Is Hyperbole a Sin? 

Is Hyperbole a Sin? 

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Biblical Bytes

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Brent Pollard

Someone asked if traffic had increased on our little country road. My mother replied that we had more traffic than the nearby town. This response is an example of hyperbole. Hyperbole has long been used rhetorically for effect. So, was my mother lying? It seems that in recent years some are equating hyperbole to lying. Critics routinely called our nation’s previous president a liar because of his frequent use of hyperbole. Reuters published an article in 2015 about how the president’s habit, as extolled in his Art of the Deal, might backfire against him (Flitter and Oliphant). They were correct.

Consider the treatment that the word “hyperbole” receives from Webster’s Dictionary, as demonstrated in the original 1828 edition and 2021 online version. The former is more nuanced.

“In rhetoric, a figure of speech which expresses much more or less than the truth, or which represents things much greater or less, better or worse than they really are. An object uncommon in size, either great or small, strikes us with surprise, and this emotion produces a momentary conviction that the object is greater or less than it is in reality. The same effect attends figurative grandeur or littleness; and hence the use of the hyperbole which expresses this momentary conviction.” (Webster)

And here is what Merriam-Webster tells modern students of English:

“: extravagant exaggeration.”

In other words, as noted by Daniel Webster himself, hyperbole might reflect one’s emotional state rather than a conscious decision to deceive. However, the successful use of hyperbole requires an unbiased and knowledgeable audience. In other words, they must be able to understand you are exaggerating for effect.

Even so, we admit people can use hyperbole to manipulate. Perhaps, this is the type of hyperbole usage that caused President Trump’s political enemies to call him a liar. For example, was he the “best jobs president?” He did create an economic environment that led to historic job growth. However, if God allows time and the United States to continue, another president may create even more jobs. Hence, we can only qualify his statement. The truth as to whether his message is a lie boils down to intent, which may be something requiring omniscience to determine.

We asked at the outset, with our title, whether hyperbole is a sin. It might be helpful to know that the Bible contains hyperbole. Jesus used hyperbole in Mark 10.25.

“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” (NASB1995)

What about Jesus’ usage of hyperbole in Matthew 5.29-30?

“If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell.” (NASB1995)

How would you qualify our Lord’s speech? Was He lying? Certainly not!  Clearly, He is using exaggeration for rhetorical effect. In the latter case of hyperbole cited, He says that you should be willing to do whatever it takes to enter heaven, even if it seems unreasonable or extreme to you since your entry into heaven is of greater importance than anything sacrificed.

If people equate hyperbole with lying today, it seems more likely an indictment of our public education system’s failure or an unwillingness to evaluate the intended purpose of its usage fairly. Someone may be acting too nitpicky. But we do remind the Christian desirous of communicating the Gospel to others that Paul commands us to ensure our speech’s soundness is beyond reproach (Titus 2.7-8). There are groups with whom we must exercise caution since they take things literally, primarily children and those on the autistic spectrum. Neither should we use hyperbole derogatorily since James cautions us not to use the same tongue to praise God while cursing men (James 3.8-10). Otherwise, our hyperbole use may be the greatest seasoning we can add to our speech when making a point. As with all communication, it is best to season it with grace (Colossians 4.6).

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Sources Cited:

Flitter, Emily, and James Oliphant. “Best President Ever! How Trump’s Love of Hyperbole Could Backfire.” Reuters, Thomson Reuters, 28 Aug. 2015, www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-election-trump-hyperbole-insight-idUSKCN0QX11X20150828.

“Webster’s Dictionary 1828 – Hyperbole.” Websters Dictionary 1828, webstersdictionary1828.com/Dictionary/hyperbole.

“Hyperbole.” Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster, www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hyperbole.

“Christianity Is Not Communist”

“Christianity Is Not Communist”

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Biblical Bytes

Brent Pollard

This article requires a preface. Christianity is apolitical. Were our Savior in the voting booth, He would not have a party affiliation. Though I cannot say Jesus Christ would stand with David Lipscomb, advocating Christians abstain entirely from political involvement, I know our Lord would remind us that the Father establishes the governments of men (cf. Daniel 2.20-21;4.17,25; Romans 13.1ff). Frankly, I cannot imagine our Emmanuel casting a ballot. However, I think He would still be concerned by a government allowing abortion on demand and loose sexual ethics since these things subvert God’s Will. 

2020 is, of course, an election year in the United States, and it is safe to say that the world is watching to see how this election will turn out. Obviously, other governments have preferences about whom they would rather work with on the global stage. Vladimir Putin of Russia is no different. On October 7, 2020, various news outlets reported Putin’s statement about the upcoming election. Putin stated he could see himself working well with a Joe Biden Administration since the latter’s party shared “common values” with the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Gehrke). One may recall that Putin was a member of the communist party and KGB officer (Wiki).

