When I was very young, my father’s pride and joy was his 1960s Sylvania AM/FM stereo record player with built-in speakers fully encased in a burnished walnut cabinet. Apparently, mid-century homes enjoyed some sense of style. His favorite activity on Saturday mornings after breakfast was to open all the windows, turn on the stereo system, and blast opera music. I think he felt it was his sacred duty to make sure the neighbors also were enjoying this beautiful art form.
Apparently, the stylus on the head-shell of the record player’s arm was extremely sensitive and fragile, which is why my father constantly reminded my older brother and I never to touch his stereo system. “Never!” But I do remember having a very good idea one afternoon. I decided I would get out the spooky Halloween record we had and play it before he got home. Why not? What could go wrong? After all, my mother was busy with other things.
Suffice it to say that I somehow broke the stylus, or at least thought I did. Petrified, I ran to my room to await my father’s return and the inevitable punishment I would receive. Anticipating the worst, I collected every pillow in the house, turned out the lights in my room, crawled into my bed, and covered myself with a giant stack of them as a protective layer to reduce the pain of the spanking I was sure to receive.
I waited for what seemed like hours. My stomach turned as I heard my father’s car pull into the driveway. I waited and waited and waited. Nothing happened. No spanking, no punishment, not even a stern talking-to. Apparently, I hadn’t broken the stylus at all. I was totally in the clear!
In the second reading today, the author of the Letter to the Hebrews writes that we should “not disdain the discipline of the Lord. . . . For what ‘son’ is there whom his father does not discipline?” Yet, the author does not characterize this discipline as punishment, but rather as formative and educational that “later brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who are trained by it.”
Like typical children, we may seek to avoid this kind of discipline at all costs, but the bad things that can happen to us serve to form our characters in virtue. In this fourth week of our Sunday message series called, Bible Oddities, we’re taking a look at another common scriptural misinterpretation. “God won’t give you more than you can handle” is a common phrase but appears nowhere in the Bible. The truth is that God will not give you more than He can handle.
Join us this Sunday or online to learn more about how suffering and hard times can forge us into better, more loving people.
--Father Roger Gustafson, Pastor
The Bible is the most hotly debated and influential book of all time. Christians vehemently disagree with one another about what the Bible says or doesn’t say, which Biblical laws are eternally proscriptive and which are eternally defeasible, and what the Bible actually means and who gets to decide.
But even apart from these debates, there are a lot of blank spaces in the Bible, places where lack of knowledge has led readers and interpreters to supply extraneous and erroneous information.
This week, we continue our Sunday message series that we are calling, Bible Oddities. In this series, we are looking at some common misinterpretations in the Bible. Last week, we examined the proper meaning of Paul’s statement in his Letter to the Philippians, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (4:13). As we discovered, Paul was not suggesting that he or other Christians receive supernatural protection from hardships and difficulties, but rather that, even in danger, he will rely on God for strength.
Today, we dive into another popular, but often misused and misquoted, verse in the New Testament. In Matthew 7:1, Jesus instructs his followers to avoid judgment. “Do not judge,” he says, “and you will not be judged.” But this statement is not meant to be treated as a blanket statement against all forms of judgment, as if we are to mind our own business and never get involved in the lives of those around us. Instead, Jesus is warning us against hypocrisy. Do not judge others as if you have the authority of someone who is perfect.
The basic meaning of the Greek word, to judge, is krino, which means “to set apart so as to distinguish or separate.” So the command, “Do not judge,” cannot prohibit all critical judgments. What Jesus is referring to is the kind of judgmental attitude that springs up among people in a community or in some families, where some members are very picky and no one is quite good enough to please them. These people act as if they have the spiritual gift of criticism.
If you look more carefully at the verse, you will see that we are not prohibited from discerning sin or problems in our brothers and sisters, or even seeking to correct them. But we must examine ourselves first to make sure nothing in us prevents us from seeing the situation clearly. Then, and only then, can we see clearly enough to remove the speck from our brother’s or sister’s eye.
Therefore, we should not close our eyes and pretend not to notice evil out of fear of being perceived as judgmental. While Jesus condemns hypocritical judgments, he nevertheless encourages rational ones. God formed the Church for community, accountability and honesty. We must be able to help one another when we make good and corrective judgments.
