Sunday, August 27, 2006

But that doesn't mean the verse is wrong....

Interpreting the Bible is, as my friend Carl says, "not for sissies." (He was talking about something else at the time, but I loved his phrase so I stole it.) Today's reading from the Proverbs gives us, well, an interesting example. Chapter 22, verse 6 reads:
Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.
About this time last year, a conference speaker asked us "How many of you know of a child that was trained up in the way he should go, but who did depart from it?" It wasn't just a few hands that went up.

I heard of a couple who raised her children in the church, and they didn't turn out as hoped. This doesn't mean the verse is wrong. The first thing of course is that this is a proverb, not a theorem. It's not mathematical; it describes some general principles that work out to be true a lot of the time. In other words, the race is not always to the swift nor the battle to the strong, but that is the smart way to bet. So this is a general principle or trend, not an iron-clad guarantee.

The other thing is: how were the kids raised, really? Were they raised to glorify God and enjoy him forever, as the Westminster shorter catechism says? Was this modeled for them? In other words, did the parents' lives reflect that? Did they have generous spirits like Paul describes in 2 Corinthians 9? Did they rejoice in God's abundant goodness as so many characters in the Bible did? Did they smile at the future like the wife of noble character in Proverbs 31? Did they abound in the work of the Lord (1 Corinthians 15)?

I know, I know, nobody does that 100% of the time, but what were they like most of the time?

Well, this line of thinking was completely alien to them. They lived through the great depression, which profoundly affected their views about money. Their vocabulary was about duty and prudence, rather than about abundance and joy.

Do I blame them for being that way? Well, a little. And I empathize with their perplexity about how their offspring turned out.

But I can't say the outcome was surprising.

... and something from my past

Another verse from today's reading (and I've been writing almost an hour now so I'm going to make this short): Job 23.12. "I have not departed from the command of his lips; I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my necessary food."

At one point, inspired by this verse and by the example of a guy who discipled me, I decided that I should read the Bible before eating breakfast. Now the verse doesn't command that; it probably doesn't even mean that. But deciding to read before eating could be one way of applying it.

Some time later, I changed my mind about this. These days, in fact, I usually eat before reading. If I ride my bicycle to the train station, then it's a pain to eat breakfast on the train. But it's no problem to read on the train and write a few notes in my journal.

So I hope you don't think I'm a complete apostate for eating breakfast before reading the Bible, but that's what I do these days. It works well for me.

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