Strainer of Gnats?

Strainer of Gnats?

“Straining at gnats,” is a figure of speech which denotes being overly picky and concerned about details. Most often, when people use the figure, they are wanting the other person to stop “straining at gnats,” and let the details slide. It’s an odd sort of phrase, with something of a Biblical origin, and one wonders how many people actually stop and think about what they are saying when they use the expression.

strainers of gnats

Are you a strainer of gnats?

The origin of the phrase is found in Matthew 23:24, where Jesus, in the middle of a fierce and lengthy rebuke of the Pharisees and the Scribes, says, “Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!”

Both gnats (small flies) and camels were unclean under the Law of Moses, and the Pharisees, in their desire to be pure under the Law, went to some lengths to make sure there were no flies in their food.

Jesus, it should be pointed out, was not advocating eating flies.

Indeed, most of us are quite appreciative of those cooks that keep the flies out of our food. Can you imagine going to a restaurant and finding a bunch of dead flies in your soup? Can you imagine bringing this to the attention of the waiter and being told that you should be thankful that at least it wasn’t a dead camel? One suspects that most people, upon discovering a dining establishment which didn’t care how many dead bugs were in the food, would promptly vow never to eat there again.

Moreover, in the original context of Jesus’ quote, as we have already said, both camels and flies were equally unclean. It would have been a sin for a Jew to eat a camel; but it was equally sinful to eat flies. The size of the animal did not affect the moral obligation of the Jew to avoid eating that animal, under the law. God had given rules about both.

What Jesus was doing was using absurdity to illustrate a point about the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. It is absurd to imagine a person meticulous about the flies in their food, but then somehow missing the huge, dead camel on their dish. In the same way, the Pharisees, Jesus pointed out, were doing great work in tithing mint leaves, counting every leaf on their plants and giving to God His due, but, somehow, they had missed out on that obvious part of God’s law where He had told them, “love your neighbor.”

The full quote is thus: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone. Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!” (Matthew 23:23-24; NKJV)

Notice that Jesus was not advocating ignoring the small details. Rather, He says of the details, “these you ought to have done.” It was good and right to pay attention to the “jots and tittles” of God’s Law (cf. Matthew 5:18), and concerning those little details, Jesus likewise taught, “Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:19; NKJV)

Yet it makes no sense to spend all our time on the fine points of God’s Word, when we can’t even get the first principles correct. When there is a beam in one’s own eye, that beam must be removed before we can deal with the specks. We might point out, in like fashion to flies in the food, nobody enjoys small pieces of dirt in their eyes. Jesus was all in favor of lovingly removing specks out of your brother’s eye. But while specks are nice to get out, beams take priority. (cf. Matthew 7:2-5)

So, what is our point?

First, you shouldn’t go around cheerfully swallowing flies. This is true, culinarily speaking, but it is also true theologically and morally. Every word of God is pure, and He gives us those fine details for a reason. (cf. Proverbs 30:5-6; 2 Timothy 3:15-17) Men should pay attention to them. It matters how we worship, how God established the church to be run, and whether or not we are striving to do our best to be obedient to God and Christ in all things (cf. Colossians 3:17)

At the same time, camel swallowing is equally foolish. Jesus pointed to Righteousness, Mercy, and Faith, as some of the weightier matters men should deal with first. If you are shacking up with your girlfriend (or boyfriend), stealing from your boss, constantly losing your temper with others, and focusing your life on getting ahead materially, then you have some obvious and immediate issues that need dealt with in your life, and until those things are dealt with, the rest is almost immaterial. Get the camel out of your soup, and then you will be able to see better whether there are any flies you should also deal with.


Posted in Jonathan McAnulty | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off on Strainer of Gnats?

A Rose By Any Other Name

A Rose By Any Other Name

We are often not aware of the origin of many phrases and sayings we use. Do you remember hearing the saying, “A rose by any other name is still a rose”? It has many variations, but it appears that Shakespeare used it first in Romeo and Juliet. In the balcony scene, Juliet unknowingly said to Romeo that the fact his last name was Montague did not matter to her. “A rose by any other name would still smell as sweet.” Read the rest of this article, and you will understand why I entitled it the way I did.

molech choice

Molech didn’t care if it was called pro-choice or murder.

