The Bible is full of truth that unpacking it often involves peeling away layers before we understand what God is really saying. We have tried to correctly interpret some of the passages that are commonly misinterpreted.
In the first week we looked at Matthew 6:25-33, on “Priorities and Selflessness”. The wrong context has been “God helps those who help themselves” this saying is quoted regularly but cannot be found anywhere in the Bible. What the Bible does say is found in Psalm 121:2 “my help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth” and Exodus 14:14 “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still” this means that God will help us when we seek first his kingdom.”
Week two, we delved into the letter of St Paul to the Philippians 4:13, on “Trust and Prosperity” “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” this passage illustrates how God can help us overcome any challenge we have when we trust in Him.
In the third week we looked at another commonly misinterpreted passage on “Accountability and Judgment”. Matthew 7:1 “Do not judge and you will not be judge” this is not to be treated as a statement banning all forms of judgment but rather, it encourages rational judgments and corrections.
In the fourth week our reflection was on “Strength and weakness”, we looked at another common saying that is very often times misquoted and misinterpreted but not found in the Bible. “God won’t give you more than you can handle”. But the ideal interpretation of 2 Corinthians 1:3-11 is that God will never give you more than He can handle. This is why all throughout 2 Corinthians, Paul makes a boast in his weakness and his need to rely on God for strength.
We shall conclude this series by taking a look at another very common misinterpreted passage in Luke 18:24-25. “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, it is easier for a Camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
Many people use this passage to make the wealthy feel guilty for their financial success. I guess that means we should all aim to be poor, right? But did you know that majority of Americans earn an annual salary that puts them in the 1% of the world’s wealth? According to that misinterpretation, nobody in America earning more than $34,000 a year will enter the kingdom of God.
This passage doesn’t condemn wealth at all. The reality is that Jesus is calling out a major stumbling block for anyone who thinks they can get to heaven by their own works or wealth. Jesus is letting us know that none of can get to heaven by our own efforts even if you have all the money or not. Money not shared but used selfishly is no money. Jesus encourages generosity and dependence on Him Jesus. This is the interpretation of Luke 18:24-25.
--Fr. Celestine Tyowua, Parochial Vicar
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
When I was a kid, I used to make funny faces. I would cross my eyes or lift one of my eyebrows like Steve Austin on the Six Million Dollar Man. My mother would use the standard parent line, “If you keep making that face, it’ll get stuck that way!”
She was right. It’s easy to get stuck and caught in ruts. We can get stuck in our faith, like when we get annoyed at Mass because some people overdo the Sign of Peace, or grow impatient if someone speaks after Mass, or obsess about how many verses are in a hymn, or fixate on how long Father Roger is preaching instead of the quality of the message.
It’s also easy to get stuck in other ways, like in our jobs, finances, relationships, and even our attitudes and opinions. Getting stuck can keep us from living more fulfilling, open, and joyous lives. Indeed, we sometimes can feel like we’re in one big traffic jam, and the green light allowing us to move ahead never seems to come.
But the Bible is filled with stories of characters who once felt stuck yet later were suddenly liberated in God’s timing and according to his plan. Here are a few examples:
If you’re feeling frustrated because you’re stuck, listen to this week’s message live in church on Sunday or online by visiting our website to learn what you can do to turn the divine light green in your life.
--Father Roger Gustafson, Pastor
Reacting with misplaced anger, lack of compassion, judgment, intractability, unwarranted frustration and impatience, or other negative emotions are some of the most embarrassing encounters we can have. Yet, it happens all the time because we sometimes don’t take the time to discern the best way to interact with other people.
Fortunately, the Book of Proverbs in the Bible, which we’re studying in our current Sunday message series called Foolproof, offers some useful practical wisdom on how to avoid such foolish dealings. The author of the book, King Solomon, writes that there are at least five types of people: The wise, the wicked, the simple, the fool, and the scoffer. In order to interact intelligently and achieve the best possible outcome in human relations, Solomon says each person must be dealt with according to his or her individual character. Conversely, a more self-involved human being fails to consider the circumstances, personality, and outlook of the other party, whereas a wise person weighs all these factors before speaking.
Jesus himself dealt with people differently based on their approach, behavior, and personal needs. Here are a few examples:
These are only a few examples of Jesus’ wise dealings with others based on their individual attitudes and circumstances. Listen to this week’s message on avoiding foolish dealings live on Sunday or online by visiting our website.
--Father Roger Gustafson, Pastor
The author of Psalm 73 complains bitterly to God about the wicked getting away with murder. Why God, he openly laments, do evil people seem to prosper but the good die young? “I was envious of the arrogant,” the psalmist admits, because “their bodies are healthy and sleek,” “they are free of the burdens of life,” and they are “always carefree, increasing their wealth.”
It is a common human complaint. Those of us who try to do the right thing, follow the rules, and grow daily in our ability and desire to love God and neighbor may at times believe that our efforts ultimately are futile and useless and that our attempts are foolish. “Is it vain that I have kept my heart pure,” the author continues, “washed my hands in innocence?” To wonder whether you are the only one who seeks the path of righteousness in a world otherwise gone mad is a very lonely state.
If you fall into this category, many spiritual and religious leaders would applaud you for your righteous indignation over the seeming prosperity of wrongdoers. Indeed, the Bible tells us to steer clear of evil. As we continue our walk through the Old Testament book of Proverbs in our current message series called Foolproof, we hear King Solomon instruct his son, for example, to avoid at all costs “the path of the wicked, and . . . the way of evil men” (4:14). Rather, he says, “the path of the righteousness is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day” (4:18).