--Fr. Celestine Tyowua, Parochial Vicar
All the books of the Bible were inspired and authored by the Holy Spirit using human authors. Christianity believes that the scriptures in their original manuscripts are without errors and faults with respect to matters of salvation. The Bible is not merely a collection of quotes or one-liners but literally the Word of God. When scripture speaks, God himself is speaking, which is why we must approach the Bible with extreme care and intentionality. How it is read, memorized, and quoted is of the utmost importance.
However, many Christians misquote, misuse, or misunderstand some verses in the Bible. To help correct some of these misinterpretations, we’re offering this six-week Sunday message series called Bible Oddities. Last week, we looked at a misunderstanding about scripture’s stance on self-sufficiency. This week, we take a look at Philippians 4:13, where Paul declares, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
If Bible verses were movie characters, this one would be Rocky, triumphantly reaching the top of the steps with arms and fists pumping. This verse has been plastered on almost everything from T-shirts, mugs, and posters, to football players’ faces. But is it really telling us that the Lord will give us some superhuman strength to accomplish any feat?
The answer is no. What Paul is saying is that, no matter what his circumstance is, God has given him the strength and ability to endure and be satisfied, even when he must do without, even when he must go hungry. Paul illustrates in his own life that, when you trust and rely on God, you will find satisfaction and prosperity with whatever outcome life hands you.
There are some Christians who believe that faith in God automatically brings financial and other blessings. But what Paul means in the passage is nearly the opposite of this idea. Of course, God always blesses us. But with Christ as our strength, we are able to handle every circumstance, including suffering, failures, and difficulties. Moreover, Paul elsewhere encourages us to work hard, because there is no food for a lazy person.
Much of the prosperity gospel preached today is meant to give hope to those who come to Christ, when in reality, it can cause unnecessary doubt. If the Apostle Paul was not strong in his faith, he would have felt shame for the hard times he experienced. Being able to do all things in Christ is the ability to work hard to get what you want and endure any difficulty while trusting completely in God.
Jesus told his disciples in the gospel today not to be afraid. Instead, they should sell their possessions and give alms, while believing that God is the provider of all true prosperity. As Jesus said to Peter, we need to be about the works of God, so that we are not caught unprepared.
--Fr. Celestine Tyowua, Parochial Vicar
Every summer we bring you a message series that specifically deals with a theme from the Bible. And so we begin our new message series for the last part of the summer that we’re calling Bible Oddities: Common Misinterpretations of the Bible.
This series takes a look at some of the most often misinterpreted passages in the Bible. The order of passages we shall be treating will in no way reflect any sort of ranking, but will be entirely arbitrary, relating only to the order which we will be discussing them over the next four weeks.
Unfortunately, there are many erroneous beliefs about God and Christianity that have snuck their way into modern Church culture. These popular phrases or ways of thinking are in direct conflict with what scripture actually teaches. In fact, there are various and wrong interpretations of the Bible in most cases.
This week, we take a look at the first very common misinterpretation: “God helps those who help themselves.” This phrase appears nowhere in Scripture. In fact, the message of the Gospel is in stark contrast to this idea. In Matthew 6:33, for example, Jesus advises his disciples to “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.” Jesus therefore calls us to seek after the kingdom of God first, not ourselves and promises that, if we do, everything else in life will fall in place.
Our modern culture idolizes self-sufficiency. Look out for yourself first. Focus on your needs before anyone else’s need. If you’re in an airplane, you are advised to wear your oxygen mask first before helping another person in case of loss of pressure. In that case, it is right. But God’s plan for our lives is the exact opposite. Focus on the kingdom of God first, and God will take care of your necessities. After all, following Jesus is about living a selfless life.
The man in the gospel today was a selfish and proud man, he thought only of himself and so God demanded his life because he was a fool. His priority was himself and not about God or his neighbor. But if we focus on seeking God, there will be nothing in life we need to worry about. Therefore, our relationship with God needs to be our top priority.
Success magazine once published an article on the three mistakes most people make when setting priorities: (1) They don’t think about it; (2) They make it too complicated; and (3) They don’t live their priorities. Seeking first the kingdom of God is a pretty simple priority, but it is difficult to live this priority out.
Nevertheless, Jesus is inviting you to overcome pride and selfishness and stop helping yourself first, but make him the first priority in your life. If you do, he will grant you your heart’s desires.
--Fr. Celestine Tyowua, Parochial Vicar
Father Roger Gustafson