A Parable on the Lies of the Devil and the False Promises of the World

011115One of the great illusions under which we labor is that if we just get one more thing from this world, then we’ll be happy. Perhaps if we just had a little more money, or a better job, or the latest iPad, or if we were married to so-and-so, or if we just lived in a better neighborhood … then we’d be satisfied and content at last. But “at last” never comes, even if we do get some of the things on our list. As Ecclesiastes puts it, The eye never has enough of seeing, nor the ear its fill of hearing (Ecc 1:8). Or again, Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income (Ecc. 5:8).

Though we know this, somehow we continue to buy into the lie again and again: that just one more thing will do it. So we lay out the money and spend the time, but the delight lasts only twenty minutes, tops. The world just can’t close the deal.

There is a little preacher’s parable that illustrates the endless treadmill the world has us on, and shows how the world endlessly seduces us to want “just one more thing.” In the end, this seduction leads us to neglect the one thing most necessary. Here is the parable, followed by some commentary:

There was a man who was lonely and thought, perhaps, that buying a pet would help his loneliness. At the pet store he looked at many animals, and found himself drawn to one in particular. The sign over the cage said, “Talking Parrot: Guaranteed to talk!” “This will surely solve my problem,” thought the man, “For here is an animal that can even talk!”

“That’ll be $250,” said the merchant.

One week later the man returned saying, “This parrot isn’t talking!”
“You mean to say,” said the merchant, “he didn’t climb the ladder and talk?”
“Ladder? You didn’t tell me about a ladder!”
“Oh, sorry,” said the merchant, “That’ll be $10.”

One week later the man returned saying, “This parrot still isn’t talking!”
“You mean to say,” said the merchant, “he didn’t climb the ladder, look in the mirror, and talk?”
“Mirror? You didn’t tell me about a mirror!”
“Oh, sorry,” said the merchant, “That’ll be $10.”

One week later the man returned saying, “This parrot still isn’t talking!”
“You mean to say,” said the merchant, “he didn’t climb the ladder, look in the mirror, peck the bell, and talk?”
“Bell? You didn’t tell me about a bell!”
“Oh, sorry,” said the merchant, “That’ll be $10.”

One week later the man returned saying, “This parrot still isn’t talking!”
“You mean to say,” said the merchant, “he didn’t climb the ladder, look in the mirror, peck the bell, jump on the swing, and talk?”
“Swing? You didn’t tell me about a swing!”
“Oh, sorry,” said the merchant, “That’ll be $10.”

One week later the man came to the shop and the merchant asked, “How’s the parrot?”
“He’s dead!” said the man.
“Dead?” said the merchant … “Did he ever talk before he died?”
“Yes, he finally talked!” said the man.
“Well, what did he say?”
“He said, ‘Don’t they sell any birdseed at that store?'”

Lesson 1: Promises, Promises – And thus this parable teaches us in a humorous way that the world and the “prince of this world” are always promising results. Yet when those results are lacking, the practice is simply to demand more of the same. First the bird, then the ladder, then the bell, then the mirror, and then the swing. There’s always something more, and then the perfect result will surely come! This is a lie. The lie comes in many forms: just one more accessory, just go from the free to the paid version, just buy the upgrade to solve the difficulty, just one more drink, one more diet, a newer car, a bigger house, a facelift, bariatric surgery, etc. It’s always just one more thing and then you’ll make it; happiness is just past the next purchase.

Jesus, in speaking to the woman at the well, said of the water of that well (which represents the world), Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again (Jn 4:13). And that is the sober truth about this world: it cannot finally quench our thirst, which is a thirst for God and Heaven. But time and time again we go back to the world and listen to the same lie, thinking, “This time it’ll be different.”

Surely it is sensible that we make use of the things of this world insofar as they aid us to accomplish our basic duties. But they are not the answer to our deeper needs. The big lie is that they are the answer. And when they fail, the lie just gets bigger by declaring that just a little more of the failed product will surely close the deal. It’s a big lie and it gets bigger.

Lesson 2: The One Thing Most Necessary – In the pursuit of the ladders, mirrors, bells, and swings, the one thing most necessary was neglected: the food. And this is true for us, too. We seek to accumulate worldly toys and trinkets that pass away, and we neglect eternal and lasting realities. There is enough time for TV, sports, gossip, shopping … you name it. But prayer, Scripture, Sacraments, Liturgy, worship, and developing any kind of relationship with the Lord are most often neglected or even wholly forgotten in our pursuit of ladders, mirrors, bells, and swings. We are staring into the mirror focused too much on ourself. The bells of this world summon us to countless things, mostly trivial in the long run, and we are climbing the ladder of success with little care as to what wall it is leaning against.

And all of these less important matters divert us from the one thing necessary: to feed our souls on the Lord. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him … the one who feeds on me will live because of me ... (Jn 6:56-58).

