You have heard of the parable of the sower before. It is recorded in Mark 4 and in Matthew 13. We will not copy it here because of its length. But essentially, you have a sower who went out to sow (Mark 4:3). Some seeds fall by the way side (verse 4) and the fowls of the air devour them. Some fall on stony ground (verse 5), then grow immediately because there is no much dirt. However, when the sun comes up, they die quickly. Others fall among thorns (verse 7), but they are chocked by them when those thorns grow up. And some fall on good ground (verse 8), and end up yielding fruits in abundance and even superabundance. We shall call them “way side”, “stony ground”, “among thorns” and “good ground”.
Our Lord Jesus explains this parable in Mark 4:14-20. In all four cases, the ground refers to people, the seed is the Word of God, and all four types of people “hear” the Word (verses 15, 16, 18 and 20). However, only two of the four types (“stony ground” and “good ground”) actually “receive” the Word.
This said, a little study of the two verbs “to hear” and “to receive” (or “to accept” depending on the version of your bible) reveals that much of the real meaning of this parable has been lost in most English translations.
It’s about HOW you Hear!
Mark 4: 20 - But these are the ones sown on good ground, those who hear the word, accept it, and bear fruit: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred.”
When looking at how the verb “to hear” is conjugated in each of the four cases, we find that only in the case of the good ground (verse 20) is this verb in the “Present Indicative Active”. In other words, this is the only group of people that hear and keep hearing continuously the Word of God! These people are plugged to Christ!
In stark contrast, the same verb is in the “Aorist” tense in all of the first three groups (“way side”, “stony ground” and “among thorns”). This tense means that this action of hearing is not continuous or habitual. The reason for them not producing fruit is because they do not keep on hearing the Word of Christ.
So what about the stony ground? The only other group mentioned as receiving the Word?
Mark 4:16 - And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness;
Not only did they “receive” it, but our Lord says that they receive it “immediately” and “with gladness”. But then our Lord says that they “immediately” stumble when tribulation comes because they have no root (verse 17). Ouch! What went wrong?
It’s about HOW you Receive!
See, we already established that the first problem with all the groups except good ground is that they do not make it a habit to hear the Word. In the worst case, they hear it one time and that is it. But now focusing on the verb “to receive”, we see that in the case of stony ground (verse 16), the greek verb is lambano, while in the case of good ground it is the greek verb para-dechomai. In a nutshell, these two verbs focus on two “very” different aspects of the reception process.
Lambano emphasizes the manifestation of what has been received while para-dechomai emphasizes the strong and loving acceptance of what has been received. An example of lambano is found in Acts 19, where Paul ends up laying His hand on some people so they may receive (lambano) the Holy Spirit.
Acts 19:2,6 - He said unto them, Have ye received (lambano) the Holy Ghost since ye believed?… 6 And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied.
There was a clear manifestation/evidence of the reception: They spoke with tongues and prophesied. In the case of the stony ground, the manifestation is that they immediately start to speak or preach what they have just been taught. How do we know? Verse 17 says that it is for “the Word’s sake that they face tribulations”. They do not just get tribulations for any reason. They are attacked specifically on their faith. But that faith is weak because they do not continue to hear! They are batteries and they run out, they are not plugs!
Para-dechomai is actually a stronger form of the verb “decomai” and it is used only 6 times in the New Testament. One of the other five is this great record in Hebrews.
Hebrews 12:6 - My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; 6 For whom the Lord loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives (para-dechomai).
Can you sense the intense love God has for us? How He receives us? And by the way, this is also in the present tense, meaning, the Lord continually receives us! Wow!! Want to talk about being accepted by Him? Here you have it!
