It’s about ethnic prejudice; or religious conflict; or the conflict between law-keeping and spontaneous ethical behaviour; or about the transcending of Israel’s historic significance as uniquely the people of God; or the need for ethical creativity; or the imperative to stop asking who is the neighbour to whom you have a duty and start behaving as a neighbour to anyone and everyone you encounter.
.. what Jesus’s story does is to refuse to offer any simple criteria for generalising about where love stops (just as elsewhere he refuses to offer criteria for when it’s all right to stop trying to forgive or to be reconciled).
.. the religious professionals in the story would have had sound reasons for avoiding not only practical risks but also ceremonial pollution if the injured man had proved to be dead
.. to recognise that we are repeatedly humbled by learning what love looks like from profoundly unlikely sources.
.. as the context of the parable becomes less well known, it is co-opted in various ways that make it just a bit banal. Calling someone a Good Samaritan becomes, says Spencer, “a pithier way of saying “people who make significant efforts to help those they don’t know”.
..  unforgettably – by Margaret Thatcher addressing the Church of Scotland on the importance of the wealth creation that enabled the Samaritan to have resources to help the less fortunate.
..  what looks like an easily available trope is actually a good deal more dangerous, liable to turn from a useful stick with which to beat your rhetorical enemies into a splinter that sticks in your own flesh; very much the way in which Jesus’s parables regularly work.
.. civic coherence and ethical clarity in a culture, even a publicly agnostic culture, continue to draw on the language and (in the broad sense) myth of older identities, and on the experience of communities for whom these words and narratives are still alive.

Jesus as Wisdom Teacher

The hallmark of these wisdom teachers was their use of pithy sayings, puzzles, and parables rather than prophetic pronouncements or divine decree. They spoke to people in the language that people spoke, the language of story rather than law.

.. Jesus was not a priest. He had nothing to do with the temple hierarchy in Jerusalem, and he kept a respectful distance from most ritual observances. Nor was he a prophet in the usual sense of the term: a messenger sent to the people of Israel to warn them of impending political catastrophe in an attempt to redirect their hearts to God.

Jesus was not that interested in the political fate of Israel, nor would he accept the role of Messiah continuously being thrust upon him.

.. His message was not one of repentance (at least in the usual way we understand it; more on that later this week) and return to the covenant.

.. the transformation of human consciousness.