Of course, we should give a wide berth to those who “cannot sleep unless they have done wrong” and are “robbed of sleep unless they have made someone stumble” (Proberbs 4:16). Sin obviously should not be embraced or condoned. But to the extent you constantly feel isolated and alone in your moral goodness, are perpetually worried about the absence of virtue in most of the people you encounter, and become depressed over the lack of righteousness in others, you might actually be judging too much.
A propensity to condemn others for what seem like their faults and failings often demonstrates a deep misunderstanding of the Catholic Church’s teaching on morality, as well as the rather convenient refusal to turn a roving critical eye inward. It is all too easy for smug, self-satisfied Christians to cluck their tongues and shake their heads over what in fact may not be the ethical transgressions of others, while too easily excusing their own shortcomings. As Jesus once said, “why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3). Indeed, his instruction remains sound today: “Stop judging that you may not be judged” (Matthew 7:1).
Tune in to our Sunday morning message this week live in church or online to learn more about the true path to righteousness.
--Father Roger Gustafson, Pastor
I was eating dinner last night with someone who said she was leaving her church because it had become too “political.” Indeed, religious institutions including the Catholic Church often are accused of veering inappropriately into political and economic matters that are considered too far outside the scope of their spiritual expertise. Abortion, immigration, climate change, and other hot button social issues frequently are considered off limits, and religious leaders who delve too deeply into these areas are accused of bad taste for not staying “in their lane.”
Pope Francis, for instance, was sorely criticized by free market economists for his comments on capitalism in Laudato Si’ (On Care For Our Common Home). A few years ago, I received some negative feedback from a few parishioners when we studied global hunger as a parish Lenten project. We asked you to consider writing a letter to your government representative about the problem and some people did not think that was appropriate.
Personal finances is one such highly-charged area. To preach on any aspect of money is often compared to hitting below the belt, as if the Sunday morning atmosphere somehow would been sullied by mixing the sacred with the “profane.”
Yet, money is a major topic in the Bible, and according to an article in Preaching Today magazine, Jesus spoke about money frequently. Sixteen of the thirty-eight parables were concerned with how to handle money and possessions, and one out of ten verses (288 in all) in the gospels deal directly with the subject of money. In fact, money and possessions are the second most referenced topic in the Bible.
“I get my financial guidance from the Bible,” writes Peter Grandich, author of Confessions of a Wall Street Whiz Kid. Grandich, who says his years as a highly successful Wall Street stockbroker left him spiritually depleted and clinically depressed, claims that Scripture is an excellent financial adviser, whether or not you’re religious (Forbes, “Is the Bible the Ultimate Financial Guide?” May 24, 2012).
The book of Proverbs in the Bible, for example, offers a great deal of wisdom and practical instruction for living, including financial management. In our summer message series called, Foolproof, we’re taking some time to examine a number of these key proverbs that will give you important insight and help you succeed in life. And over a hundred of these wise sayings deal with some aspect of money.
Join us this week on Sunday morning or listen online to our message about the wealth of wisdom contained in the biblical proverbs when it comes to handling money and finances. In the message for this week, we will look at some of the core principles necessary to win with money. They include working hard in order to earn honest wealth, giving generously to God and to the poor, saving little by little rather than counting on windfalls, avoiding debt, and keeping track of your money.
--Father Roger Gustafson, Pastor
We begin a brand new series this week that we are calling Foolproof. In this series, we’ll take a walk through the book of Proverbs in the Bible. You may ask, what is a Proverb? It is simply a wise saying. The book of Proverbs is the central wisdom book of the Old Testament. Like the book of the Psalms, it is a “collection of collections.” The individual proverbs were composed by several authors, but predominantly by King Solomon but also by two other men mentioned as Agur and Lemuel over a period of time and finally collected into a single book. The Proverbs are too often neglected by Christians today, but they are also too often misunderstood. We shall try to throw some light on the book as it applies to our daily lives so as to help us navigate through life.
The purpose of the book is to show the reader how to live life wisely or skillfully and be “fool proof.” As a matter of fact, the entire structure of the book is arranged to carry out this purpose. In the introduction (1:1-7), the title, purpose and motto of the book are clearly spelled out. Beginning in (1:8), there are ten consecutive exhortations or homilies that can well be called the theology of the two ways: the way of wisdom and the way of folly.
The book of Proverbs helps us to make wise decisions in all we do in life. We encourage you to read the book of Proverbs through the period of this series; it is not only a source of wisdom but also a source of encouragement.
Today we celebrate the feast of the Holy Trinity. The doctrine and theology of the Trinity is a mystery which defies all forms of mathematical and logical calculations. The term “Trinity” itself is not mentioned anywhere in the Bible. However, Christ instructed us: “Baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). Hence, the Church teaches us that: “[T]he divine persons are relative to one another . . . . [T]he real distinction of the persons from one another resides solely in the relationships which relate them to one another . . . . [B]ecause of the unity, the Father is wholly in the Son and wholly in the Spirit.
We are invited to contemplate the unity of the Trinity in our lives. We must learn to remain united in faith and in our day- to-day life using the wisdom that comes from God. Just as the Father and the Son and the Spirit, though different in personality and essence yet are united in an unbreakable bond of love, we too should imitate them in our families and our parish community. Let the wisdom of God lead us to an authentic understanding of the Trinity and make us “Foolproof.”
--Father Celestine Tyowua, Parochial Vicar
Father Roger Gustafson