So what’s the deal here? “Good ground” hears and keeps on hearing the Word. As a result, he starts to accept and receive this Word, becoming one with it, loving it, making it his very own. He cannot get enough of it! So he never forgets that he needs to stay plugged, and as a result, he produces fruits in the most natural of ways, and even in great abundance. Stony ground hears it once, gets extremely excited. Heck, it seems to be the most excited of all! But then he takes the little he received and runs with it. What a pity! Why do you leave? You are battery on your own, and soon after, you are out of juice!
What is the takeaway? Stay plugged! Keep on hearing! Let’s not focus on what we can do, like stony ground did. The Word calls that our works. Instead, let’s focus on being close to Him, simply listening to Him, day in and day out (2 Timothy 1:9). Bearing fruits is not about exerting effort of our own, but about letting His Word dwell in us richly! He who drinks from Him (i.e. He who hears Him) will never thirst and out of him will flow rivers of living waters (John 7: 37, 38 – you want to talk about producing fruits?!).
The “Quantity” argument. Click here for part 4.
It is very interesting to observe that virtually all of the newer bible translations clearly side with the quantity argument in verse 6. One may verify this by visiting a site such as BibleGateway.com. Does this reflect a greater understanding of the original Word of God…or a greater distortion of It? Some of the older ones (such as the highly respected King James Version) do to, but certainly not to the extent of newer ones.
Now, if the quantity argument is so prevalent today, then it must addressed head-on. In other words, let’s now suppose that verse 6 does indeed speak of quantity. As we shall see, this passage then becomes a very complex and incomplete piece of scripture!
To make this verse speaks of quantity paves the way for all kind of confusion…and abuses!
Here we go. Is verse 6 speaking of quantity in absolute terms or in relative terms? Where is the cutoff point between sparingly and generously? It is at 5% of what you have, 10%, or 20%? If there is one such cutoff point, why is it not mentioned here? Here is something else…what if you give cheerfully (as verse 7 encourages), but only 2% of what you have…does your giving overrides the quantity to give requirement? And what if you give grudgingly (as verse 7 discourages), but a full 70% of what you have…does your giving overrides the attitude in giving requirement? There is yet something else. What if you and someone else are to give a certain combined amount, and whatever the other gives, you will give the rest…Did you give the right amount even if the other gave 95% of the amount and you 5%? And would not this last case imply that the quality of your giving is conditioned by the giving of another? Since when your standing with God is dependent on someone else’s?
2 Corinthians 9:6, 7 –But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows on the basis of blessings will also reap blessings. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity;
According to verse 7, each one is to give as he purposes in his heart. But if that is the proper way to give, why are we being warned just before (verse 6) that giving little will have negative consequences? If verse 6 indeed speaks of quantity, then it effectively makes the first past of verse 7 completely irrelevant, and even – dare we say – very confusing. That is because the only correct amount to give, which is “much” was already stressed in verse 6. Who cares what one purposes in his or her heart…just give much, and you will right in the sight of God!
If there is a reference to quantity, it is in verse 7, not verse 6!
If there is one place in this passage referring to quantity, it is precisely the first part of verse 7. And the quantity requirement is that it should be the quantity one purposes in his heart, period! That is the quantity to give. And look, the verse then goes right back to the motivation in the giving, the whole purpose of this entire section.
It is our belief that there is simply no room for the quantity argument in verse 6. The very small sample of problematic questions that were raised in this article gives us a glimpse at the kind of abuses the quantity argument permits. This is the case because if the Bible does not answer those questions, then it effectively delegates this responsibility to our church leaders…and that is where all hell brake loose! The fact that most newer bible translations side with quantity clearly reflect the deliberate choice our so called bible scholars and authorities have made. And we can understood why! And these are the bibles you and I read! How sad! How v-e-r-r-r-r-y sad!
Anyway…what’s next? Well, after a brief look at the immediate context of this passage, precisely, verse 5, which further supports the motivation in giving argument of this series, we shall conclude with a reflection of the implication of this study.
