November 9, 2013

Bryan Collins: A simple message

— In Ecclesiastes 1:8 the preacher was divinely inspired to write, “All things are full of labor; man cannot express it. The eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing.”

Pardon the prose rendering of a poetic verse but boiled down to its essence Solomon observed that we tend to complicate things.

A few years ago a national cellular phone company made a commercial that envisioned what it would be like if firemen and police officers ran Washington, D.C. It was a humorous stab at how politicians complicate what should be simple decisions. Simply put, multiple constituencies, multiple philosophies and multiple perspectives complicate things. Our country is not racially, ethnically or culturally similar as Japan or Finland so simple solutions are not easily found.

Our world and our lives are filled with competing perspectives and competing messages, from the brand of toothpaste you use to the news you watch. The media airwaves constantly bombard us with better products and new ideas, all attempting to influence the decisions we make each day and how we perceive the world around us.

Most preachers I know are proud of their personal library and the number of volumes they hold, from hard copies to electronic resources. On my personal bookshelf I have a number of different books from complex theological courses I have taken over the years. Each book is written by a different author presenting essentially the same information with a different style and intent.

Students of theology study complex courses expounding the Bible, which was actually intended to be a simple message to all mankind. As a Christian looking to simplify your life you may read many books that offer you a different digest of biblical interpretation. There are literally thousands of works by various authors attempting to help people understand the Scriptures.

The Bible was intended to be one message for all mankind regardless of education, nationality or political persuasion. God communicated with the world in the languages that man spoke because he wanted to communicate with man (1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9).

Originally, God communicated in the language of the Hebrew people in order to communicate with his chosen people. In the first century of the current era, God used the Greek language to communicate with all men of every nation because that was the language that Alexander the Great had managed to spread throughout the literate world. In that ancient time there was a dialect of Greek that was considered a literary language. However, the unique dialect of Greek that the New Testament was inspired in was the language of the common man. Common or Koine Greek was the language spoken by the people on the street. This illustrates that God wanted the average, everyday man and woman to come to know him and hear the message of redemption.

Now here is the real point. Read widely if you are a reader. Read those great works of biblical literature and biblical commentary if you are predisposed to do so, but if you want a simpler approach simply read your Bible. People ask me all the time which English version is the best and my response is usually “many.”

There are many acceptable, modern, committee translations of the Bible in the English language. Pick the one you will read. However, never let anyone tell you that you are not able to understand the Bible, and never let anyone get between you and the Scriptures. Find capable, trustworthy people to study with you for clarification if you feel the need. Yet, remember that God wanted to communicate with you and so he has provided you a simple message from him in the language you were born to speak and read. May God bless you in the reading of his word.

Bryan Collins is minister of Central Church of Christ, Dalton.