Despite what you may be anticipating, I am not using Putin’s “endorsement” as a means to influence the American reader to vote for “the other guy.” I am taking issue with Putin’s words that these shared values are akin to “Christian values” (Swindoll). Unfortunately, there is a lie that primitive Christianity was communist. This misunderstanding is an extrapolation from the benevolence of the early church. Yes, Christians are said to have held all things, including their property, in common (Acts 4.32). Yet, context is critical. There was no mandate to forfeit personal, worldly property to the leadership of the church. In communism, by contrast, the State (i.e., leadership) owns all capital.   

After Barnabas gave the proceeds from his real estate sale to the Apostles (Acts 4.36-37), Ananias and Sapphira also sold their property (Acts 5.1). Acts 5 records how Ananias and Sapphira decided to keep a portion of their profit but lie about the size of their donation to the church’s coffers. They told the Apostles that they were giving all. Peter exposed their lie. In addition to his rebuke of the foolish pair, which included their sudden deaths, Peter said, “While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God” (Acts 5.4 NASB—emphasis mine).  Note that Ananias and Sapphira maintained ownership of their capital in contradiction to socialist dogma. 

We think Paul went on his journeys to found local congregations of the Lord’s church, but God tasked Paul with collecting aid for the brethren of Jerusalem and Judea during a famine (Acts 11.27-30). As Paul instructed these new local congregations about their contributions (cf. 1 Corinthians 16.1-2), he told them God did not want them to feel compelled to give. They were to provide as they purposed in their hearts cheerfully (2 Corinthians 9.7). Like the Macedonians, some presented themselves to God so that they could give despite their poverty (2 Corinthians 8.1-5). Others, however, such as the Achaeans, were able to give more freely. Hence, Paul used the example of the Macedonians to encourage the Achaeans of Corinth to be liberal with their giving (2 Corinthians 8.10-15). 

So, I am sorry, Mr. Putin, that you have confused communist values with Christian values. Christianity is not communist. The church can be benevolent without being socialist and should be (cf. Matthew 25.31ff). 

Sources Cited 

Gehrke, Joel. “Putin Touts ‘Common Values’ Shared by Democrats and Communists.” Washington Examiner, Washington Examiner, 7 Oct. 2020, www.washingtonexaminer.com/policy/defense-national-security/putin-touts-common-values-shared-by-democrats-and-communists

“Vladimir Putin.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 15 Oct. 2020, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vladimir_Putin

Swindoll, Jeffrey. “Putin Favorably Compares Biden, Democrats to Soviet Communists.” Disrn, Disrn, LLC, 10 Oct. 2020, 14:48, disrn.com/news/putin-favorably-compares-biden-democrats-to-soviet-communists

“Calm Thyself”

“Calm Thyself”

 

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

It’s a jungle out there, so here’s some friendly reminders:

  1. We’re here for a short time, not a long time (James 4.14).
  2. God ultimately controls the outcome of November 3rd (Romans 13.1).
  3. This earth is fallen anyway and we’re looking forward to something way better (II Peter 3.10).
  4. We have more pressing matters to attend to (Ephesians 2.10; 4.11; Matthew 28.18ff).
  5. We’re ambassadors, not crusaders (II Corinthians 5.11ff).
  6. Mercy always trumps a condemning attitude (James 2.11ff). Contextually, this is about not showing favoritism based on appearance or status. A broader application concerning our attitude toward others in general is appropriate.
  7. Our attitudes may well be what condemns or saves a lost soul (Philippians in general, but specifically 2.5-11).
  8. Don’t be rude to people, but especially not to those in our spiritual family (Galatians 6).
  9. What we do about our beliefs speaks far more powerfully than what we say about our beliefs, and that can be amazing or especially harmful (James 2.18).
  10. Revelation 22.20!
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The Asparamancer

The Asparamancer

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

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Carl Pollard

I came across an article with this title, “Fortune Teller uses asparagus to predict the future.” Of course, I clicked on it, and here’s what I learned:

Her name is Jemima Packington and she is known as the “Asparamancer.”
She throws asparagus in the air and then reads the patterns that have landed on the ground. So far she has correctly predicted Trump’s election, British soccer league losing the World Cup, and the spike in vegetable sales across the world.

But Jemima isn’t always correct. She once said about her wrong predictions, “I am usually about 70 percent accurate with my predictions. This is because not every asparagus is meant to be used for prophesying. I take what I do very seriously and this is especially important when it comes to picking the right asparagus” (ecr.co.za).

