googlef87758e9b6df9bec.html A Sure Word: January 2009

Friday, January 30, 2009

Why Government Guarantees are Bad

In today’s climate of bailout and stimulate, people are looking more and more to the government as the answer to our economic woes. This is tragic. The government isn’t the answer to our fiscal failings; for the most part, the government is the problem.

Let me give you a very small example of how the government’s good intentions are bad for us. I work in banking. My employer, while not untouched by the recent banking problems, has fared better than most. There is another bank in town, though, that really took it on the chin. This other bank had so many loan customers not making their payments that the bank was literally running out of money to operate. In a desperate attempt to raise cash, the bank started offering absurdly high rates on their CDs and Savings accounts.

Now, my bank, which has been making sound business decisions all along, pays the market rates on their deposit accounts. When this other bank started offering much higher rates, we had a rash of people rushing to move their money from my bank to the other. I wanted to keep my customers, of course, and also felt obliged to inform them of the situation of this other bank (without bad mouthing the other bank). When told of this other bank’s struggles, my customers didn’t seem bothered at all. Why so nonchalant? They knew their accounts were FDIC insured!

So here’s the reality – customers were moving their money from a sound bank and taking it to a struggling bank. They knew that if the struggling bank went under, the FDIC was there to cover their assets. There was reward without risk and the government guarantee actually encouraged the bad behavior.

That’s just one example of how good intentions backfire. The bailouts are another. If a company makes bad business decisions, it should spell doom for the business – it shouldn't mean we reward the company with a big fat check from Uncle Sam (AKA “taxpayers”). Companies that tetter at the brink after years of business as usual, are propped up (for a while) to continue business as usual.

Our leaders need to study up on basic economics. We’re supposed to have a free market based on a system of risk and reward. It’s turned into a semi-social enterprise that encourages bad decisions, rewards them with government bailouts, and follows up with “more oversight.

Monday, January 26, 2009

John 14:26, The Comforter

δὲ παράκλητος τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ ἅγιον, πέμψει πατὴρ ἐν τῷ ὀνόματί μου ἐκεῖνος ὑμᾶς διδάξει πάντα καὶ ὑπομνήσει ὑμᾶς πάντα εἶπον ὑμῖν ἐγώ.

"and the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and remind you of all things that I said to you." (John 14:26, Young’s Literal Translation)

In this passage, Jesus promised the gift of the Holy Spirit to His apostles (and ultimately to the whole world). He described the Holy Spirit with the term παράκλητος, ho parakletos, (Strong's Number 3875). The term is translated many different ways including Comforter, Helper, and Advocate. It’s a compound word whose parts mean, “Called beside.” This paints a picture of the Holy Spirit as One who stands beside us, helping us, encouraging us, and comforting us. It’s a marvelous picture of the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives.

In a recent Sunday School class, we were reading from 1 Thessalonians 4:18 where Paul said:

ὥστε παρακαλεῖτε ἀλλήλους ἐν τοῖς λόγοις τούτοις.

“so, then, comfort ye one another in these words.”

The word παρακαλεῖτε, parakeleite, (Strong's Number 3870) sort of leaped out at me. It seemed an obvious cognate of παράκλητος – which I later confirmed referring to Trenchard. The same word (rather, the cognate of it) used to describe the Holy Spirit, is our command to encourage one another.

I don’t mean to seem overreaching but I think the implication is clear: what the Holy Spirit is to us, we are also commanded to be to one another: helpers, comforters, and advocates. We are to stand beside them, encouraging them, just as the Holy Spirit stands by us. To be sure, we are poor shadows of the True Spirit but we are called to comfort, help, and encourage notwithstanding.

So how do we go about this task? I suggest we should let the Spirit be our Guide. See again what Jesus said of the Spirit:

“He will teach you all things, and remind you of all things that I said to you.”

How simple. We teach people and remind them of what Jesus said! What better encouragement can there be?

Friday, January 23, 2009

Taking the Bible Literally

A complaint often leveled against believers in the Genesis account of creation is that we are hyper-fundamentalists that read the Bible “literally.” Usually, the people who make this claim call themselves Christians and even claim to believe the Bible. They just believe that Genesis is an allegory for creation given to the ancient Jews in a language they could understand.

Why do people believe Genesis is allegory? It’s because they have trusted the opinions of certain scientists over the word of God. Now remember, these “scientists” believe in a brand of science that dismisses the possibility of a miracle a priori on the grounds that miracles cannot be verified by science. In other words, they have dismissed the Genesis account because it’s not “scientific.” And if you look at the evidence determined to only find a natural explanation, you’re guaranteed to find one. Their natural-only explanations are theories like the Big Bang and evolution.

But not all people who believe in these natural explanations want to reject the Bible so they reinterpret the Bible to fit their personal worldview. Genesis says God created the universe in 6 days? No problem! It’s just a metaphor for what really happened. It’s a story meant to teach that God is the Creator. That’s all! There’s no need to take the Bible “literally”!

To back up their claim, they point to passages like 1 Samuel 2:8 that says, “for the pillars of the earth are the LORD's, and he hath set the world upon them.” Obviously, the earth doesn’t rest upon pillars so the Bible must be using a metaphor. Furthermore, some people will haggle over the meaning of the word “day” in the text. "A day can mean any number of things," they often say.

