The Most Difficult Parable to Understand, Ranked

Choose the parable you think is the most difficult!

Author: Gregor Krambs
Updated on May 20, 2024 06:25
Parables have long served as a medium for imparting profound wisdom and moral lessons through seemingly simple stories. Often, the depth and layered meanings within parables can lead to varied interpretations, making some particularly challenging to fully grasp. By ranking these stories, we can better understand which narratives hold the greatest complexity and provoke the most thought among diverse audiences. This system of ranking, fueled by user votes, provides a dynamic insight into how different people perceive the complexity of each parable. As you engage with the list, your voting will contribute to a broader understanding of what makes some parables harder to interpret than others. This, in turn, can foster a richer discussion and deeper insight into these enigmatic and time-honored narratives.

What Is the Most Difficult Parable to Understand?

  1. 1
    This parable is difficult to understand because it challenges our ideas about forgiveness and the nature of God's love.
    The Parable of the Prodigal Son tells the story of a young man who demands his inheritance from his father and then proceeds to waste it in reckless living. After being left with nothing and experiencing a harsh reality, the prodigal son decides to return home seeking forgiveness and restoration. In a surprising turn of events, the father not only accepts him back with open arms but also celebrates his return with a feast, much to the dismay of the elder son.
    • Title: The Parable of the Prodigal Son
    • Origin: Gospel of Luke
    • Written: 1st century AD
    • Religious context: Christianity
    • Teachings: Forgiveness, redemption, divine love
  2. 2
    This parable challenges us to love our enemies and to show compassion to those who are different from us.
    The Parable of the Good Samaritan is a story found in the Christian Bible. It was recounted by Jesus in the Gospel of Luke (chapter 10, verses 25-37). The parable aims to teach about compassion, love, and the importance of helping others, regardless of their background or social status.
    • Story Location: Gospel of Luke, chapter 10, verses 25-37
    • Theme: Compassion and helping others
    • Key Characters: A man (assaulted and left half-dead), a priest, a Levite, and a Samaritan
    • Setting: Judea or Jerusalem
    • Samaritan: Considered an enemy of the Jewish people at the time
  3. 3
    This parable is difficult to understand because it is open to different interpretations and seems to suggest that not everyone will respond to the Gospel message.
    The Parable of the Sower is a well-known biblical parable found in the New Testament. It was spoken by Jesus Christ as recorded in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 13, verses 3-9, and later explained in verses 18-23. The parable uses the analogy of a sower planting seeds to depict the different responses people have to the teachings of God's word.
    • Location: Matthew 13:3-9, 18-23
    • Theme: Different responses to the word of God
    • Analogical elements: Sower, seeds, various types of soil
    • Main characters: Sower, seeds, birds, rocky ground, thorns, good soil
    • Explanation of the parable: Jesus explains the meaning of each element in the parable
  4. 4
    This parable challenges us to use our abilities and resources wisely and to be accountable for what we have been given.
    The Parable of the Talents is a biblical story that appears in the Gospel of Matthew (chapter 25, verses 14-30). It was told by Jesus to illustrate the importance of using one's skills and resources wisely.
    • Meaning: The parable teaches that everyone has been given gifts, talents, or resources by God, and it is their responsibility to use them wisely and not waste them.
    • Characters: The parable features a master who entrusts his three servants with different amounts of money (talents), based on their abilities.
    • Talents: A talent was a significant unit of money in biblical times, equivalent to about 20 years' worth of wages for a laborer.
    • Distribution of Talents: The master gives five talents to one servant, two talents to another, and one talent to the third servant.
    • Investment and Return: The first two servants invest their talents and double the amount, while the third servant buries his talent and returns it without any increase.
  5. 5
    This parable is difficult to understand because it seems to suggest that something small can grow into something large and powerful, which goes against our usual expectations.
    The Parable of the Mustard Seed is a metaphorical story told by Jesus in the New Testament of the Christian Bible. It is a short parable used to illustrate the growth and expansion of the Kingdom of God.
    • Meaning: The parable symbolizes how a small and insignificant beginning can lead to great and significant outcomes.
    • Biblical Reference: Mark 4:30-32 and Matthew 13:31-32
    • Context: The parable is part of a series of parables Jesus tells in order to teach his followers about the nature of the Kingdom of God.
    • Mustard Seed: The smallest of all seeds, often referring to the seeds of the black mustard plant grown in the Middle East.
    • Growth: Despite its small size, the mustard seed grows into a large and sturdy plant, providing shelter and shade for birds.
  6. 6
    The Parable of the Wheat and the Tares
    Master of the Prodigal Son · Public domain
    This parable challenges us to be patient and to trust in God's judgment, even when it seems that evil is flourishing.
    The Parable of the Wheat and the Tares is a symbolic story told by Jesus in the New Testament of the Bible. It is found in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 13, verses 24-30. In this parable, Jesus compares the kingdom of heaven to a man who sowed good wheat seeds in his field. But while the wheat was growing, an enemy came and planted weeds called tares among the wheat. The owner of the field instructed his workers not to pull out the weeds immediately because they might also uproot the wheat. Instead, they were to wait until the harvest to separate the wheat from the tares.
    • Bible Reference: Matthew 13:24-30
    • Symbolic Meaning: The parable symbolizes the presence of good and evil in the world, and the importance of patience and discernment.
    • Explanation by Jesus: Jesus later explained the parable to his disciples, equating the man who sowed the good seed with Himself, the field as the world, the wheat as His followers, the tares as the children of the devil, and the harvest as the end of the age.
    • Lesson: The parable teaches that while evil may exist alongside good, in the end, God will judge and separate the righteous from the wicked.
    • Different Interpretations: The parable has been interpreted in various ways by theologians and scholars throughout history.
  7. 7
    This parable challenges our ideas about fairness and justice, as the workers who labored longer received the same wages as those who worked for only a short time.
    The Parable of the Vineyard Workers is a parable told by Jesus Christ, recorded in the Gospel of Matthew (Matthew 20:1-16). It is a story about a landowner who hires workers at different times of the day to work in his vineyard and pays them all the same amount, regardless of the number of hours they worked.
    • Title: The Parable of the Vineyard Workers
    • Gospel: Matthew
    • Chapter: 20
    • Verses: 1-16
    • Creator: Jesus Christ
  8. 8
    The Parable of the Rich Fool
    Rembrandt · Public domain
    This parable challenges us to be mindful of our priorities and to avoid being too focused on material possessions.
    The Parable of the Rich Fool is a story found in the New Testament of the Bible. It is primarily recorded in the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 12, Verses 13-21. It is a parable told by Jesus Christ to illustrate the dangers of greed and the importance of being rich toward God.
    • Main message: Warning against greed and materialism
    • Context: Jesus is teaching a crowd and responds to a man's request for him to intervene in a dispute over an inheritance
    • Characters: Rich Fool
    • Setting: A man's land yields plentiful crops, leaving him with more wealth than he knows what to do with
    • Key event: The rich man decides to tear down his barns and build larger ones to store all his crops and possessions
  9. 9
    This parable challenges us to be ready for the coming of the Kingdom of God and to be prepared to enter into it.
    The Parable of the Wedding Feast is a biblical parable found in the Gospel of Matthew (chapter 22, verses 1-14). It is attributed to Jesus Christ and is one of the most difficult parables to understand. This parable tells the story of a king who prepared a wedding feast for his son but faced rejection from the invited guests. The king then invites others to the feast, but an improperly dressed guest is thrown out. The parable carries various interpretations and lessons about God's invitation to salvation and the response of humanity.
    • Found in: Gospel of Matthew
    • Chapter and Verses: Matthew 22:1-14
    • Difficulty to understand: Estimated high
    • Theme: God's invitation to salvation
    • Story: A king hosting a wedding feast
  10. 10
    The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant
    Claude Vignon · Public domain
    This parable challenges us to forgive others as we have been forgiven by God, and to avoid being too judgmental of others.
    The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant is a biblical story found in the Gospel of Matthew (18:21-35). It is a parable told by Jesus to illustrate the importance of having a forgiving heart and showing mercy to others.
    • Title: The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant
    • Biblical Passage: Matthew 18:21-35
    • Theme: Forgiveness and mercy
    • Characters: Unforgiving servant, king, fellow servant
    • Plot: A servant owes a large debt to his king, who forgives the debt. The same servant refuses to forgive a small debt owed to him by a fellow servant, and is subsequently punished by the king.

