Words that inspire

Let me say upfront that I am neutral on Duke Athletics. Generally, if you are a college sports fan, you either love Duke or hate Duke. This blog is not about Duke Athletics, it is about Duke’s very successful basketball coach, Mike Krzyzewski. Coach Krzyzewski wrote an interesting piece on motivation in the “Word Craft” Column in the Wall Street Journal.

 The Power of Words

Coach K believes that his work is as much about “choosing words as it is about coaching strategies.” He sees his primary task as motivation and he writes that to motivate “you need to know your audience and tell vivid stories. It strikes me as I listen to the Sunday Gospels in the month of July that Coach K took a page write out of Jesus’ playbook. The Gospels are filled with vivid stories that Jesus tells in the form of parables for the purpose of motivating!

Treasures, pearls, leaven, salt, light, weeds, lost sheep, missing coins, nets bursting with fish—not all of these images may spark your imagination but I bet one or two of them get you thinking. Coach K writes “meaning is understood by seeing a word in action.” Jesus chooses parables to put a word of faith in action.

Two weeks ago it was the parable of the sower planting seeds in fertile soil and on rocky ground. We can easily imagine what happened next. Last week, it was the image of wheat and weeds growing together and two possible ways to attack this problem. This Sunday Jesus asks us to imagine that we have discovered a buried treasure—or a net thrown in the sea bursting with every kind of fish. We don’t necessarily need to be a farmer or a fisherman or Indiana Jones to understand Jesus’ point.


Coach Krzyzewski has learned that for some players imagination is the key to becoming good and great. Players have to imagine themselves as something more than they are at this moment. The parables invite us to do the same. Saint Augustine imagined the weeds and wheat growing together as a metaphor for conversion. Weeds, with God’s help can be saved and bundled with wheat. Perhaps, what looked like a weed in the earliest stage of growth might actually be wheat!

Can you imagine how your relationship with our Lord might be different if you treated your relationship like a great treasure? Can you let go of everything that keeps you from that treasure? Is your mind or heart a bit like rocky ground? Can you imagine how life might look different if you allowed God’s word to take root in your mind and heart more fully? What might happen if you do not stop listening when you hear a parable or teaching that you know is a tough one or that you are not ready to face.

The beauty of the parables is that Jesus tells a vivid story he knows his audience needs to hear. Jesus is putting a word of faith in action. Which of these parables is motivating for you?