Bella Vista Church of Christ

LIFELINES

01/17/2018

Randall Caselman

 

Hermeneutics

Leave It In Context!

 

  Sunday was Budget Sunday. Like most preachers, I found myself searching for verses that had to do with giving. Luke 6.38 was first to come to mind. It fits so well. “Give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For the measure you give will be the measure you get back.” We've all used it. But as I read more, I found myself admitting that using this verse to admonish the church in monetary giving was cheating. Dishonest.

 

  When we talk about hermeneutics, the first rule is “Context is King!" Taking Luke 6.38 out of context can make it mean anything. Yes, it’s true: “We will reap what we sow.” But we must pay attention to what Jesus is speaking of here, and it's not money. Read it again beginning with the verse numbered 37. “Be merciful, even as yourFather is merciful. Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you” (Luke 6.37-38 RSV).

 

  He also told them a parable: “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye” (Luke 6.39-42 RSV).

 

  Look at the words: “Be merciful,” “Judge not,” “Condemn not,” Forgive.” “Give and IT will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over... For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”

 

  How many times have we heard this verse read on “Budget Sunday,” or weekly before the offering is taken. But I gotta ask what is the IT? “Give IT and IT will be given you." IT is not money is it? If we believe the Bible is the Word of God, then we must affirm that the meaning of Scripture, any Scripture, must rest in the mind of God who wrote it, and not in how we read it. To give any Scripture a meaning other than the one God had in mind is dishonest, and should be avoided at all cost.

 

  You see, when we ignore the context, we reduce His Word and its understanding to mere human opinion. A proper hermeneutic asks: “What did God mean when He wrote what He wrote?” “What did it mean to those who first received it?” When we apply these two questions to what Jesus says here in Luke chapter six, we cannot possibly insert money into the context. Read it again! Be honest! Verse 37 sets the context! From the NIV, it reads: “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” Wow!... How incredible is this verse when left in its proper context. If we deleted verse38 from this passage, there would be no question as to what Jesus was saying: Be merciful... Don’t judge... Don’t condemn... Forgive. How can we make IT mean money? How easily we have totally changed Jesus’ conversation. Jesus is speaking about being merciful, forgiving, not judging and condemning. How we give IT is how we are given IT. Amen? How can we give verse 38 any other interpretation?

 

  Jesus is speaking of a weightier matter of the law: Mercy. Pardon. Not judging, and condemning, but forgiving. Jesus has taught us previously that these attributes are weightier than our gift at the altar. “But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5.22-24 RSV). Jesus is saying that ultimately, how we treat others is how God will treat us. That becomes pretty weighty, Amen?

 

  Church, let’s each admit that we have misused this Scripture and others because of ignorance or dishonesty. Let’s be challenged to be better students of the Word. Let's be diligent in our search for what God says to us by being mindful of Context.

 

—RandallCaselman