The Fireplace: A Parable

The Kingdom of Heaven is like this:

There was once a woman who lived alone in a house. Along with electricity and running water, the house had a gas stove, oven, water heater, and fireplace–all gas-powered! The woman used her stove, oven, and warm water without giving it the slightest conscious thought. She bathed herself daily, cleansed her hands several times a day, and prepared marvelous food with the stove and oven.

But she only used the fireplace when she had company—just for show. When her company would come over, the woman turned the fireplace on and off with a remote control. Her house was kept neat and tidy and in order, spotless, in case someone should walk in expecting to find a mess.

But one day, while she had company over, just as the people are leaving and she was trying to quench the fire with her remote, the fire did not go out—but kept blazing! Terrified, the woman rushed to the controls to the gas for the whole house, and turned the gas off to choke out the flame. Now unable to cook or clean properly, she left the house, too afraid of the fireplace to turn the gas back on and resume even her normal activity.

In her place came a young man and his wife, who had lived their entire lives in the country, where utilities were subject to the weather, and any fire had to be prepared ahead of time by chopping and seasoning wood for a brief and temporary blaze.

The young man’s wife was constantly chilly, hungry for heat. The owners of the house kindly reset the house’s gas so the young couple could bathe and the wife could cook amazing food. But still, the young man’s wife craved heat. They had been told that the fireplace was just a decoration, that it had served a purpose once long ago, but no more.

Unsatisfied with the answer they had received, and determined that if the fireplace had been of use then it would be no different now, the young couple got on hands and knees before the fireplace. They began to move aside one heavy stone log at a time, dirtying their hands and their clothes with soot. But they hardly noticed the mess they were creating, for how excited they were!

At last, they finally uncovered the pilot light’s wick. The young man struck a match to light the flame, and the couple leaped back in alarm as the fire roared to life! Overjoyed, the young man and his wife haphazardly threw the stone logs back in place, enjoying their new source of heat in light while being cautious of the majestic flames.

The young couple had no idea of the remote control, nor would they have dreamed of using it. The fire blazed night and day. Before long, outsiders began knocking on the door, asking to come in—some out of curiosity, and some shivering with a hungry look in their eyes. The former had never seen anything like the flickering light that had drawn them to the house from outside, while the latter, constantly seeking, remembered it as a distant memory.

The young couple graciously accepted these people into their home to warm themselves, and they accompanied each one back to their own homes to show them how to light their own fireplaces. Before long, the whole neighborhood—the entire city!—was alight from within.

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