So, is there any merit to their arguments? In short – no! You see, the complaint that we read the Bible “literally” is really a straw man picture of what creationists believe. We don’t read the Bible “literally”; Rather, we read it as we do any other piece of literature (with the caveat that it was written by God). And yes, it uses literary devices like metaphor, analogy, simile, and personification. But just like any other book, most people don’t have trouble identifying what is what.

Consider the following sentences:

“I could eat a horse.”
“I rode a horse.”

Do you have any trouble understanding which statement is factual and which is hyperbole? I didn’t think you would. Most second graders can figure it out. So when we read the Bible, we don’t need an English professor (or Hebrew professor in the case of the original language) there to help explain to us which are factual statements and which are literary devices.

I sometimes am confounded at the mental gymnastics some people go through to deny the plain reading of the text. The danger in such a practice is the slippery slope phenomenon where everything we disagree with becomes metaphor. What’s next? Jesus didn’t really rise from the dead because that’s not scientific either? Look at these two verses:

“For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is.” (Exodus 20:11).

“For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” (Matthew 12:40).

Now, from a simple reading of these two verses, what makes one factual and one allegorical? All I can say it that some people want to believe one and not the other. So they force the words to say what they want them to say.

As to the word “day,” it’s true that the word can mean different things. Look at the following sentence:

“In my grandfather’s day, a man could ride a horse 40 miles a day, riding by day.”

There are 3 meanings of the word day in that sentence. Do you have any trouble figuring out what each one means. Again, I’m sure you can. I did a quick search on and saw the word day appears in the KJV 2,263 times. Why is it that ordinary people can figure out the meaning of the word everywhere else in the Bible except Genesis?!

In conclusion, I reject the notion that I or other creation-believing Christians read the Bible literally. I say we read the Bible and understand the plain meaning of the words. It seems to me it’s the people who make the claim we’re “literalists” that have trouble reading the Bible!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Misquoted Bible Verses

Several years back, during the 2000 Presidential debates, Vice President Al Gore made the following statement:
"And I'm a grandfather now. I want to be able to tell my grandson, when I'm in my later years, that I didn't turn away from the evidence that showed that we were doing some serious harm. In my faith tradition, it is written in the book of Matthew, 'Where your heart is, there's your treasure also.' And I believe that we ought to recognize the value to our children and grandchildren of taking steps that preserve the environment in a way that's good for them."
The fact of the matter is that Mr. Gore quoted the verse backwards. The passage from Matthew 6:21 actually says: “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” In the context of the passage, Jesus points out that we tend to be concerned about our treasure; Jesus was saying we should be concerned about our eternal treasure in heaven rather than the temporary treasures of earth. In Mr. Gore’s misquote, he gave the impression that Jesus was telling us we should invest our treasure in the things our hearts desire.

But Mr. Gore is not alone in misquoting the Bible. I’ve noticed there are many misunderstood verses that have made their way into common vernacular. In this post we’ll talk about some of the most common ones.

“Money is the root of all evil.”

The passage from 1 Timothy 6:10 actually says, “For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” You see, it’s not money that is the problem; it’s the greed of people who covet money.

“Judge not, that ye be not judged.”

OK, so this verse from Matthew 7:1 may not typically be “misquoted.” Rather, this verse tends to be quoted out of context to mean we should never judge anyone. The Bible doesn’t tell us we shouldn’t judge anyone (or anything). Indeed, 1 Corinthians 2:15 says the exact opposite: “But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.” These verses don’t contradict each other – the complement each other. Matthew 7 is talking about hypocrites who are guilty of worse things than what they condemn others for. 1 Corinthians points out that a spiritual judge is one who correctly judges yet is himself innocent.

In addition to misquotes, there are also some common paraphrases that we use:

"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

The “verse”, commonly called the Golden Rule, is a paraphrase of Matthew 7:12, “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.” In the case, the meaning between the misquote and the correct verse is very close but the commonly quoted words are still incorrect. Also, the Bible itself doesn’t identify this text as “The Golden Rule.”

[Editor's note - after posting this, a very kind reader pointed out to me that Luke 6:31 in the NIV translation reads: "Do to others as you would have them do to you," which is extremely close to the popular paraphrase]

“Spare the rod and spoil the child.”

This must be a reference to Proverbs 13:24, “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.” I guess it’s not a terrible paraphrase but it doesn’t convey exactly the same meaning. In the paraphrase, it almost sounds like a command to beat your children lest they spoil. The actual quote from the Bible explains that a loving parent doesn’t withhold discipline from his child when it’s appropriate.

“The lion shall lay down with the lamb.”

I don’t know if I should call this a misquote or something else. These words don’t appear in the Bible. There are 2 passages that are close:

“The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.” Isaiah 11:6.


“The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock: and dust shall be the serpent's meat. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the LORD.” Isaiah 65:25.

How the misquote gained such popularity is a mystery. The actually verses seem to convey a similar message but they’re not really even close to the misquoted line.

"Pride goeth before a fall."

Younger people might not hear this as much but this is an extremely well known proverb among my generation. For having been so often quoted, I'm surprised that so few people know it's a misquote. Proverbs 16:18 actually reads, "Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall".

“The Lord helps those that help themselves.”
“The Lord works in mysterious ways.”

These last two “verses” are not found in the Bible. They’re not even close. The first one can only be described as bad doctrine. I believe the latter one is a line from an old hymn written William Cowper (1731-1800):
God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.
So if you’re in a conversation and someone quotes a favorite verse to you, I suggest you not take his word for it. Go to the Bible and see for yourself. The Truth might surprise you!