If only reading the future were as simple as throwing vegetables in the air, but unfortunately it’s not.

Matthew 24:36-39 says, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be.”
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As humans we cannot see the future, only God can. We won’t have a warning that will let us know when He is coming. So that begs the question, “How are you living?” It would be amazing to always have a clean house. if someone dropped by you can invite them in and know it looks fine. My mom hated inviting people over when our house was dirty. She’d clean for hours before even one of our friends would come over.

What kind of house do you have? When God comes back, will He find a dirty house? A life that was spent in vanity and on self-service? Or will He find a clean and orderly house, one that has been prepared and one that has lived a life of service to God? As we think about the future, may we never fail to ask ourselves, “How is my house?”

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Coarse Discourse

Coarse Discourse

Neal Pollard

Is it just me or are we much more open about using profanity in ordinary discourse? Our sitting president has exhibited an unprecedented amount of “curse words” in the public square, even if transcripts of historic documents reveal that a great many of the last several presidents have used language salty enough to make sailors blush. Hollywood reactors to the president have seemingly been trying to “trump” his salacious speech and have, in many cases, upped the ante in indecent language. Recent news story include Bette Midler, congresswoman Kamala Harris, and Kirsten Hillibrand (aka “Senator Potty Mouth,” via The Daily Mail) using shocking words that the thoroughly secular media acknowledges as inappropriate and indecent—at least measured by cultural norms and moors.

I have to admit being thoroughly baffled by church members, even teachers and preachers, who adamantly argue that Scripture has nothing to say about such things. Implicitly, even explicitly, their point is that such speech is legitimate for a follower of Christ. While we must be careful not to make laws God does not make in His Word, neither can we be so reckless as to hurt Christ’s cause by encouraging the Christian to mimic the world’s behavior, speech, or attitudes without discernment. When godless media, non-believing coworkers, classmates, and cul-de-sac compadres, and others in society associate certain words with the rebellious, humanistic lifestyle, shouldn’t we take pause?

Is there room in Paul’s admonition to Ephesus (4:29; 5:4) and Colosse (4:6) or Jesus’ public discourse (Mat. 12:34ff) for the kind of words that so many in society still find shocking and inappropriate? Are the principles of godly influence (Luke 17:1), salt and light (Mat. 5:14-16), example (cf. 1 Tim. 4:12), and the like not enough to cause us to feel strongly about how we use our words with people? Do we feel like well-chosen swear, scatological, and smutty words are essential to successfully relate to and connect with the rougher elements of society in an effort to win them to Christ?

We can relate to and reach people without resorting to irreverent and indecorous words. We can keep pure in speech without becoming isolationists in society. It does not have to be an either-or proposition.  May we realize that what we say (and how we say it! See Gal. 5:20, Rom. 3:14, and Jas. 10, for example) will impact people like we do not realize and in ways that we do not realize. It extends well beyond just our speech, but our words paint a picture of us for the very people we should desperately want to reach for Jesus. Please, give thought to the power of your words (cf. Prov. 18:21).

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WikiLeaks (And God)

WikiLeaks (And God)

Jeff Wiant (guest baker)

Up until this past election cycle I had never even heard of WikiLeaks. Months and endless press later, I have become very familiar with this website. For those who may have been living under a rock for the past few months, WikiLeaks is a website that publishes secret information, news leaks, and classified media that they receive from anonymous sources for the world to see. Just looking on their page the other day, I discovered links that would allow me to read private emails from a presidential candidate and her associates, secret files about global surveillance, private emails between top employees at Sony Pictures, and I could have even watched a classified video.

Through all of this browsing it made me start to wonder. With hindsight being 20/20, would the ones who wrote these emails or committed these acts have written or done things differently if they knew that in the future they would be exposed and the whole world would be able to see and judge them because of these leaks?

More importantly, this also got me thinking further about myself. Do I have any secrets that I would fear if they ever got out? Do I ever have thoughts in my head that are impure and unfaithful? Do I allow myself to continue to have these thoughts because, after all, I’m keeping them to myself? After all, who’s going to know?

Allow me to answer that question for us all:  GOD KNOWS! Like WikiLeaks in our world, God can, and does, unearth all these dark spots in our personal lives. But whereas there are still plenty of classified files and incriminating private emails out there that haven’t been, and won’t ever be, exposed by WikiLeaks, God already knows EVERYTHING there is to know about us.