Many have little knowledge of the horrendous way men in ancient times abused children. The phrase “children passed through the fire” is found 12 times in the Old Testament. It describes the practice of the nation of Israel and its kings taking infants and burning them alive at the altar of Molech. Such practices show how far God’s people had moved away from Him.

It was not only the Jews who did this. The Egyptians threw their infants into the Nile River believing that this sacrifice would ensure greater crops when they were harvested. Their prosperity was more important than their offspring.

The practice of the Greeks and Romans was even more gruesome. If the child which was born was unwanted, they would leave them outside their homes to suffer whatever fate came. Some who were left naked froze to death. Others died of starvation or were eaten by wild animals. Those not left outside their homes were taken to an appointed rubbish heap, where they were left lying on the manure that was there.

There is evidence that the disposal of unwanted infants was so widespread. It was done in Syria, Carthage, Phoenicia, Moab, Canaan, among Germanic tribes, Australia (the aborigines), Arabia, Britain, China, Finland, Iceland, India, Japan, Kenya, Nigeria, Russia, Sweden, Bolivia, Brazil, Columbia, Peru, Paraguay and in America by the Incas and the Aztecs. This list is not complete, but it shows just how far the world through the ages has almost no regard for some children. Such is the nature of paganism.

Aren’t you so thankful that you were not born in a world which had so little regard for helpless infants?  Isn’t it wonderful that we live in such a civilized society? It is so easy to read what was practiced in ancient times and think that it is only part of the ancient past.

The state of New York made abortion legal at any time. One advocate of the law affirmed it was legal even if dilation had begun. A rose by any other name is still a rose, and pagan slaughter of unwanted infants is still murder even if called pro-choice. Our practices are identical to those of the ancient pagans!

Posted in Dan Jenkins | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on A Rose By Any Other Name

The Nature of Biblical Edification

The Nature of Biblical Edification

First Thessalonians 5:11 says, “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” What does it mean to be edified? Without doing a scientific survey, my guess is that most people would say that being edified means to be encouraged, to make to feel better, or to have a more positive attitude. So, I did some searching on the Internet to see if my guess was accurate or not. I found that the majority of the time, the word is used in the sense of encourage or be made to feel better. However, when I looked into an English dictionary, I found the following definition. “Edify: enlighten, to improve the morals or knowledge of somebody.” Another dictionary said this. “Edify: to instruct or improve spiritually.” Does this surprise you? Do you think of being instructed as edification? Do you think of gaining new knowledge when you are edified?


Are you up for it?

In going back to the Greek language and looking at the word, we find that it comes from a word that means to build, erect, or set up one thing or another. The word was originally used to describe the founding and construction of a house. So, it literally meant to build a place of dwelling out of construction materials. The original sense of the word can still be found in our language today in the word edifice, a building. However, in the New Testament, the word is often used metaphorically of imparting wisdom to another person, that is, instructing another person with words that can be understood and applied to life. While today the word may be used in the sense of encourage or make someone to feel good (that is, from a purely emotional point of view), that is generally not the way that it was used within the New Testament.

There is no doubt that the Bible clearly teaches us to follow after things that edify. Romans 14:19 states, “Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.”  1 Thessalonians 5:11 states, “Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.” And in 2 Corinthians 12:19, Paul says “…we do all things for your edifying.”  However, we also read that not everything that is lawful is something that edifies. Paul writes in 1 Cor.10:23, “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.” This leads us to ask the question: what are the kinds of things that truly do edify?

In 1 Corinthians 14, Paul deals with the problem of the Christians at Corinth speaking in unknown tongues without the presence of an interpreter.  In contrast to the one who speaks in an unknown tongue, Paul states in verse 3, “But he that prophesiethspeaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort.” In essence Paul is saying that the unknown tongue does not edify, but prophesy does edify. He states, “For thou verily givest thanks well, but the other is not edified.” For something to edify, it must have meaning. Not in the sense of emotion or feeling, but in the sense of the understanding. That is, if something is not intelligible or comprehendible by the intellect, then it cannot edify. True edification can only come through a situation where knowledge and instruction is imparted with the attitude of love.

