Tuesday Morning Devotional (You are a Bible Translator)

(13) You are salt in the world. But if the salt has lost its flavor, how can it become salty again? It is good for nothing but to be thrown out and trodden under people’s feet. (14) You are the world’s light. A city can’t be hidden if it’s on a hill. (15) People don’t light a lamp and then put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. (16) Let your light shine before people in the same way, so that they may see your good deeds, and give glory to your father who is in heaven. — Matthew 5:13-16

[The following is an extract from my forthcoming book, “When People Speak for God?” It is asking the question: How well are you speaking for God by your life? — HN]

Imagine a multinational army that must pass orders to various elements. As these orders are received by various units, they would have to be translated into a language that the soldiers of that unit understood. That’s the paper translation.

But all units, irrespective of language, have to translate the contents of those orders into language. This translation is seen as the units move into the positions they have been ordered to take, undertake fire missions, send out patrols, and so forth.

If one wanted to study the history of that battle, it would be quite appropriate to research files of the orders and translations. It would also be appropriate to check on what the soldiers actually did. Either one would give you some insight into the orders as originally written, though you could never be certain that a particular unit had carried out its orders correctly.

In the case of the Christian message, that translation of the orders into action takes place in the Christian community, and much like our hypothetical army, the actual translation varies in its accuracy. The world often reads only the message as portrayed by the people who claim to be following it. That is the other side of translation—the type of translation that goes on all the time in your life and mine.

Which translation do you think is more important?

I suspect we don’t like to think seriously about this passage because it puts us on the spot. A friend of mine once told me that he preferred not to have a Jesus fish on the back of his car, because he might behave badly while driving and he didn’t want that to reflect on Jesus. I’ve heard the same thing about WWJD bracelets.

We may not want to, but we do. We carry the name of Jesus as long as we have confessed his name and taken him as our savior and Lord. Somewhere there is somebody who is reading you like a book—their Bible. How accurate is your translation?

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