The joke is told of six-year-old Angie who came home from school with a blue ribbon. She excitedly reported to her mother that she won it for knowing an answer in natural history. “I said a giraffe has three legs.”
Her mother responded, “But a giraffe has four legs.”
Angie agreed. “I suppose so, but I was the closest of anybody in the class.”
One thing’s for sure: Angie learned that you don’t have to be accurate to get a blue ribbon. But was this a good lesson for this young, impressionable girl? Imagine her growing up thinking that all she has to do is just get close enough to the truth and she’ll be rewarded for it. But this seems to be the worldview nowadays.
Imagine Angie grows up to be a reporter for a syndicated newspaper outfit. She’s reporting about a scandal in the White House. She doesn’t quite get the information right but as long as it gets more publicity than everyone else’s report, she gets a nomination for the Pulitzer Prize. It might make her name and the newspaper rich and famous, but it doesn’t represent truthful and accurate reporting, does it?
Being half right, or even 99.9% right, and looking for a rich reward, leaves a true stain on accuracy. We shouldn’t expect doctors, lawyers, teachers, judges, police officers, soldiers, engineers, politicians and other professionals to be almost right and then be hailed as great heroes, should we? Accuracy is required if the truth is to be known and accepted. For anything short of it is guaranteed to lead to some kind of disaster.
The same idea applies to theologians, preachers, priests, and other religious leaders. When teaching and proclaiming the Scriptures, it’s imperative to strive for accuracy, not lean on hearsay, theories, or church dogma without any evidence to back it up. It’s my opinion that men and women honored with high degrees in religion ought to be examined to see if their teachings are completely accurate or not.
I’ve observed that all too often, the ordinary Christian is too quick to accept what a priest, preacher or teacher advocates without closely studying the Bible, first, to check on the accuracy of their assertions. I remember when I was in high school I brought my Bible to my classes. Wanting to know what my friends believed about certain Bible subjects, I asked them questions about the Bible. Instead of being able to back up their opinions by showing me a verse or two, their usual response was, “First, I’ll have to talk to my pastor,” or “I’ll need to ask my Sunday School teacher then get back to you.”
A Christian might be told about something in the Bible because that’s what the minister said. After all, isn’t that minister supposed to be trained and ordained at a seminary or some other place of higher education? But has the Christian ever taken the time to study the Scriptures for him or herself to see if the minister is accurate or not? That minister might be close to the truth when making assertions, but it is really, entirely correct? Answers to these questions depends on how important you think the truth is for your own Christian growth and salvation.
The Bible gives us some good guidelines for checking on the accuracy of what others assert. One of the first ones that come to my mind is Second Timothy 2:15, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth,” (New American Standard Bible, NASB).
The Apostle Paul believed that accuracy was essential when it comes to understanding and applying the truth of God’s Word. There were many false teachers in his day. And he was alerting his young associate, Timothy, to the seriousness of the issue. He added, “But avoid worldly and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene,” (v. 16-17a). Yes, just being a little off can spread like cancer to the Body of Christ.
The accuracy of Scriptures is so important that even when one thinks he or she is being accurate, it would do well to reconsider that assumption. There was an incident in the early church where a certain newly converted Jew named Apollos, a learned man, needed to learn more. Though he “was mighty in the Scriptures,” something else was lacking.
Luke records, “This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he was speaking and teaching accurately the things concerning Jesus, being acquainted only with the baptism of John; and he began to speak out boldly in the synagogue…” (Acts 18:24-26a). Apollos was accurate concerning his conviction but only to a certain extent. He hadn’t quite fully attained to the teachings since he only knew of John’s baptism to repentance. Though his knowledge of Scriptures was spot on, Apollos hadn’t yet arrived at all of the truth.
“But when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately,” (v. 26b). When Paul’s good Christian friends, Aquila and his wife, Priscilla, took Apollos aside and taught him the way of God more accurately, he was even more motivated than before. And he proved to be of great benefit to the Lord’s work among the believers ( vss. 27-28).
If accuracy wasn’t essential for salvation, it wouldn’t matter what you believe. When you say you believe in God and Jesus and the teachings of Scripture, how close are you to the truth? Do you “examine the Scriptures daily” as the New Testament Bereans? The believers in Berea did not take the words of their preachers and teachers as the Gospel Truth, and they were commended for it. It says, “Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily, to see whether these things were so,” (Acts 17:11).
Accuracy is the best policy for wanting to learn and grow in Christ. And it also keeps us guarded against those who would lead us astray with their own misguided notions. “No prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation,” as it says in Second Peter 1:20. We let God’s Word speak for itself since “men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God,” (v. 21).
Accuracy affects true hope. According to the Apostle Peter, you must be ready, willing, and able to “give an account for the hope” that you have (1 Peter 3:15). But is that hope based on accuracy of the truth or is it based on what someone else may have inaccurately told you? Don’t expect God to hand out blue ribbons to those who don’t have the correct answer.
Good News to YOU!
P.S. When we let God’s Word speak to us, we will be blessed abundantly. Here’s MercyMe in, “Word of God Speak,” http://youtu.be/4JK_6osCH74