Ah, but no time for all that. Getting to Church, praying, receiving Communion? No time! I hear a bell summoning me to just one more diversion, one more meeting. I’m too busy climbing the ladder of success. I’m too busy looking at myself in the mirror to make sure I fit in and that everyone likes me.

Did [the parrot] ever talk before he died?”
“Yes, he finally talked!” said the man.
“Well, what did he say?”
“He said, ‘Don’t they sell any birdseed at that store?'”

Just a little parable on the lies of the devil and the false promises of this world.

16 Replies to “A Parable on the Lies of the Devil and the False Promises of the World”

  1. Thanks for this post. Nothing of this world can satisfy the soul. It’s like trying to fill a hole with no bottom.

  2. Hahaha, that was funny, Monsignor. Yet, very serious, though. Serious, because in the pursuit of ‘happiness’ in life, we forget the true ‘joy’ of seeking GOD in hearing HIS WORD and receiving the HOLY EUCHARIST, the eternal food for our soul. The world gives us just about anything that put GOD aside wanting things that do not raise, elevate, and lift our souls on high to the dignity of being created in the image and likeness of GOD. We seek happiness in wealth, fame and power only to regret in the end, I should have given more time with my family, I should have loved more my spouse and children, I should have found more time in seeking GOD among those who were with me, I should have learned and said more about my GOD to others and I should have devoted more time in worshipping my GOD, my all in all. LORD, may I not forget the essential, the real one thing and that is YOU in those in need, in my friends, my relatives, my family and in me. YHWH EL SHADDAI!

  3. Last week, I saw a mirror leaning against a cinder block fence and, at the base of the mirror, there was a bird, perched on the ground, that kept trying to fly up into the mirror. As the bird approached its own reflection, it would stick out its feet, and then, hitting the mirror with a thumping sound, it would fall to the ground. The bird kept doing this, over and over.

  4. At some time or other in our lives, we have all been believers in the Original Lie. The Original Lie was repeated to the “New Adam” during the temptation of Christ. “All these kingdoms I will give to you, if you will bow down and worship me.” It is a lie so enormous, yet so subtle, that much of the time we are blissfully unaware of it. But it induces us to turn away from the one and only source of our happiness, a happiness and complete harmony with our Creator beyond our imagining that existed before our first parents fell for the Original Lie. It induces us to turn to the world and all we falsely believe it has to offer, and in this way, we are rejecting God, as did Adam and Eve, and placing our hope and our trust in the one who would destroy us.

  5. No doubt PETA will be there with a pro bono staff of lawyers eager to prosecute.

    A provocative twist on the original, in which poor Polly was “…pining for the fjords.”

    If anybody gets that, please chime in so I don’t feel so old.


    1. Clyde, A reference to Monty Python, perchance? And yes, I too am showing my age, (insofar as I have ever grown up). And the name , Clyde S. Dale; surely you are just “horsing around?

  6. all material objects are a hindrance but if we look inward we will re-discover God within. I learned from the Church that God is in the Blessed sacrament but now I realize the truth that material objects first of all seeking God out there somewhere is wrong to do and that although Jesus taught it Jehesua never did and did not want to be called Jesus Christ and spicifically did not want to be called Jesus Christ as shown in the Talmud of Jmmanuel and had severe reproach and punishment for those who replace his teaching with the errors of man. The document shows that modern Christianity is so full of errors and lies that it is a hindrance to humanity that even those unfamiliar to our culture can easily see but we are blind to it. it has been the predicted 2000 years since Christ as we falsly call him– Jehesua and he predicts a grave punishment to the Church not because we did not follow the teachings of the Church but because the Church misrepresented him and replaced his teachings with the practice of Mithraism which is an affront to God and will bring more punishment to all of the Church and perhaps the whole world!

    1. One of the fundamental (and deliberate) errors of the Protestant revolutionaries is that the Catholic Church corrupted the teachings of Christ by means of distortions and by the addition of things that Christ never actually said and did. I don’t know what rubbish you’ve been reading, Dan, but to invoke the Talmud in supoort of whatever obscure argument you are trying to put forward shows you to be very, very confused.

      Catholic teaching as passed on to us through the Magisterium consists of both Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition, both of which must be equally venerated whenever “the Fathers speak with one mind” on any given subject. In the period between the Resurrection and the Ascension, Jesus passed on to the Apostles the fulness of revealed truth. There has been no new revelation since Apostolic times. The Apostles, in their turn, passed on the fulness of Revelation to the Early Fathers; from thence to the Fathers and the Late Lathers of the Church. Let anyone who wishes to shoot down the Catholic Church on the basis of allegedly false teaching on any aspect of Catholic doctrine, (a futile pursuit), consult the writings of the Fathers of the Church. So, Dan, there’s the challenge. Instead of broadcasting nonsense on the basis of some utter rubbish you’ve found on the internet, go and research the Fathers of the Church. Thier infallible teachings go back to the very beginning; to Christ Himself.

  7. Incredible teaching, Monsignor Pope. So well expressed. Thank you for being a Pastor to us and for your clear, orthodox encouragement.

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