Until recently, I thought of Aesop as an ancient Dr. Seuss.Then I started reading his fables. What surprised me is that his stories about talking animals, birds, and insects aren’t just for children. As an adult, I found that many of Aesop’s fables parallel or at least reinforce moral insights of the Bible.
Aesop’s history is sketchy. He was born a slave in 620 BC and eventually won his freedom by impressing his owner with his wit and wisdom. Today his name is attached to a whole class of ancient fables rediscovered during the Middle Ages and popularized about the time the King James Bible was published.
Let me give you one of my favorites. In The Kingdom of the Lion, Aesop tells of a lion that ruled forest and field. During his reign, the king of beasts assembled all of the birds and animals and presented his plan for a universal league of peace in which the wolf and the lamb, the panther and the goat, the tiger and the deer, would live together in perfect peace and harmony. Upon hearing the lion’s decree, the rabbit said, “Oh, how I have longed to see this day, in which the weak shall take their place, without fear, by the side of the strong.” Then the rabbit quickly ran for his life.
What Aesop does for us
He helps us think for ourselves. Because he doesn’t do our thinking for us, his method of storytelling comes in under our moral and religious radar. Is he saying, “Don’t trust your leaders. Government policy can’t change human nature”? Could he be thinking, “Fearful people can ruin the noblest plans”? Or was he commenting on a prediction of the prophet Isaiah? In an earlier time and place, Isaiah wrote about a day when the wolf and the lamb would be at peace (11:1-9). Together, the Old and New Testaments of the Bible also speak of a coming world leader described as the Lion of Judah. Even if Aesop never heard of this lion or of a coming day when even wild animals will be at peace, his fable bears a striking resemblance to a teaching method of the Bible. Like the proverbs of Solomon and the parables of Jesus, he uses a simple but profound word picture to get access to our minds and to help us think for ourselves.
He helps us exercise our moral awareness. Aesop’s writings work because all people, religious or not, have an inner moral awareness that regularly needs to be nudged and awakened. In the apostle Paul’s New Testament letter to the Romans, he helps us understand why people who have never heard of the Bible can understand the wisdom of patience, the danger of pride, and the self-defeating nature of fearfulness, laziness, and cruelty (2:14-15). Because the laws of the Creator are written in our hearts, people like Aesop can illustrate and reinforce important values and moral principles that are important to society and to the cultivation of personal conscience.
He helps us build bridges. By putting words in the mouths of animals, Aesop may have unintentionally reinforced another theme of the Bible. People and animals have more in common than we may think. We owe our existence to the same Creator. We all live from the hand of God. We are bound together by a complex interdependence that is far greater than any of us could have envisioned.
Whether human or animal, Christian or Muslim, our lives are intertwined in ways that go far beyond our differences. Just as the cow and chicken feed us, the persons who deliver our mail or provide electric service might be Buddhist, Hindu, or atheist. None of us can afford to regard the other as being undeserving of our love and respect.
What Aesop cannot do for us
Moralists and storytellers like Aesop can point to higher ground. They can help us to think for ourselves. They can remind us to use our inner moral compass. And they can even help us build bridges to places we too seldom go. But people like Aesop cannot do what Jesus did.
Aesop was a mortal like us. Jesus, in addition to being a perfect man, was God with us. Aesop cleverly reminds us of moral values. Jesus lifts morality to its ultimate implications and then rescues us from our rebellious condition and forgives our spiritual record.
Jesus did what no spiritual teacher or clever storyteller could ever do. He intervened in our moral dilemma, took our place on death row, accepted our punishment, and, as Judge of the universe, declares innocent all who trust Him. As the Lion of Judah, He invites us into His eternal kingdom where even wild animals will be at peace (Isaiah 11:6-9).
Jesus alone deserves our trust when He says, “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. . . . I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:1, 6).
If you have never made a decision to accept Jesus as your personal Savior, Lord, and Teacher, I’d invite you to use this moment to pray something like this:
Father in heaven, I need the forgiveness and salvation that Your Son bought for me. I admit before You that I not only have sinned, but that, by nature, I am a sinner.
I also believe that Jesus is the only One who can bring me to You. I believe You loved us enough to send Him to our rescue. I believe He died on the cross to pay for our sins, and that on the third day He rose from the dead to be the living Savior of all who trust Him.
So now, from the depths of my heart, I accept His rescue. I take Him at His word when He says, “He who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life” (John 5:24).
Thank You, Father, for Your gift of salvation.
If after reading this article you’ve made a decision to receive Jesus Christ as your Savior, CLICK HERE. We’d love to encourage you in your faith!
–Mart De Haan