Alright. So we essentially completed our review of the second part of verse 6, and we concluded from part 3 that it says…
2 Corinthians 9:6 –…and he who sows on the basis of blessings will also reap blessings.
It is now time to turn to the first part…
2 Corinthians 9:6 – He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly…
Interestingly, this part does not suffer from any of the two issues we identified in the second, namely, the poor translation of a word and the outright omission of another. But what we will argue is that the issue at a hand is simply a matter of interpretation of the adverb “sparingly”.
Sparingly…what means thou?
The Greek word for “sparingly” is pheidomenós and it comes from the verb pheidomai which means to spare, or to abstain. A search of this adverb in Merriam-Webster dictionary gives sparing, which is the act of giving or sharing as little as possible. It also refers to less plentiful than what is normal, necessary, or desirable. There is certainly a strong reference to quantity in this definition, and that is precisely how it is mostly understood in verse 6.
But there is something rather peculiar about sparingly. It turns out that 2 Corinthians 9:6 is the only place in the New Testament where the word pheidomenós is used. The implications of this fact is that there are essentially two options when it comes to defining this term. The first is to work with a secular dictionary such Merriam-Webster’s. The second is to stay right here in this verse and explain it from here. We are of the belief that the best option is to stay right here, in this verse. So here we go!
A little bit of Set theory from Mathematics, shall we!?
IF we agree that verse 6 is
1) made of two distinct statements (one about sowing sparingly and the other about sowing on the basis on blessings), and that
2) these two statements are mutually exclusive (meaning that both cannot happen at the same time, i.e. one cannot sow sparingly and at the same time sow on the basis of blessings…it has to be one or the other), and that
3) these two statements are exhaustive (meaning that there is no other way to sow but these two ways)
THEN we can only conclude that,
The two statements of verse 6 are the exact opposite of each other.
The implication of this seemingly obvious conclusion is actually quite profound. The implication is that understanding of one of the two statements automatically leads to understanding the other. From part 3, the second part of verse 6 is quite clear… and he who sows on the basis of blessings will also reap blessings. Could not be clearer! Now, if we agree that the first part of the verse is the exact opposite of the second, then the first part must mean… he who “does not” sow on the basis of blessings will reap “something else” than blessings.
So what does that all mean?
The whole purpose of verse 6 is to state God’s perspective regarding giving. There are only two ways to give: either one gives 1) for the “sole” and “unique” purpose of blessing someone else or one gives 2) for “any other” reason than simply blessing someone else. Please note that the opposite of “on the basis of blessing” is any other reason than to bless. “On the basis of cursing” certainly falls in that category, but so does “on the basis of money”, “…of fame”, “… of greed”, “…of praise”, “…of obligation”, “…of constraint”, etc.
Just like “on the basis of blessings”, “sparingly” refers to the intention behind the giving, not the quantity given. But the intention in this case is any intention other than just blessing the other.
The argument in this article is that sparingly is nothing more than the opposite of on the basis of blessing. And because of it, understanding it properly should really not be a problem. The problem is that this simple understanding gets completely obscured when the second part of verse 6 is not properly translated in the first place.
In addition, the fact that verse 6 is the only place in the New Testament where this adverb is used should cause us to be extra-vigilant when it comes to interpreting it. The argument postulated is that because of it, the best place for its interpretation should be this very verse – which is the immediate context of its use – rather than some secular source. And this allowed us to conclude that sparingly refers to the motivation behind the giving, to the exact same extent that on the basis of blessing does.
Yet, one may ask…“But what if, despite all the arguments presented in this series, there is still room for the notion of quantity in verse 6?”. Could we be wrong all the way in believing that motivation is the one and only focus? We shall investigate that route in the next article. Indeed…“Suppose these terms really refer to quantity…”.
…Ready to plug some words where they belong? Ready to read “blessings” instead of “bountifully” or “generously”? Here we go! Click here for part 2.