Let us note Ephesians 4:11-16.  These verses speak concerning the subject of edification of the body of Christ. Verse 12 tells us that one reason God gave the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers was for the edifying of the body of Christ.  Each of these offices are special in that God uses them to instruct and teach.  Verse 13 tells us that this instruction and teaching has as its object, imparting the knowledge of Christ. Verse 15 says it is about speaking the truth in love. One cannot be edified without love (1 Corinthians 8:1). Verse 16 reiterates that instruction and teaching are for edifying. Truth, knowledge, instruction, and love are all things that are associated with edifying. We learn then, that edification comes through the avenue of words when conjoined with the motivation of love on the part of the one edifying. Biblical edification inherently involves communication. Wordless expressions of emotion, feeling, or any other element which produces an incomprehensible sound cannot edify.  Speaking the truth in love, however results in godly edifying (1 Timothy 1:4).

Playing an instrument of music is something that is aesthetically beautiful, stirring, and uplifting, but it cannot edify; it cannot impart knowledge; it cannot instruct. Only the use of verbal communication when combined with spiritual words and an attitude of love can accomplish this task. Knowledge alone does not accomplish this task. Knowledge separated from love does not edify, it merely puffs up (1 Corinthians 8:1). However, biblical edification is the loving impartation of spiritual instruction designed to build up the wisdom, knowledge, and understanding of the student to the motivation of accomplishing the work of the kingdom.

Posted in Kevin Cauley | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off on The Nature of Biblical Edification

What is the Age of Accountability?

What is the age of accountability?

The term “age of accountability” is a man-made term used to describe a biblical concept, kind of like “Golden Rule” or “Great Commission.”

The Bible teaches that children are born and for a time remain sinless & innocent. Ezekiel 18:1-20 states quite clearly that we do not inherit the sins of our parents.  Ezekiel 28:15 has God telling a human being, “You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created till unrighteousness was found in you,” showing that there is a time in our lives during which we were innocent, with no unrighteousness in us.  In Romans 9:10-11, Paul talked about Jacob and Esau before they were born while they were still in the womb of their mother, and stated that during that time they “had done nothing either good or bad.” This teaches us that children are born sinless and innocent, and during childhood we remain sinless and innocent. That’s why Jesus told adults in Matthew 18:3-4 that they had to be like little children in order to be in the kingdom.

Age of Accountability

When is a person accountable?

However, the Bible also speaks of a time when we become accountable for our actions. Isaiah 7:15 speaks of a time when a young man will come to “know how to refuse the evil and choose the good,” in other words, become accountable.  Before they became accountable, they were sinless and innocent. Paul would say in Romans 7:9 that he was “alive,” spiritually speaking, at that time. However, in vs. 10-11 of Romans 7 he then spoke of a time when sin entered his life and he “died” spiritually. When he was accountable, when he knew how to refuse the evil and choose the good and yet he chose evil, that’s when he sinned. And it would be at that point that he and all the rest of us would need God’s grace, we would need forgiveness, we would need to obey the gospel.

Is there a specific, set age for when that time of accountability occurs? No, because each person is different. When each of us becomes accountable for our actions and choices depends upon a variety of social and environmental factors. Children mature at different rates and ages as their spirits are fashioned, shaped, and molded by parents, teachers, and life’s experiences. That’s why there is no set age of accountability.

Posted in Jon Mitchell | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on What is the Age of Accountability?

Busy or Idle Hands

Busy Hands

In 1 Kings 6–10 one witnesses the great work and wisdom of Solomon and the king is busy about the work of building a house for the Lord God of Israel. Just as Jesus at a young age asked his family if they did not know that he had to be busy doing the work of the Father even we should recognize our need to be stead-fast in our labor of love for God. God blesses the work done by Solomon but make a conditional promise predicated upon Solomon’s continued faithfulness. God also makes a conditional promise to us that He will bless us in eternity if we are obedient and faithful.

busy hands

What work are you busy about in your life?

Soon after finishing the work we read this sad statement, “But King Solomon loved many foreign women” and “his wives turned his heart after other gods; and his heart was not loyal to the LORD his God, as was the heart of his father David” (1 Kings 11:1–4). One thinks of the old adage “idle hands are the devil’s workshop.” God still today gives the same instruction and warning to do what He says and be blessed, do not and suffer the consequences (Romans 11:22). Being busy about the Lord’s work leaves little time and few opportunities to sin. Being idle will give Satan access to our hearts, minds, and hands to turn away from serving God.

Posted in Tim Dooley | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on Busy or Idle Hands