A Modern Parable of Success
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Dan munched on his chicken sandwich as he watched the long lines of people waiting outside. His anger welled as his neighbors continued to leave their money in the hands of the undeserving. No one carried his banner. No one shouted in protest. One by one, each neighbor filed in and left their support for the message and the mess. Dan finished his lunch, lost in his grief, alone in his anger. Another storefront, another success—another reason to wave his fist at the truth. He ordered a milk shake and some more waffle fries, then scowled at the cow who wished him a good day. He finished his milkshake on the subway, threw the evidence away, and thought, “Maybe my words will change some minds.”

A parable is a story designed to teach a truth or a moral lesson. Today’s parable is based on a story in the New Yorker magazine. “Dan” wrote an article that is making lots of headlines and helping Chick-fil-A make a lot of extra sandwiches.

Dan Piepenbring titled his recent article Chick-fil-A’s Creepy Infiltration of New York City. The reporter is angry at the company because, in his words, “New York has taken to Chick-fil-A. One of the Manhattan locations estimates that it sells a sandwich every six seconds, and the company has announced plans to open as many as a dozen more storefronts in the city. And yet the brand’s arrival here feels like an infiltration, in no small part because of its pervasive Christian traditionalism.”

Dan Piepenbring doesn’t like much about Dan Cathy’s company. He wrote about the Bible verses that “adorn” the headquarters and pans the statue in the courtyard of Jesus washing his disciple’s feet. He mentioned the company’s motto, “Treat every person with honor, dignity, and respect,” as flawed because of Cathy’s stand for Christian family values.

But, here is the real point of the parable. Dan’s article was inspired while he sat in the new Chick-fil-A, eating his lunch. It was opening day for the new twelve-thousand-square-foot franchise, and he was waiting to see his fellow New Yorker’s protest the establishment. He wrote, “When the first stand-alone New York location opened, in 2015, a throng of protesters appeared. When a location opened in a Queens mall, in 2016, Mayor Bill de Blasio proposed a boycott. No such controversy greeted the opening of this newest outpost.” Dan had come to see his community protest Chick-fil-A and watched their support instead.

Here is what I hope the parable will mean to Christians. First, Chick-fil-A has stood for biblical values from the beginning. They have received a lot of criticism, a lot of protest, and suffered a lot of persecution from the anti-Christians in our culture. Now, they are one of the most successful fast-food chains in the country. What does their example say to all of God’s people about the power of God and his desire to bless a godly witness?

Second, as a Christian, how do you feel about Dan? I admit my first thoughts were not God’s. I felt victorious because Chick-fil-A was “winning.” I felt smug because Dan’s angry words didn’t stand up against the obvious success of the company’s expansion. And then I thought about Dan and went back to the parable to insert the sentence about him as “lost in his grief” and “alone in his anger.” That is the real point of the parable.

Chick-fil-A isn’t winning the war. It is simply a company doing its part to fight some battles. They are consistently providing the food people want even when those people disagree with their message. Is the same true for our lives?

It doesn’t matter that the “words” I write in this blog post are about God if the way I live my life in the world is not godly. Jesus said, “By this all people will know you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35 ESV).

Two chapters later, in John 15:18–21, Jesus teaches the real point of my parable. He said, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me.”

People like Dan misunderstand the ways of God. They are lost and alone, separated from the God who sent Jesus. And Jesus sends us today. Our words aren’t enough. The power of God is unleashed through our works which give credibility to our words.

Chick-fil-A’s story is a parable to all of God’s people today. We need to notice people like Dan, sit down at their table, and bravely share God’s love with him. A lot of people are lost and alone because they don’t know “the one” who sent Jesus so they could be saved. Who is Jesus going to send you to this week? Christian success, blessing, and probably some persecution will come from saying, “Here I am. Send me.”

The point of the parable: We have great food. Are we working as hard as Chick-fil-A to provide it?