Ancora Imparo - I am still learning

Friday, February 13, 2009

Bible Interpretation

I just finished another college discussion board post for my inductive Bible study class. This assignment called for interpretation of and application to today's Christians of the following Passages: I Corinthians 7:25-28, Proverbs 22:15, I Corinthians 11:2-16, Numbers 18:21-32, and Deuteronomy 14:22-28. I'm sure my post will be a little controversial (especially over Proverbs 22:15); but this is what I wrote:

I believe in I Corinthians 7:25-28 Paul is addressing a specific question from the church in Corinth - a question that is just as relevant today as it was then. Is it better to marry or remain single? Paul answers this question with an honest answer - it is better to remain single and fully devoted to God than to marry and be devoted to both a spouse and God. However, there is no sin in marrying. I think today, so many churches look down on people who choose to remain single. They automatically try to start match-making. However, I do agree with Paul that there are so many more worries that a married person has that a single person may not. And, all too often, it is difficult for a married person (especially with children) to follow God's call upon their lives. I found this to be the case with my college. I began college classes prior to marriage and children. However, I had to stop after the birth of my first son. I just could not keep up. Now I am back in college and loving it! Now, this does not mean that I feel as though I should not have married and had children. I know that marriage and children were also a part of God's call upon my life. I believe this conflict is exactly what Paul is addressing - neither is wrong; but, if possible, it is better to remain single.

I believe Proverbs 22:15 is one of the misinterpreted Bible Verses there is. All too often, Christian people (I state Christians because usually it is a Christian who quotes the Bible to support a viewpoint) use this Verse and others mentioning "the rod" of correction as a reason to spank their children. However, a check in the concordance reveals that the Hebrew word sebet can be translated several ways - including discipline and guidance - and definitely not just as "rod." I, personally, believe guidance or even discipline would have been a much better choice than "rod." Ironically, sebet is the word used many times in Proverbs in controversial Passages dealing with child discipline. I believe, all too often, all too many Christians forget that God commands us to not exasperate our children with our methods, but to bring them up in the training of God (Ephesians 6:4). Matthew 18:1-6 reminds us that unless we become as a child, we will never see heaven; and that if one ever causes a child to turn from God, it is better that this person be drowned in the sea than to live. This particular Verse is a perfect example of why I believe sometimes we need to go beyond exegesis to search all of Scripture. All of Scripture is in harmony. Context does include the immediate surrounding Verses; but, oftentimes, we have to go beyond just the immediate surroundings to understand what God is trying to tell us.

I believe the surrounding Verses are important when interpreting I Corinthians 11:2-16. For instance, Verses 18-19 addresses the groups - the cliques - that have formed within the Corinthian church. Perhaps these cliques were formed because of doctrinal views - such as should a woman prophesy without a head covering. Although this is not as popular today as in time past, there are still many Christian churches that believe it is sinful for a woman to cut her hair. They do quote I Corinthians 11:15 as their reason. I do believe a woman's hair was given to her as a covering. And I have nothing against Christian women who choose not to cut their hair. There are many explanations as to why this Passage specifically says it is shameful for a woman to be shaved or shorn. Verse 10 states that a woman is to remain covered because of the angels. I remember reading somewhere (where exactly escapes me now) that this could refer to the sons of God in the Old Testament that are said to have cohabitated with the daughers of men - their union producing the Nephalim. That is a possibility. However, I, personally, believe this is more about culture. I also believe, in this Passage, Paul is addressing legalism. How is today's church the same as that of the Corinthian church? Do churches today have cliques? Unfortunately, the answer is yes. Are there doctrinal disputes? Of course, there are. Is there legalism? The unfortunate answer is yes. Should we allow a woman's short hair or a man's long hair to separate them from other Christians or to consider them less Christian? I do not think that we should. I believe hair style is a personal choice for each of us. We should not allow it to cause divisions - as it may have in the church in Corinth.

Numbers 18:21-32 and 14:22-28 deal with the important issue of tithing. All too often, this is the lesson we least like to hear about. I'm sure the people of the Old Testament had many of the fears that we have today - if we give even 10%, will we have enough to live on? But God is not a God of fear, but a God of promise. That said, I also believe that it is important to not only give of our money, but of our time and talents as well. The Bible is very specific that we are to use our talents for the Lord or what we have been given will be taken away. This being said, while I do agree that it is important to give to our church, I do not believe this is the only way to give of our tithes. When these Passages in Numbers and Deuteronomy were written, there was no church. These Passages state that we should give back to God. I remember a few years ago attending a church in which a sermon around Christmas time was on the subject of tithing. The pastor delivering the sermon said the following words almost verbatim, "This time of year, we get hit up by a lot of organizations. I have already been hit up by Billy Graham. I have already been hit up by prison ministries. But our tithe is to go to our local church family." In all honesty, this sermon seemed hypocritical to me. I had attended this church for over a year, and this pastor had never so much as said "hi, boo," or "get out of the way" to me. I honestly felt that when I saw him go to deathrow inmates and witness to people who were convicted of murdering others, then I would admit he had the right to say he had been "hit up" by prison ministries. Until then, I did not think he had earned that right. Now, I'm not saying he meant this sermon the way I took it. I hope and pray he did not. But that was the last time I attended this particular church. I believe my tithe could be used just as well with prison ministries as it could with a local church body. This is not to undermine the importance of giving to our church. I totally believe that we should give to our church. This is also something that I instill in my own sons. However, I believe God will reveal to us where we should give our time, our talents, and our money. As long as these are being used to further the cause of Christ, that, to me, is all that matters.


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