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Ranking factors for difficult parable

  1. Level of language complexity
    Parables often use figurative language and symbolism. The more complex the language and the more abstract the concepts, the more difficult it can be to understand.
  2. Cultural context
    Parables are often deeply rooted in the culture and customs of their time. The more distant and unfamiliar the cultural context, the more challenging it might be to fully grasp the meaning of the parable.
  3. Multiple interpretations
    Some parables are intentionally open to various interpretations, which can make it difficult to pinpoint a single, definitive understanding. The more divergent the possible interpretations, the more challenging it can be to discern the intended message.
  4. Levels of meaning
    Some parables have multiple layers of meaning, so the listener must think beyond the surface level to understand the deeper significance. The more layers of meaning present in a parable, the more difficult it can be to comprehend fully.
  5. Familiarity with scriptural or other references
    Parables may contain references to other texts, events, or characters that are crucial for understanding their meaning. A lack of familiarity with these references can make it harder to interpret the parable accurately.
  6. Implicit and indirect message
    Parables often communicate their message implicitly and indirectly, requiring the reader or listener to think critically and make connections between elements of the story. This can make it challenging to grasp the parable's central message.
  7. Moral or philosophical complexity
    Parables might deal with complex moral, ethical, or philosophical questions that don't have clear-cut answers. The more complex the underlying issues, the more difficult it can be to interpret the parable.
  8. Familiarity with the author's intentions
    Understanding the intended message or lesson of a parable can be potentially easier if one is familiar with the author's other work or overall worldview. Lacking this familiarity makes it harder to determine what the author might be trying to convey.
  9. Emotional impact
    A parable's emotional impact can affect the clarity of its message. For example, a parable that evokes strong emotions might make it more difficult to think objectively and critically about the message.
  10. Target audience
    Finally, the intended audience of a parable can influence its difficulty. Some parables might be designed for a specific audience, making them more challenging to understand for those outside that group.

About this ranking

This is a community-based ranking of the most difficult parable to understand. We do our best to provide fair voting, but it is not intended to be exhaustive. So if you notice something or parable is missing, feel free to help improve the ranking!


  • 182 votes
  • 10 ranked items

Voting Rules

A participant may cast an up or down vote for each parable once every 24 hours. The rank of each parable is then calculated from the weighted sum of all up and down votes.


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More information on most difficult parable to understand

Parables are simple stories used to illustrate a deeper meaning or moral lesson. Jesus Christ is known to have used parables extensively during his teachings to convey complex spiritual truths. However, not all parables are easy to understand, and some can be quite challenging. In fact, many scholars and theologians have debated over the meaning of certain parables for centuries. So, what is the most difficult parable to understand? Let's explore some of the most challenging parables and why they continue to perplex readers today.

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