Taking Things Too Literally ….

Who would read Paul saying that “I beat my body” and conclude that beating one’s own body must be the one and only way acceptable before God to keep from “disqualifying for the prize”?

Who would read Jesus saying “If your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out” and conclude that blinding one’s self in one eye would be the one and only way acceptable before God to “enter the kingdom of God”?

Who would read Paul saying that “… women will be saved through childbearing – if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety” and conclude that this is the one and only way that any woman can be saved?

Who would read Jesus saying that “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” and conclude that asceticism and carrying (or just wearing) a wooden cross is the one and only acceptable way to follow Him?

Who would read Peter saying that “… this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also ….” (1 Peter 3:21) and ignore the word “also” and – apart from any other scripture about belief, confession, repentance, grace, His sacrifice – conclude that baptism alone is the one and only acceptable way to be saved?

We can take things too literally. We can take them out of context. We can skip what we don’t like, don’t comprehend, and/or don’t want to deal with.

We can even take the absence of any mention of furniture in New Testament churches and conclude that the one and only acceptable piece of furniture in the Lord’s house is a table – and that must be all right because the gospels mention it at the Last Supper.

However, we do so at our own peril. And that peril is not from physically beating ourselves, physically half-blinding ourselves, or physically failing to reproduce …

… but spiritually.

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4 thoughts on “Taking Things Too Literally ….

  1. So many people in the church would be helped simply by studying lanuage. How language works, how language changes, how language is interpretted. We all know that words have power, but words can be a very subjective means of communication, too. Until we understand the strengths and limitaions of words, understanding the Bible will be difficult and likely lead to arguments.I recently had a discussion with a man who taught publically that the book of Ecclesiastes cannot be inspired, it doesn’t belong in the Bible because it says in chapter 2 that “there is nothing better under the sun than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work” and we KNOW that there IS something better than that because Jesus is better than that, so the author of Ecclesiastes was mistaken. I asked him to look up the word “hyperbole” and decide if the Bible was too special and literal of a book to use such a figure of speech. And then ask himself the question “is God really calculating the specific number of descendents of Abraham (does relation by marriage count?) and comparing them to the actual number of the grains of sand along the shores and stars in the sky?” Or is the growth of Abraham’s descendents and the development of grains of sand both continual processes and the Lord used that metaphor as a way of communicating the sheer magnitude of his blessing to Abraham?

  2. I appreciate the thoughtfulness of this post and Neal’s response. I am not sure you are comparing apples with apples here — but you might be. Thank you for making me think (and I promise you that I will!).

  3. I’m think I’m comparing apples with oranges with bananas and complaining about the way we can’t tell the difference among ’em. Is that what I was doing? I think so. And I think Ecclesiastes was right. The best thing in the world is to eat and drink and be satisfied in his work.Now if I could just find a job ….

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