The bible can be a hard read, between the language, the context and the different versions, it’s no wonder it has been misinterpreted, abused and set in the drawer of every hotel across America. But, I urge you to open it, dive deeper and find the treasure sitting inside. Every worry, angst, fear, trouble, problem, big or small, is revealed and most importantly how to navigate them. I’ve decided to pick a verse that perplexed me in my initial reading of it and figure out what the message is behind it….join me!
The Faithful or the Unfaithful
47 “The servant who knows the master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what the master wants will be beaten with many blows. Luke 12:47 NIV (New International Version)
When I initially skimmed over this verse, my first thought was how this could be plucked out of scripture and misused to control, abuse or manipulate someone against their will and more horrific in the name of God. So what is the message behind this heavy passage? If you are new to scripture, the first thing you should know is that there are many versions of the same passage and one inparticular is called “the message” version. This version is a great resource to unpack a verse written 2000 years ago into the context and language of today. So now, lets read the exact same verse, in the message version.
47 “The servant who knows what his master wants and ignores it, or insolently does whatever he pleases, will be thoroughly thrashed. But if he does a poor job through ignorance, he’ll get off with a slap on the hand. Luke 12:47 Msg (Message version)
A change of words but still the same message, basically if you disobey your master, you will be punished, if you are ignorant, you will receive a less harsh punishment. Right? Well not exactly.
Let me preface this with the fact that this is my interpretation. There are many scholars and theologians, which I am most definitely not, who have a whole slew of educated conclusions, therefore fact check me anytime! 😉
So as I scratch beneath the surface I see a few things. First, the word servant or in some translations slave. This was a word that was very common and normal 2000 years ago but we have thankfully stepped away from. So when I read this passage, I interpret the word servant to be “follower”, as in a follower of Jesus. So that takes me to the next word, master. I don’t know about you, but I was raised by a daddy and 2 big brothers that taught me very quickly that no one owns me and I am my own, independent woman. Lets bust out some Aretha, R-E-S-P-E-C-T…lol…But in all seriousness, I have never and will never refer to any one as my master, other than, the very master of all creation, God. Taking master out of the context of earthly ownership and into the space of loving creator, for me, allows this verse to be heard as I believe it was intended.
Okay, so we’ve switched servant to follower and master to creator, lets keep going. The next word that popped out was “beaten” or in the message version, “thrashed”. My thoughts on the harsh word of “beating”or even “thrashed” used in other versions is that the Greek word originally used (remember all of scripture is interpreted from another language (Hebrew or Old Testament and Greek for the New Testament)), wanted to give us the visual of a harsh punishment, meaning not just a slap on the wrist. When I think of a beating, I think of pain, blood, unconsciousness, bruises, broken bones, possibly on the verge of death. Therefore, I don’t believe the word beating/thrashed is inadequate, it’s intent is to make us cringe. Why? Because when we go back to the verse, the message is when we as followers of Jesus, the master creator, go against His good and perfect will (to love God and love our neighbor as ourselves), we will be severely punished. Now maybe not by the physical, gruesome account just listed, but by the punishment of the heavens. Instead of receiving an eternal life with no pain, no tears, no death, living among angels and Jesus himself, we would be punished to a life in hell, with fear, darkness and deep isolation beyond comprehension. Now I don’t know about you, but that sounds way more terrifying than any physical beating. Again, the words used in scripture, while harsh, were used intentionally to give us context to their severity. While we can translate it a hundred ways til Sunday, the meaning is the same. That when we go against God, who created us out of love, we will not receive the promise of His kingdom, but the opposite, the beating/thrashing of our souls into a world that we can not fully understand. My belief is that because God IS love, He can not combine the two. If we were to place every human on earth in heaven and mix the wicked with the wise, there would be no heaven. We would still be fighting, looking over our shoulders and fearing the very evil that lurks to steal, kill and destroy any chance of peace and joy. God must separate us so that we may be in His presence. God can not be in the presence of sin/evil, we see that on the cross when Jesus yells out, “My God, why have you forsaken me”. This was an actual separation from God and His son, Jesus, as He took on every sin of this world, our sin. That was the sacrifice God made, becoming human and dieing on a cross, shedding His own blood, so that we could escape the destiny of hell and join Him forever in heaven.
I know this is a lot. If you are new to scripture, there is so much to unpack and heaven is a great place to start. Study the life of Jesus and the eternal place we are promised when we follow Him. This is where a deep seeded hope can start growing, leaving you less and less reliant on this world, knowing our true home is yet to come. But with that, comes great responsibility. We must not live for our own selfish desires and live this life for the kingdom, which means to love God, and love people. That’s it. If you get nothing else from this post, just know that love is ALL God is asking of us.
Friends, I hope the unraveling of this verse brought you some clarity and peace in knowing that there is a God and He loves you. He is pursuing you and He wants to have a relationship with you. Don’t let the human words of scripture scare you, look at other versions, translate it to where you can understand it best. There is so much treasure and hope found in scripture. The lesson for today is that we can not play dumb to the calling God has placed on us. Once we know it, we are held accountable. God IS love and that’s what He calls us to do. If what you are doing is not love, then stop. Hurting others, is not love. Gossiping is not love. Judging is not love. Physical, mental and emotional abuse, are not love. Abandonment is not love. Anger is not love. Playing God, is not love.
When I look at my life and see the ways that I do not project love, I know that’s where I must start and because of Jesus, I get that second, third, hundredth chance to try again.
What’s one act of love you can start doing today?
What’s one unloving act you can stop?
Take this time to reflect, talk to God (ie: pray) and lay it at His feet.
Mothering in the Mess