no lenses

Words change. Just a taste of the profound thoughts that run through my mind these days.

It’s funny to me now that I used to read the Bible with my own ideas of what a word meant. Treasure is treasure is treasure, right?

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth. Matt 6:19

So Jesus was referring to expensive items. Luxuries. More than what one needs.

Or was He?

But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
1 Tim 5:8

Provide: prepare for the worst; ensure that those under your care have everything they need; don’t put yourself in a position where someone will have to help you.

Or not?

We toss around the word “atonement” quite a bit. How are we defining it? How does the Bible define it? After all, “atonement” is only used a few times in reliable, English translations.

“Faith” is defined in Hebrews. So, at least in the book of Hebrews, we know what “faith” is. And it informs what “faith” is elsewhere in Scripture. But perhaps, in everyday language, we add to the word a meaning that no biblical author ever intended.

And so, words carry the meaning (or meanings) that the author gives them. Easy enough. The catch is understanding what that meaning is.

Here’s the step-by-step process by which I seek to determine a word’s meaning as I study Scripture. Approval or disapproval permitted.

1) Notice word themes as you read a passage. {“Wow, this author keeps talking about mysteries.” …or, “There’s something about heavenly places here.”}

2) Look up the word in its original language to confirm its usage in that particular book. {In other words, if you find the word “mind” five times in one book, you might discover that one of those is actually a different Greek/Hebrew word. Or, a particular Greek/Hebrew word might be translated several different ways for the sake of fluidity. #trickytricky}

3) Allow Scripture’s usage of a word, in its original language, to define that word. {What the author meant is what the author said. We don’t know what the author said if we don’t know what the author meant.}

And so, my encouragement is to allow the Bible to define itself. Bible dictionaries are not necessarily bad. They are man-made. Man-made is not necessarily bad. It is simply man-made.

Read the Scriptures with no preconceived ideas or presuppositions. Let the Bible tell you what the Bible says. And what it means. No lenses. 

And no, it’s not simple. It’s a journey.

[image credit:,]

3 thoughts on “no lenses

  1. Very good thinking in this article. I would add some very foundational facts to consider while reading the Bible. The Bible is written for 2 purposes of God. Today’s churches primarily focus on one purpose, God’s desire to save the individual. However, the second purpose of God is to preserve a civilized society. When God told Adam and Eve to ““Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it,” God meant for the population to be a civilized population of good neighbors who know the simple truth and love their neighbors as they love themselves.
    The salvation of an individual equals a grain of salt.
    Not enough grains of salt in society causes society to decay.
    Grains of salt that do not acquire savor(saltiness), or lose their savor, fail to prevent the decay of society.
    Matthew 5:13, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.”

    With the above in mind, understanding what the author meant becomes easier for me. I can separate the author’s idea’s and intent by determining if he is speaking to the individual, or to the group/church/society.

    To maintain a civilized society, God speaks to the group to hold the individual accountable to God for the purpose of restoring the individual AND maintaining a civilized society here: Leviticus 19:17, “‘Do not hate a brother in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in their guilt.”

    If you love your neighbors, you will rebuke neighbors who are sinning against their neighbors. You love the victims, and you love the sinner, “Do not hate a brother in your heart.” Your rebuke is an effort to protect the victims AND restore the sinner(s).

    Question: If Christians do not speak against evil, are they sharing in the guilt of the sinners? Are they “salt that has lost its saltiness?” Only good for throwing out to be trampled by men?

    Perhaps connecting the dots to this foundational perspective helps in finding the author’s meaning and definitions of the words he is using.

    Note also that God intended to use Abraham’s descendants to provide an example of a loving civilized society for all the other nations of the earth. Abraham’s descendants were to be “salt and light” to all the other nations, but they lost their saltiness…

    All the dots do connect in scripture.


    1. Interesting thoughts. I guess my question would be, How do you know that a foundational purpose of God for the writing and preserving of Scripture is to preserve a civilized society? I’m not sure I see how that is helpful in finding the author’s meaning.


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