Inigo Montoya: “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
– Princess Bride, 1987
I love definitions! Looking up the meaning of words has become a regular habit of mine as I become more intentional in writing my book. Intrigued? Good, but this post isn’t about what I’m writing, it is about what I’m learning.
Some of us, like Vizzini in the Princess Bride, can use words so often, we forget or overlook its actual meaning. I do this, in particular, when reading Scripture. I read a verse and interpret it using what I believe the word means…I know! You need someone to interpret the meaning of what I am writing. So, let me provide an example.
John 10:10 says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly”. Two words that I have always brushed over are “thief” and “abundantly”.
Depending on your personal experience or knowledge, you can have different interpretations of the word thief. For example, if you have ever been robbed, you have a vivid picture of a thief being someone invading your space and stealing from you. Someone else may immediately associate the “thief” as another name for Satan.
Neither interpretation is incorrect, but because we often read Scripture out of context, and/or interject our own personal interpretations of the words used, we sometimes miss the intended meaning. In this particular verse, we see in verse 8, “thief” refers to “all those who come before [Jesus]”, also known as false teachers.
I do believe in order for Scripture to better sink in for us, we should allow the Holy Spirit to help us find our own meaning to the words. Nevertheless, we should do our do diligence to know the Scriptures’ intended meaning. I am by far a theologian, but I have been known to allow my emotions and experiences skew my judgement in some situations, that I am cautious when it comes to reading and interpreting Scripture for my own life and especially if I intend to share it with others.
This post went a bit long, so I will leave “abundantly” for another post. I do hope that, if anything, we can each learn to read Scripture knowing it can have multiple meanings and we should be prudent to find the truth (that which is true or in accordance with fact or reality), not our own definition of it.