2 Corinthians 9: 6 – He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows “blessings” will also reap “blessings”.
Now that we did it, let us examine the verse for a minute. Read it carefully, and you will probably realize that it is not structurally correct. That is because the first part, using an adverb (sparingly) speaks of how (how…much?) to sow, while the second part, using a noun (blessings) speaks of what to sow. In other words, as currently written, one can easily make the argument that it is possible to sow blessings “sparingly”, which would readily highlight the problem with the structure of this sentence.
But this is where it gets very interesting…
Of the two occurrences of the word “blessings” in this verse, the Greek text actually has one additional word just before the first one, but not before the second. The Greek word in question is epi. So, the structure of the verse is actually as follows…
2 Corinthians 9: 6 – He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows “epi” blessings will also reap blessings.
So what is epi? It means “on”, “to” or “on the basis of”. Verse 6 therefore reads:
2 Corinthians 9:6 – He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows on the basis of blessings will also reap blessings.
Now this sentence is structurally sound, because the two parts speak of the same thing: how to sow! How amazing! And in case you wonder, we shall see that it is not “how much” either. So what are we seeing? All three bible versions (and may be more) not only changed a word (blessing), but also deleted one (on the basis of)! We have a double jeopardy, yay!!
The meaning of the second statement (…and he who sows on the basis of blessings will also reap blessings) could not be more different than what these bible translations and church leaders would have us believe.
It is clear that it is the motivation behind – or the basis for – the sowing that is the focus here. What a difference a seemingly insignificant 3-letter word can make! By itself, it confirms that the motivation, the motive, the intention, the basis, the attitude, etc. is what is of concern in this verse. Now therefore, a plausible paraphrase of the second part could be…he whose motivation to sow is that it will bless someone will himself receive blessings in return. The quantity that is to be sown is not at all being referenced here…and guess what…it does not need to be! Why? Because if the other instances of the word eulogia such as in Galatians and Hebrews (as discussed in part 2) are any indication, the very fact that the sowing is performed on the basis of blessings automatically implies that the “right” quantity will be given.
So, dear church leaders…it is time to teach people HOW to give, and stop hammering them about HOW MUCH to give, because that is simply not what this verse teaches. But…will you do it? You know your church bank account may experience some – how shall we say it -…issues as a result! Or will it…
By the way, here is how the amplified bible (AMP) cleverly puts it.
2 Corinthians 9:6 – …he who sows sparingly and grudgingly will also reap sparingly and grudgingly, and he who sows generously [that blessings may come to someone] will also reap generously and with blessings.
If you asks us, we see an attempt to reconcile these two views, by making reference both to the quantity, and to the way one sows…all in one sentence…clever huh?! Unfortunately, no matter how pleasing this may sound, we simply find no biblical basis for that.
It is actually very clear that all these bible translators understood full well the need to have sentences that are structurally correct. Look. They used adverbs when changing the meaning of the noun eulogia. They used the adverb generously, not the noun generosity. They used the adverb bountifully, not the noun bounty. And to make all fit, the word epi simply had to be removed. Why? Because otherwise there are two choices: either one writes…on the basis of (epi) generosity, or one writes…generously. But these two statements are very different. The former clearly emphasizes the motivation, while the latter could certainly refer to the the quantity. They chose quantity (and our church leaders are the more happy for it), and epi had to go! Here goes the sad story of our little epi!
So where does that bring us? To the first part of verse 6 of course. Now that we have restored the wordings in the second part, we may now turn to the first part…and there, sparingly sure sounds like quantity! Or does it…?
In this series, we are making the argument that, in 2 Corinthians 9: 6 and 7, God does not make at all reference to the quantity one gives. In quite a contrast, we are arguing that the sole focus (and emphasis) of this passage is on the intention behind the giving. Click here for Part 1.
Are you ready for some Bible translations?
Let’s revisit verse 6, but now looking at not one, but three (3) popular bible translations: The New International Version (NIV), the New King James Version (NKJV), and the New Living Translation (NLT).
