Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
September 28, 1961

What Are The Fowls?

John H. Tull, Grand Prairie, Texas

"Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field:

"Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest of all herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof." (Matt. 13:31-32)

Jesus used parables frequently during His personal ministry. By using common, ordinary physical truths, with which His disciples were familiar, He taught them important spiritual truths.

We are told by scholars that the mustard seed is not actually the smallest seed, neither did it produce the greatest tree when full grown — but it was the smallest seed commonly used by the Jews of that time, and it produced a sufficiently large tree for even the fowls of the air to nest therein.

The spiritual application of this parable is easy to make, and we feel certain most Bible students understand it. Though the kingdom of heaven had a modest beginning (with the seed — the word of God — being proclaimed by lowly fishermen, etc, who were commonly referred to as ignorant and unlearned men — Acts 4:13) it spread throughout the then-known world within one generation.

There is, however, one point in this parable that I have been wondering about. What are the fowls of the air that "lodge in the branches thereof?"

I am almost afraid to mention this, afraid some brother will begin making this argument — but could they be the human institutions that have fastened themselves onto the church and are sapping the church of her resources?

This we know, however, Jesus didn't put the fowls on the branches — they put themselves there. Neither did he tack the human institutions onto the church. Let's leave the human institutions off, so that the God-given work of the church will not be hindered.