May 16, 2017
In her amusing book Eats, Shoots and Leaves, Lynne Truss bemoans the problem of poor punctuation in today’s world. To illustrate, she tells the funny story of a panda, who enters a café, orders a sandwich, eats it, and then pulls out a gun and starts shooting. When a waiter asks him to explain his behavior, the panda hands him a poorly punctuated wildlife guide and asks him to look up the description of panda. It reads: “Panda. Large black and white bear-like mammal, native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves.”
Having a comma after the word eats is an error that changes the whole meaning of the last sentence. The words shoots and leaves become actions, instead of plants to eat.
As one who teaches and preaches God’s Word I try to be careful to be accurate and careful in my use of God’s Word. A misspoken word or a “lazy interpretation” can lead to grave error. The apostle Paul advises that we must “correctly handle the word of truth” (II Timothy 2:15.) I am aware of how easy it is to try and make the Bible say what we want it to say. Our pre-conceived notions and biases can color our interpretation. Let me make three suggestions to help you correctly interpret Scripture:
- Always read before and after to get the context of the passage. Who is the author addressing and why? What are the circumstances? What is the bigger picture?
- A second suggestion is to read the passage slowly perhaps from a couple of different versions. Look up any words you don’t understand. Always be thinking, “how does this apply to me!”
- Finally ask and depend on the Holy Spirit to help you correctly interpret and understand what God is saying. He will “guide you into all truth” (John 16:13) and help applying Scriptural truths to your personal life.
Have a great week!
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