2 Corinthians 9:6 [NIV] – Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.
2 Corinthians 9:6 [NKJV] – But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.
2 Corinthians 9:6 [NLT] – Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop.
We see that verse 6 identifies two courses of actions leading to opposite results. The first – sowing sparingly – results in reaping sparingly, while the other – sowing bountifully – results in reaping bountifully. These two actions are claimed to be making reference to the quantity sown: “sparingly” versus “bountifully” respectively. In fact, the NLT version makes this specific claim very explicit with its translation: “planting a few seeds versus planting generously (in other words, planting many seeds)”. There is no doubt that the three Bible versions refer to how much one sows.
But wait…what is that Greek word again?
See, the word that was translated “bountifully” in the NKJV and “generously” in the other two versions is the Greek word eulogia, which means blessing. This word – eulogia – actually appears in 15 other places throughout the New Testament. And in most of them, it is translated (guess what)…“blessing”. Let us look at just two such instances (Galatians 3:14 and Hebrew 6:7) in both the NKJV and the NLT.
Galatians 3:14 [NKJV] – That the blessing (eulogia) of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
Galatians 3:14 [NLT] – Through Christ Jesus, God has blessed the Gentiles with the same blessing (eulogia) he promised to Abraham, so that we who are believers might receive the promised Holy Spirit through faith.
Hebrews 6:7 [NKJV] – For the earth which drinks in the rain that often comes upon it, and bears herbs useful for those by whom it is cultivated, receives blessing (eulogia) from God.
Hebrews 6:7 [NLT] – When the ground soaks up the falling rain and bears a good crop for the farmer, it has God’s blessing (eulogia).
Did you notice that even the NLT translates this word as “blessing” in both instances!? And actually, it turns out that save only one (1) other place (Romans 16:18), 2 Corinthians 9 is the only place where this word eulogia is not translated “blessing”. Therefore, in the face of such exception, one must ask…Why? Why is eulogia not translated here as “blessing” as it is everywhere else? This fact alone should cause us to look further into what appears to be a blatant discrepancy.
In all of those places where the word “blessing” is used, what is highlighted is the good intention of the one giving. Simply the intention to bless, not more and not less. In the case of Galatians 3 and Hebrews 6, the one who gives is God. When we read these passages, we cannot help but realize that what is received is something good, and that it was given with the best of intentions…it was given, literally…to bless. That is the focus in those passages.
How much quantity you said it was?
The one giving gives because he or she knows how much it will bless the recipient. There is simply “no” indication of the quantity given other than it must be the right quantity. Let us think about it for a minute. Back in Hebrews 6:7, how much quantity of rain does the earth receive from God? Does it receive a lot of it? We all know that too much rain could be very bad. What about a little of it? We all know that too little rain can be very bad as well. So what is the right answer, because it is a fact that the earth does receive some rain?! The only right answer pertaining to quantity is that the earth receives the right, perfect quantity of rain. This bears repeating. The earth receives the right quantity of rain from God. And being the right quantity is one reason it is a blessing, otherwise, it would not be! Too little and the earth would starve, too much and it would saturate.
Galatians 3:14 is even more profound. What was the quantity of the blessing Abraham was promised? That’s a good one huh! All we can say with assurance is that it was the right quantity…that’s all, the right quantity! Therefore, we see from these records that by its very definition, a blessing already embodies within itself the notion of right quantity. The right quantity is one of the attributes that makes a blessing what it is…a blessing.
Two major points here.
One: Bible translations. They introduce in their own rights a host of issues, as was already illustrated previously. Here as well, it is manifestly no different. None of the three popular Bible versions cited here used the right word…blessing! Why?
Two: Nature of a blessing. The different passages referenced here demonstrated that a blessing, by its very nature, includes the notion of right quantity. When it is a blessing, the quantity given is the right one. So what’s next? Well, it is time to take the wrong word out (bountifully or generously) and plug in its stead the right one (blessing) and see what will happen…
A little Introduction, shall we…
If you have ever set your feet in a church setting, or mingled long enough with other Christians, it is highly likely that you are very familiar with the saying of this passage.
