Wednesday, September 17, 2014

BCV and context

Jesus applies scripture

I am going to take a book, chapter and verse (BCV) from the Old Testament out of context just like . . . Jesus.

13 “‘You shall not oppress your neighbor, nor rob him.
“‘The wages of a hired servant shall not remain with you all night until the morning.
Leviticus 19:13
Jesus did not quote or cite the Leviticus passage, but paraphrased it in his own words in his instructions to the disciples.
Remain in that same house, eating and drinking the things they give, for the laborer is worthy of his wages. Don’t go from house to house. Luke 10:7
Furthermore, his servant, the apostle Paul, did the same.
Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and in teaching. 18 For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle the ox when it treads out the grain.” And, “The laborer is worthy of his wages.” I Timothy 5:17
These two tactics, BCV and context, are the taser prongs of many discussions among the saints. These tactics are used as much to attack as to defend what each one believes, or just really feels that it is not only right, but what others should acknowledge, embrace and teach. BCV and context are touted as the ultimate throwdown. No rebuttal is expected. No rebuttal is accepted.
I stated at the start that I was going to take  a BCV out of context. I wonder what reaction that stirred in some hearts. The fact is the three passages from Leviticus 19, Luke 10 and I Timothy 5 all allude to one common element: the laborer and his wages.
The Leviticus passage is a charge for masters not to withhold from the hired laborer the wages due him.
Jesus alluded to this same teaching from Leviticus when he sent out his disciples. He sent them out to preach in the villages. He instructed them not to go from house to house but to remain in that house in which they were received while they were in that village.Lastly, Paul quoted Jesus, but he also substantiated his point by quoting the Deuteronomy 25:4 passage about letting the ox who works the mill eat freely while he labors. Paul’s application of the passage is as concerns compensation for elders who labor in the word and in teaching. Furthermore, for those who might have wondered or missed it Paul poses a rhetorical question, God is not concerned about oxen, is He? (I Corinthians 9:9)

applying Paul's rhetorical question

Today as in the first century, the truth is there are saints, men as well as women, who may not necessarily wonder or miss the reference to oxen, but they fail to learn, or to accept and make those applications of the text because it disturbs their sensibilities. Those sensibilities will remain undisturbed as long as the saints do not look closer at presuppositions and conclusions taken from the Deuteronomy passages and the application of that passage by Jesus and Paul in the New Testament.

For instance, what was the gender of the laborer? Although it is not mentioned the saints tend to assume that it was male, but even IF, and I emphasize IF, that were the case does the assumption also follow that since the laborer is not female she is not worthy of her wages? Or, that her employer can unjustly withhold the wages due to her, because, after all, she is a woman?

Was the laborer a teacher in the passage? Again the type of work which the laborer performed was not specified. Since Jesus applied it to the Galilean fishermen preachers does anyone think that the matter of the laborer's wages is limited to preachers only? Furthermore, it seems that like as some saints, as Paul appears to have anticipated, might think and assume that God was concerned about oxen there are saints today who have just as mistakenly drawn their conclusions that the gender of those who are to preach and receive their compensation is limited to males. Yet, neither preachers or teachers nor gender were present in the original text which Jesus applied as he did, not just for the moment, but for our learning. In the spirit of Paul's rhetorical question about oxen; does anyone really think (another rhetorical question) Jesus was concerned that men and only men are to go and preach and that men and only men are to receive their compensation for doing so?

Paul's application

Then, there is an extended application on the teaching from these passages by Jesus and Paul. It is a matter which Paul presented to Timothy for his consideration. (II Timothy 2:7) It involved the livelihood of those who make their living through the preaching of the gospel. Paul illustrated for Timothy how soldiers and athletes keep themselves from becoming entangled in the affairs of this of life, and like the farmer who labors must be the first to get a share of the crops. (II Timothy 2:6) I cannot help but notice Paul’s use of the term labor perhaps to stir in Timothy’s mind a connection with the Leviticus passage. Similarly, I notice he is emphatic, unabashed and unapologetic to Timothy that this is a must. Yet, he did not command Timothy on the matter of Timothy’s livelihood, but Paul was confident that the precedent of the scriptures from Leviticus, to the teaching of Jesus, and the realities of the lives of athletes, soldiers and farmers would be just a few ways by which the Spirit would instruct Timothy concerning his livelihood.
It seems scandalous for someone whose idea of faithfulness to the text is BCV and context. How could or would Jesus take a book, chapter and verse from Leviticus; paraphrase it instead of quoting it, take it out of context, and apply it to the disciples whose work as preachers and teachers was questionable and who certainly were not rabbis? It would be a stretch to say Jesus hired and compensated the disciples out of his own pocket. What's more, they were certainly not hired by their hosts who provided free room and board for them. Nonetheless, Jesus confidently asserted they were worthy of their wages.

Paul applied this same cumulative and combined teaching of the Law and Jesus’ teaching to elders. (He also applies it to Barnabas and himself. [I Corinthians 9:9]) The context of the Leviticus passage does not concern teachers, prophets or others who proclaim the word of God. Yet, Jesus, as he received from the Father, and Paul, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, revealed for the understanding of the saints in Christ that this book, chapter and verse and its context use of the Leviticus passage represented an application of scripture which was valid, true, and _ biblical.

This is absolutely not to say book, chapter and verse or context can be disregarded and dismissed as irrelevant or that they have no use or value in our study and understanding of the scriptures. It is to say that the saints in Christ are to take notice and consider what the scripture states and how there can be, as modeled by Jesus and Paul, a proper application of a single particular passage in different ways. Is there any danger that someone reading this could go into a distortion binge on scripture? Yes, but this is nothing new. The word of God as He spoke it has been distorted since before it was even written. Furthermore, if anyone were to make a misapplication (image that) are we not as brothers and sisters who are indwelt by the same Spirit not able to speak and admonish each other and thereby strengthen our love and glorify God through our understanding of the Holy Scriptures?

The clout of BCV and context is as inflated and overrated as much as it reflects a serious misunderstanding of how Jesus, by the will of the Father, and Paul by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit were not afraid or timid in their handling of the scriptures in their teaching.

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