Sometimes the texts we read are loaded with words and phrases that mean deep things to us, whether we are aware of it or not. These meanings can pair well with a text and its message, or they can be a distraction, causing us to misinterpret or misunderstand what is happening. Other times, we just don’t get what a word means, and are taken by surprise when we realize we’ve been in the dark for a long time!
1. The Word Association strategy starts by asking you to choose a text, read it, and identify 2-3 words that stick out to you. They can catch your attention for neutral, positive, or negative reasons – they just need to stand out to you personally. They may be words you already know, or words you’ve never heard of.
For my text, I chose Matt. 24:45-51, which was yesterday’s reading. Here is the text, with my chosen words in bold:
45 “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? 46 It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. 47 Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. 48 But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, ‘My master is staying away a long time,’ 49 and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards. 50 The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. 51 He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
2. Once you have your words, list them on a sheet of paper, with about a paragraph worth of space between them, and write whatever comes to mind.
When I hear the word wicked I always think “the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked – who can know it?” And of course, this translates to considering myself. Sometimes I think I see myself as wicked – desperately wicked – and forget that that was my state BEFORE Christ intervened. Today, I am redeemed. But the lingering taste of wicked, and all its connotations, remains.
Hypocrites: This word makes me think of two faced people, those who say one thing but do another. I strongly connect the word hypocrite with the church and with other Christians, which makes me sad.
3. Now that you’ve established your initial thoughts on the words, pull them up in the dictionary and check what they really mean. Add that definition below what you wrote, and note any surprises. (Googling the Hebrew or Greek meanings can be really interesting too!)
Wicked: intended to or capable of harming someone or something (Dictionary.com)
“The two uses for the word wickedness in both the Old and the New Testament are very similar and they both have the same effects: the person committing the wickedness stands guilty as a convicted criminal of harming others and themselves because it is done intentionally (with malice) and indicates the depravity of the individual. As far as humanity is concerned, we know that “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands” and “All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one” (Rom 3:10-12).”Read more: http://www.whatchristianswanttoknow.com/how-does-the-bible-define-wickedness/#ixzz4frt9zmpS
Surprises: Well, I loved that wickedness is always linked to someone who has been convicted of wrongdoing. As a sinner, I know I have been found guilty of wrongdoing – that is why I need Christ! Wickedness is the conviction – Christ is the redemption. I can live in the truth that I am redeemed.
Hypocrites: This word makes me think of two faced people, those who say one thing but do another. I strongly connect the word hypocrite with the church and with other Christians, which makes me sad. Biblically, hypocrite is such a negative thing – and its always applied to people I don’t immediately identify with, like the religious elite, the wealthy, or rulers. I’m less likely to assume this word is talking about “me” personally, even though I know that I do things that aren’t always consistent with what I say I believe.
Hypocrites: people who claim to have moral standards or beliefs to which one’s own behavior does not conform; pretense
Surprises: About what I thought! A Google search of “hypocrisy and the Bible” brought up a ton of references about how God hates hypocrisy, which were interesting, since that word so strongly connects to the church in my mind.
4. Using the two words you chose, incorporate them into a prayer to God. Maybe they are things you want to pray over and for yourself, maybe they are things you need to repent from, maybe they are things you would like to have more of the Father’s heart on. Let him direct your words.
Thank-you for speaking to us through your Word. As I ponder wickedness, and what that means, I confess to you that my heart has been justly convicted of sin and wrongdoing – on my own I am nothing but wicked. In that same breath, I praise your mighty and redeeming power that has saved me from myself. Thank you for rejoicing over me and saving me – your precious child.
I pray also against hypocrisy in my own life. I place the hurt and blame and anger that hypocrisy of others has caused me at your feet, and I find peace in the fact that your word states you do not accept hypocrisy either. I also pray that you would help me seek out dark areas of my own heart that may cause me to stumble into hypocrisy myself, and shed your light on them. I long to be more like you Lord!
5. Reread your original text, and contemplate the usage of the words you’ve just studied. Jot down any notes that occur to you as you read with fresh eyes.
Feel free to give this strategy a try with some of this week’s Proverbs and Parables.
© 2020 El-Inkwell.