2 Corinthians 9: 6, 7 – Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. [NIV]
This section of scripture appears to tell very plainly and clearly that not only we should give much (i.e. the more we give the better), but that we should do it with a cheerful heart. “Hey,…if you sow a little, you will reap a little, and if you sow a lot, then you will reap a lot! And by the way, as you sow a lot, make sure to sow with a cheerful heart, because otherwise God will not be pleased”. Turn on the TV monitor to one of those Christians channels, and you are bound to hear it within the next hour or two! Without a doubt, this passage is an all-time favorite among preachers (you may conjecture why…). But as Part 6 of how our previous series argued, it is our responsibility to study this passage ourselves. There is also a verse that comes to mind:
Acts 17:11 These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.
It is noble in God’s eyes to search the scriptures after they have been taught to us, with the objective of determining whether what we were taught was indeed true. And teachings on this passage, not matter how familiar we might be with them, demand that we subject them to the same scrutiny.
2 Corinthians 9: 6, 7 appears to raise two (2) distinct prerogatives: On one hand is the quantity to give (mainly verse 6), while on the other is the attitude to have in the giving (verse 7).
But is it really what God is saying here? In this series, we will argue that the answer to this question is NO! We will argue that God does not make “at all” reference to the quantity one gives. In quite a contrast, we shall argue that this passage sole focus – and emphasis – is on the attitude in (or the intention behind) the giving. And as a byproduct of this argument, this series will also highlight just how much of an inconvenient truth this passage can truly become. But obviously, not to everyone, for how can the truth be anything else than a welcomed refreshing to those who truly want to nurture their love for God?
Danger 6: Comfort. Ahhh comfort! What could possibly be wrong with comfort!? Click here for part 5
Are you going to a specific church simply because that is where you are comfortable? Now, it is evidently natural for us to expect our place of worship to be comfortable as well. But what if comfort is our prime motivation for staying in or leaving the place we are? One could feel comfortable because that is where he or she was raised (see part 5). But there are many other possible reasons for this comfort: “My friends go to this church”, “this is a White people church”, “…a Black church”, “…a Hispanic church”, “…an Asian church”, “They do not bother me here…”, etc. are all possible reasons for that comfort. Oh, and how about “I am a Baptist…”, “I am a Seventh-day Adventist”, “I am a Catholic”…and my favorite of all…”We are a non-denominational church” (never mind that they do have a name, which sometime is even fancier than the others!)?
The fact of the matter is that comfort may come at a very significant price! Because, as God puts it in 1 Thessalonians Himself, we should “test all things”, otherwise, we may hold to that which is bad…and that is pretty bad!
1 Thessalonians 5:20, 21 - Despise not prophesyings. Test all things; hold fast to that which is good.
We are to test everything. And the most important thing we can and should test is what we are being taught. Our teaching does not end when our pastor closes his sermon. NO! Our teaching ends after “we” have personally tested, or examined what we have been taught to the point of concluding whether it was good! And granted, that could take some time. But when was the last time you examined your pastor’s teaching? That the act of testing is mentioned here in the immediate context of prophecies speaks volume of its importance when it comes to what we are taught. Comfort should not undermine our ability to test everything.
There are many traps laid before those who seek to grow spiritually. This series highlighted only six of them. But those six are very subtle. And in many of them, our very churches are deeply involved in their effectiveness. The secret is knowledge, unfiltered knowledge. We need to be taught accurately, and it is actually up to us – and not so much the churches – to make sure that this happens.
2 Timothy 2:15 – Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.
There is a reason God gave us His Spirit. Thanks to it, no matter the trap the adversary may lay before us, we have the ability to live up to God’s expectation, as He expresses it in 2 Timothy 2:15. Take control of your spiritual growth, and be what God called you to be.
