Monday, January 15, 2007

Magic Eye Scripture

A friend recently asked me whether or not we should always be excited about reading the Bible. I don't know, I responded.

I probably should be excited every time I open God's Word. If it is what I say I believe it is, it should be breathtaking. Yet, I often have to discipline myself into reading it despite my desire to do something else. Sometimes I'm not focused and miss a lot of what the text has for me. Occassionally, I'm even bored. While true, all of this, I believe, is to my discredit.

Occassionally, a verse jumps out at me despite my lackadaisical habits and makes me say, "Wow." It's kind of like those old 3-D pictures that you had to stare at really hard for, like, 30 seconds and then a picture seemed to emerge from the page. I would usually respond, "Wow," not knowing how the forever undefined "they" made that happen. It's kind of like that, except I'm usually not looking as hard.

This happened at church yesterday. The verses were from 2 Corinthians 8:2-4:

". . . that in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of liberality. For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability, they gave of their own accord, begging us with much urging for the favor of participation in the support of the saints."

Paul is writing about a group of people from a region called Macendonia. Here are the thoughts that "Wow"ed me:

1. These people gave according to their ability. How rare this is, to honestly look at my finances and give what I know I can.

2. They gave despite "affliction" and "deep poverty." These could've been legitimate excuses.

3. These people gave beyond their ability. I venture this means they imposed poverty on themselves, or maybe more correctly they imposed deeper poverty on themselves, for the sake of others.

4. Who are these people and what's wrong with them?

5. They gave of their own accord, or "entirely on their own," as another translation put it. I suppose this means they gave without being asked. They volunteered to serve. Or more aptly, they paid to serve. Who does that?

6. They "begged" Paul and his contingent not FOR money, mind you, but TO GIVE their money away.

7. They considered themselves "favored" to be able to give their money away. To them, it was a privelege, not a duty, not a responsibliity, not a guilt-trip. At least not primarily.

8. On occasion, I have had to raise money for projects or trips. Each time, a few people have given money, though I know they were experiencing financial hardship. What's more, I had to ask them because they told me, and showed me, they'd be angry with me if I didn't. This text reminded me of these people. How blessed I am to have been around them and to have been loved by them. And to have been taught by their actions.

9. Jesus's message must really be radical, revolutionary even, if it moves people to do something like this.



Megan said...

It's a shame that you and I never got the chance to spend a great deal of time together. We could have talked for hours.

Good stuff Ben, maybe I should start reading your blog on a regular basis.

Ben said...

Megan, I could talk for hours in an empty room by myself, as could you I venture to say. We could've talked for days if we were both in the same room together long enough. :) I would've enjoyed those talks. I think we would've found we don't disagree quite as much as we might've thought. Maybe our marriage would've worked after all. . . .

(My apologies to everyone else for the public statement of an inside joke.)

Anyhow, thanks for the blog props!

Jeff said...

Why does it feel like I'm the only one who ever disagrees with you? haha

Anyways...I ran across a quote today that is relevant to what you said about your Bible reading habits, I think...
"In the end, all these traditions, all the levels people practice their religion at, it's not about that. It's about a connection with a higher power. The ability to connect and to worship." -Regina Spektor
I guess make sure you don't lose the forest for the trees.

Oakley said...

Ben and Jeff, you guys both seem to be getting equally valid understandings. I think most people would share Ben's sentiments on not always being motivated to read the Bible (pesky sin nature). We've been reading the first five chapters of John in bible study and one of those speaks about being disciplined. It also talks about letting your heart guide your actions when you aren't disciplined but not letting this cause you undue grief. Your heart is a good mechanism to keep you in check as long as you don't let it rule your life. Seems to me that perhaps Jesus was the only man to ever safely let HIS heart define his life (and hopefully ours?)......

Tasha said...

As a seminarian and someone who once skimmed through the entire Pentateuch for a class including all the random laws, I find myself asking questions of similar caliber as the one Ben's friend opened with. I read a passage and wonder what the people who put together the original canon were thinking.

And the truth of the matter is, not all the Bible is incredibly "exciting." Who wants to really wants to read about all the sacrificial regulations in Leviticus? But at the same time, in the midst of all of these laws, God's love and grace can be found. It may not be as eloquent as Paul's epistles, as awe inspiring as Jesus' miracles, as poetic as the Psalms, or as defiant as the prophets. But it's there if we look hard enough and read between the lines.

And I think the people that put the Bible together saw that, through the Spirit. And I think if we keep ourselves open to the Spirit, even a boring, tedious section of the Bible can pop out to us. Thankfully, God gives us some help along the way. :)