Metaphors and Faith by Olivia Oster

communion bread, grapes, chalice, and Bible with title Metaphors and Faith

Metaphors and Faith

by Olivia Oster

“And Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life …’”

(John 6:35a, NKJV).


I use metaphors often in my writing, but recently discovered how these literary devices may offer insights for my journey as a faith-centered wordsmith. I considered how this figure of speech applies to following Jesus in my call.

Metaphors compare two dissimilar things and help us understand abstract ideas. When we struggle, for example, we describe ourselves as “in a rut.”

Jesus applied metaphors in his ministry. He used them to describe himself, which we see in John 6:35. Rather than dictating his literal composition as made of flour, water, and yeast, Christ uses this literary device to communicate a deep truth about himself. Jesus fulfills us in the way bread fulfills a starving man. Metaphors help us understand our savior a little better.

Later chapters of John’s gospel provide other metaphors from Christ defining himself as the light, shepherd, and vine. Our familiarity with Jesus deepens when we see him as a light to the dark world, a shepherd to the lost, and a vine through which we bear fruit. Each metaphor provides insight to a different aspect of our Lord and cautions us that a single descriptor cannot adequately explain God.

These literary devices provide another lesson of particular relevance to writers. Christ’s metaphors foster inclusivity because each one resonates with a different audience. Isn’t it just like our Lord to send a custom invitation to the bakers, shepherds, and farmers to learn more about himself? Jesus communicated beyond the expected circles of teachers and students to draw the least and the lowly into discipleship.

Whatever our genre—nonfiction, fiction, periodials—our word choices can help a variety of people know Jesus more completely. Let’s follow Christ’s encouraging model. May we write savory messages to feed the soul-starved and include beacons of hope to guide those in darkness.


Lord of bread, light, sheep, and gardens, we give you thanks and praise for being so much more than we can ask or imagine. Thank you for including metaphors in your Word so that we can understand, and please help us to comprehend you more fully each day. Guide us to learn well from each other. Amen.


Olivia Oster is a writer living on Lookout Mountain, GA, whose fiction and poetry explore the spiritual aspect of common everyday life as well as the elements of life with which she is most familiar: chronic pain, parenting, gardening, cooking, and homemaking. Olivia’s poetry has been accepted in The Reformed Journal and The Lake. She has also published A New Grammary, a grammar book focusing on grammar formulas, and a poetry chapbook called Poetic Faith. Olivia is a teacher, wife, mother of five, and taker of long walks with her rescued dachshund-beagle and chihuahua-mini-pinscher.

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