Danger 5: I have been going to the same church all my life because that is where I was raised. Click here for part 4.
There often comes a point in time when we do not question things anymore. And although in some subjects that could be good (perhaps because of well-founded convictions), in some others it could be downright dangerous. Why are we going to a particular church, for example, is a question we should always be ready to answer. And simply because that is where we were raised, or simply because that is where we were first introduced to Christ is “never” a right answer! Matter of fact, one of these could be the very reason why we are no longer learning anything new.
But God is clear on the fact that sometimes, we need different teachers at different times in our lives.
1 Corinthians 3:5-7 – What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one. I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth.
There is a planting, and there is a watering. And although these could be performed in the same environment (i.e. same people or church), 1 Corinthians clearly shows that this does not need to be the case. In part 1 of this series, we saw that the lack of knowledge – the knowledge of God’s will and intent for our lives – is the deadly enemy of men. It is the lack of knowledge that destroys man. Knowledge, on the contrary, preserves life. God’s children should always be after that life-preserving knowledge.
What we need to remind ourselves of constantly is who we really are. Putting constantly in remembrance who we are will eventually cause us to behave like who we really are. So who are we? God’s children, of course. But keeping the context of spiritual growth in mind, God describes us in a very revealing way.
1 Corinthians 3:9 - For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.
Our belonging is to God. Those who help us grow are co-workers as they work for the same purpose, whether they know each other or not. But as God’s field, as His building, it is God’s privilege to appoint each of His workers at the right time and the right place. What we need to do is to recognize this fact.
God is ultimately the reason why one grows in that life-preserving knowledge. But God may use different agents to teach us what we need when we need it, if only we will allow Him to do so. If we choose to stay in the same church simply for habitual reasons, then we may close doors of knowledge that God would have so freely opened to us.
Danger 4: I am not learning anything new in my Church. Click here for part 3.
Now, clearly there are a lot of things worth repeating over and over. The reason being, as Paul states it in Philippians, that it is “safe” for us to be reminded of those things, because of dogs, evildoers, and mutilators of the flesh (yep, those are his words!).
Philippians 3:1,2 - Further, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you. Watch out for those dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh.
This said, have you ever felt that there is much more to the Word of God than what you are being taught? Have you ever felt that you are hearing the same things over and over again, not because it is safe, but because that’s really all your pastor, preacher, reverend, bishop, etc. seems to know? Yet that individual will preach that same thing as if it is the “whole” truth of God, or at least as if it is the “only” truth that should really matter to us now. He or she will present it weeks after weeks, albeit in slightly different packages to make those teachings look like different messages while they are essentially the same.
You may even say to yourself: “The truth is the truth; there can’t possibly be anything wrong with me hearing it over and over again…”. But as this article will show, one should “never” ignore the feeling described above. As children of God, not only do we want the truth taught to us, but we want the “whole” truth! Just look at how God puts it Himself.
Ephesians 3: 14, 17-19 – For this reason I kneel before the Father…so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge —that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
God wants us to be filled with His fullness. He wants us to really “grasp” the love of Christ. He wants us to know! But how is this possible if we are hearing nothing but the same old - often elementary - record? How is this possible if we are not challenged to really dig and search the Word of God? True church leaders strive to bring God’s people to the place Paul is describing in Ephesians 3.
1 Corinthians 3: 1,2 – And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it…
Hebrews 5:12,13 – For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant.
God’s children who feel the way described in this article should strive to reach the next level in spiritual food…moving from milk to solid food. Unfortunately, our church could very well be the reason we are not having that solid food!
So, just how much of a danger is this one really? Ok, we may understand that it is obviously better to grow than to stay an infant. But is there a “real” danger for feeding on milk only? The answer is an emphatic YES! Look at Hebrews 5:14.
Hebrews 5: 14 – But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.
