I was reading through our Sunday School Quarterly last night and came across a common illustration that isn’t based in truth. The lesson writer states that,
“Being sincere literally means to be without wax. This is a potter’s term and it refers to the devious practice of patching cracked pots with a mixture of colored dirt and wax in order to hide imperfections. An unwary buyer would think he had bought a good vessel until he used it. Then he would discover that it was defective. A sincere person does not have a cracked character that will be revealed under pressure. Of course, those who are sincere will not give offense to others. We should be honest with ourselves and God and allow God’s Word to mold our character.” (Fall Quarterly, Growing in Love, Joy and Knowledge p. 15, Bogard Press) (Note: I have serious concerns about this lesson writer and the publisher, but I digress.)
This sounds really good, and the premise has been used in many sermons to encourage people to be genuine and authentic. Unfortunately, it isn’t rooted in reality.
According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, “There has been a temptation to see the first element as Latin sine ‘without.’ But there is no etymological justification for the common story that the word means ‘without wax’ (*sin cerae), which is dismissed out of hand by [this dictionary] and others, and the stories invented to justify that folk etymology are even less plausible.”
If we are to be sincere in studying and teaching God’s Word, we must be very careful when using stories like this. When we use “preacher stories”, we actually communicate untruths. Now, I won’t say that those of us who use illustrations like this are lying when we do so, because lying is telling an untruth with the purpose of deceit. What the lesson writer does is not unlike many Bible teachers when we use eisegesis instead of exegesis to study the Bible. Eisegesis means to read into whereas exegesis means to read out of. The dead giveaway for me — that sent me to research this – was the use of “literally” in the definition of sincere. Sadly, many times we say, “literally”, it isn’t literally true.
The Scripture Passage in question is Philippians 1:10 The lesson writer takes an English word sincere that was translated from the Biblical (Koine) Greek word εἰλικρινεις (eilikrineis) which means “pure”. Instead of translating the word from Koine Greek forward into Modern English and translating the word, “pure”, the lesson writer goes from 1611 Elizabethan English (KJV) backward to Latin to find a word pair that never existed to make an illustration that isn’t based in reality. This is a classic example of reading into the Bible what you want it to say, rather than simply letting the Bible Text speak for itself.
Thankfully, this illustration does little actual harm to a Sunday School Student. But being sloppy like this in studying and teaching God’s Word is irresponsible. And if the educated teachers (and degreed lesson writers) are sloppy and irresponsible, can we expect better from our students?
Let’s be sincere and let God’s Word speak for itself.
So what are your thoughts on this? Before you answer, please listen to how Southern Seminary’s Dr. Thomas Schreiner answers the question. The Biblical answer isn’t as cut-and-dry as many of us would like for it to be.
As I type this, Hurricane Harvey made landfall last week and has devastated Houston and surrounding areas with wind damage and “unprecedented” flooding. Some parts have had over FOUR FEET OF RAIN. I didn’t say that there was over four feet of flooding, but over four feet of rain! And rain continues to fall. Moments ago, I heard that a levee was breached. This is NOT good!
Thousands of victims have been rescued by the US Coast Guard, Texas Guard, US National Guard, and an army of volunteers who launched their personal boats at their own risk in an effort to rescue every person from the floods. A friend of mine loaded up his car with as much as he could and hauled his boat almost 300 miles to help in the rescue efforts. This IS good.
Even before Harvey approached the Texas Coast, Texas Baptist Men, volunteers who travel wherever there are disasters, loaded up trucks with roofing materials, food, water, and portable facilities for showering and laundry and began the near-300-mile trek Southward. This IS good!
Meanwhile, some long-time friends have posted comments and memes on Facebook callously mocking Texas politicians, saying they’re hypocrites for requesting and accepting federal money when they voted to deny such federal support for victims of Super Storm Sandy in New York. Some of my friends posted a link to an article saying that this Hurricane was related to man-caused climate change. However, seasoned meteorologist Bill Bastardi (mentioned above) says this is a “natural cycle” that has been observed before.
Here is my latest plea on Facebook:
Regardless of your political leanings, please show some semblance of respect and basic human DECENCY by not politicizing the disaster that was Hurricane Harvey, and as a tropical storm continues to deluge SE Texas and SW Louisiana.Your snide remarks, memes and other criticism of POTUS and Texas politicians are falling on deaf ears. You are only displaying your ignorance, cruelty, and downright indecency. Your attempt at levity in the midst of the gravity of this situation is sabotaging any amount of credibility and respectability you *think* you still have.
I have lost all respect for some long-time friends whose focus is solely on politics and not on the decency of helping victims of this tragedy. Debating politics is one thing, but it is disgustingly heartless to do so while the area is still being inundated by torrential rains and flooding. This is NOT good!
So how can people help? I’m glad you asked that question! Here’s what I said last night on Facebook:
Especially for this need, I might not recommend Red Cross (or any other organization whose CEO makes multiples of hundreds of thousands of dollars per year). As I understand it, the Red Cross pools resources from other organizations. Why not give directly to those organizations! If the Red Cross keeps 15% of what they receive, then only $.85 of your $1 would be able to pass along to the organization that the RC uses. Why not eliminate the middle man and give the entire $1 to one of the organizations below, who already have a low overhead and therefore operate more efficiently! And these are not fly-by-night organizations; they are well-established with an excellent stewardship history.
So here are my recommendations (none of which has a high-paid CEO):
Texas Baptist Men go wherever there’s a disaster. This time, they stayed home to help fellow Texans. Some crews departed Dallas as early as last Thursday (before Harvey made landfall) with roofing supplies, food, water, portable shower and washer/dryer facilities. TexasBaptistMen.Org/give-now
One friend’s church (in Virginia) made this remark:
Want to help victims of Harvey in Houston? Our denomination has the 3rd largest disaster relief organization in the country (SBC Disaster Relief) and they are already staged in Houston with hundreds of thousands of meals, water, chains saws, shower trailers, etc. They also have teams of chaplains to provide spiritual counseling in the wake of this disaster.
If you would like to donate, you can give directly through the NAMB website below or text SENDRELIEF to 41444.
North American Mission Board’s Hurricane Harvey Response
And of course, everybody has heard of The Salvation Army.
However you choose to help, please do so.
I posted this on Facebook tonight. Let’s do this!
A couple of times yesterday and today, I have posted the comments from pastor friends of mine who addressed common feelings about the ugly events in Charlottesville over the weekend.
And not just Charlottesville; the problem is everywhere and is rooted in sin. The only cure for the sin of racism is the same cure for all other sin: the Good News of the Gospel.
If you do not know the transforming power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, I would love to tell you about it (and Him) personally!
Let’s really dialog over the *one issue* that matters for eternity as well as for the present. If you are interested in dialog (no arguing, no flaming, no hate-speech, no political-demonizing, no name-calling), please PM me, text me, or call me. (Note, I don’t run the FB Messenger app, so my response may be delayed) Or perhaps we should take this discussion to my blog, Psalm34-8.com.
God hates racism. God hates hypocrisy. God hates religion. God hates these things so much that He sent His Son to die to pay the enormous cost in order for His people to reconciled to Him.
I came across this video a bit ago. It describes a “healthy church member”. Are you one?