Had a great text question two weeks ago when I was preaching on the Ant & the Sluggard in Proverbs. At some point in the message I must have discussed saving for retirement, because the texter wondered if that was just us reading American values back into the biblical text. The short answer was yes, but from whence were those values formed? It seems to me that saving in a time of plenty against a time of want isn’t just in Proverbs; it was exemplified by Joseph’s management of the famine in Egypt. Perhaps as those teachings, of frugality and saving for lean times, passed from the Old Testament practices to the New Testament believers they were incorporated into the culture. On the one hand it can easily be seen that it’s wise to have something put away for tomorrow. On the other hand, the Bible is rife with warnings about loving money and trusting in it, about discontentment, and about being uncharitable in the face of another’s need.
How each person balances all those scriptural admonitions is up to them, but I’m also sure it’s heavily influenced by their culture. When I was in the Canary Islands I witnessed many generational homes. Each family built on according to their income and ability, while taking care of their parents and children, with the certainty that their kids would do the same. So the wise thing for them was to invest in the family homestead. In America, as we have moved into the city, it’s considered responsible to save something so as not to be a burden (2 Thess 3:10), but that cultural interpretation doesn’t mean that an American Christian should fail to honor his Father and Mother, nor does it mean that the Islanders should be sluggards.
Never stop learning! Explore other (traditional) cultural views of Scripture to see how they might add to understanding, but don’t forget that translation and interpretation is the Holy Spirit’s primary function. Trust Him to handle your understanding as you dig into the whole of Scripture* and don’t discount our traditional understanding unless there is a clear contextual reason to do so!!
Remember when the Holy Spirit translated in real time?
When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language. Then they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, “Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born? Parthians and Medes and Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya adjoining Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God.” So they were all amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “Whatever could this mean?”Acts 2:1-12 NKJV
Thinking about Babies and Bathwater,
*Remember context is king!
One thought on “Cultural Interpretation – September 16, 2022”
It’s hard thinking about the Bible as it applies to all other cultures unless you’ve seen and interacted with other cultures and then it is an eye opening experience. While the mindset here in the States is to work as hard as we can while saving as much as we can, so one day, we can retire and have as much fun as we can.
That isn’t really Biblical in the sense of never working again but who said we can’t retire from our main job and then work at helping others doing ministry in different places. It just keeps us thinking about work in a different medium and not always for cold hard cash.