Look, it is the constant feeding on solid food that causes us to eventually make the difference between good and evil! Those who feed on milk simply lack in this ability! It must not be obvious to discern good and evil if God states that spiritual maturity is what is needed for it. Clearly there is more to the difference between good and evil than meets the eyes. How can one afford to lack in this ability?
We can learn to differentiate between good and evil. And God tells us how! Hearing the same things is not the problem in itself. In many cases it is actually beneficial. But what we hear over and over does matter! And often, if we hear the same things over and over – assuming the teacher is even teaching them correctly – it is regarding the elementary things of the Word of God, which God wants us to grow from! There are congregations that are spiritually stagnant, and dare we say, congregations that are regressing spiritually! God wants us to know Him. And if we are honest with Him, we understand from His Word that to know Him requires love, dedication and study (proverbs 2:3-5). Regardless of where our church may stand spiritually, we have the ability to grow as God intends. But it starts with us acknowledging potential problems with what we are being taught if such problems appear to exist. Our belonging and allegiance is to God and to Christ. Let’s not be content with hearing the same elementary things. Instead, lets endeavor to grow!
Danger 3: I can pray on my own. Click here for part 2.
Those who leave churches do not all quit on God Himself. However some do resort to live their spiritual lives on their own from that point on. Reasons for it vary. Just knowing that abuses do occur in church circles is one of them. Another is simply the belief that there is really no need to be part of a group in order to develop an intimate relationship with God. And indeed, this decision – to develop our spiritual life alone – is becoming increasingly popular. And given the state of churches in these days, one can certainly understand why.
What, therefore, could be possibly dangerous here, since this decision is a clear proclamation of a strong desire to protect ones’ relationship with God? The danger is that by making such a decision, one could be quitting on the body of Christ itself, of which they are actually a member.
1 Corinthians 12:12, 14-18 – For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ…For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot says, “Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. And if the ear says, “Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired.
1 Corinthians 12:19, 20 – …But now indeed there are many members, yet one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.”
While we can easily accept that giving up on God should not be an option, it can be very difficult to see resorting to live our spiritual lives on our own as anything even remotely dangerous. Yet, it is clear from the passage above that God never designed us to be on our own. We are part of one and the same body, and whether we acknowledge it or not, the truth is that we are part of that body and we need each other. The implication of this truth is that as members we are supposed to – on one hand – supply certain things to other members for their proper functioning, and – on the other – receive other things from other members for our proper functioning. Just look at how God describes how interlinked we are with each other…
1 Corinthians 12:26, 27 – And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually.
Imagine breaking one of your little toes…can you imagine the pain? Not only does the whole body feel the pain, but the whole body suffers in its functioning because it needs that toe to be at its best so that the body can walk or run as it is supposed to. That is how important that little toe is. That is your importance in the body!
No matter where you are, the body needs you to function properly; it needs your energy, your spiritual talents, your love for God and your love for your brothers and sisters in Christ. And likewise, you need the body to function effectively! When we resort to be on our own, we effectively forfeit our role in the body of Christ, by shutting down both the opportunities to give to its other members and the opportunities to receive from them.
Is the suggestion made here not to leave your church group, no matter the circumstances? NO. We may well have very compelling reasons for taking such decision. However, it is critical not confuse our church group (if we are part of one) for the body of Christ. The church group is not the body of Christ, but its members are some of our fellow members in the body Christ. If leaving, we should ask God to put us in a position or place where we can still receive and still give, and perhaps even more so than we have ever had. The same holds true for one who has never been affiliated to a church group.
It may sound praiseworthy, but living your spiritual life on your own, in your little corner, is a real danger to the very spiritual life you are trying to nurture. You are a member of the body, and that body needs you, that is a fact! Quit on your church if you have good reasons to, but do not quit on Christ. Rise to your place within the body, seek every opportunity to give, and look for ways to receive. And the very spiritual life you are trying to nurture will blossom to levels you can only dream of.