As it says in Psalm 139:1-4, “O Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar. You scrutinize my path and my lying down, and are intimately acquainted with all my ways. Even before there is a word on my tongue, behold, O Lord, You know it all.” God knows everything we do on the outside and the inside. Having that realization is very intimidating.

For more evidence of this you can also look at Hebrews 4:12-13, which states, “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.”

We will all be judged. Not just based on what our family, friends, and the rest of the world see, but based on the EVERYTHING that God sees. You can’t hide anything from God. Knowing this, are there changes we need to make in our lives? Are there things we need to do and think about differently?

The good news is that it’s never too late and God is a forgiving God. If we do sin, we need to confess these sins to God ask for forgiveness (1 John 1:9). I challenge you to live with the knowledge in the front of your mind that God is always watching and listening. There are no secrets with God and there is no misleading God. Live the life He requires and you will receive your eternal reward in Heaven.

“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything is worthy of praise, dwell on these things” (Phil. 4:8).

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Jeff (holding Dallas)

Focus, Not Complacency 

Focus, Not Complacency 

Neal Pollard

Whether you are elated or despondent today, you face a serious danger as you absorb the reality of the election results. Prayer meetings for our nation transpired all around our country, even from brethren and friends in other nations. Individuals prayed fervently for God’s will to be done. What that will look like and what that will mean only time will reveal.  For many, relief replaces fear at the prospect of the “other side” winning. For others, disbelief and embarrassment, not to mention shock, have begun to roost.

One thing that has been emphasized in the days and weeks leading up to this historic election is that, no matter what, the church must step up and increase its militancy and evangelism. We must work and serve in bigger and greater ways. That has not changed. The kind of change and improvement this (and every) country needs most can only come from Christ. People of both (or neither) political parties still live in view of the Second Coming, the Judgment, and an eternal destination in either heaven or hell.

After warning about the futility of trusting in earthly governments, militaries, and the like, the Psalmist instructs, “Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him, on those who hope for His lovingkindness, to deliver their soul from death and to keep them alive in famine. Our soul waits for the Lord; He is our help and our shield. For our heart rejoices in Him, because we trust in His holy name. Let Your lovingkindness, O Lord, be upon us, according as we have hoped in You” (Psa. 33:18-22). May that forever be the anthem of the people of God!

The only thing that is over is a political election. The church’s mission is as daunting, daring, and divinely-directed as it has ever been. However you view the national decision, please continue to see the heavenly vision. We are not here to make America great again, though most of us would desire that. We are here to help reconcile the world to Christ (2 Cor. 5:20; Mat. 28:18-20). I love the way my son, Dale, said it yesterday: “After the election, after the selection, I’m still thankful there was a resurrection that gives us direction.” That is the focus that must keep us oriented to our reason for being on this earth.

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Remarkable Statements, In Historical Context

Remarkable Statements, In Historical Context

Neal Pollard

AD 30—Tiberius, who became cruel and mad, was the Roman Emperor when the church was established. Under his reign, right around the time of Pentecost, Rome was filled with terror after the murder of his once trusted advisor turned traitor, Sejanus (tribunesandtriumphs.org). Sanderson Beck comments that he was “preoccupied with sexual and sadistic perversions” the last several years of his life (he is believed to have been murdered)(san.beck.org). Jerusalem was directly governed by Rome. Acts, though probably written in the 60s, begins its historical chronicle around AD 30.

  • Acts 2:41—“So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls.”
  • Acts 4:4—“But many of those who had heard the message believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand.”
  • Acts 5:14—“And all the more believers in the Lord, multitudes of men and women, were constantly added to their number.”
  • Acts 6:7—“The word of God kept on spreading; and the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith.”
  • See also Acts 12:24 and Acts 19:20,

AD 62-63—Nero, described as licentious, cruel, tyrannical, murderous, criminal, arson, vain,  perverse (tribunesandtriumphs.org) and, by historian Donald Wesson as a “cross-dressing exhibitionist” (ancient.eu), spearheaded the first organized persecution of Christians (N.S. Gill, ancienthistory.about.com). Tacitus says he blamed the Christians for his own burning of Rome. Many are the accounts of the cruel ways Nero put them to death (eyewitnesstohistory.com). Eusebius reports that Nero put both Paul and Peter to death (Church History, Book 2, Ch. 25). Before his death, Paul would report of such rapid growth throughout Nero’s reign. Peter’s outlook could not have been brighter.

  • Colossians 1:23—“if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a minister.”
  • 1 Peter 1:3—“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”

AD 90s—Domitian, best remembered as “the evil emperor who murdered thousands of Christians” (tribunesandtriumphs.org), reigned when John wrote his epistles and the book of Revelation. He was notorious for his cruelty and detachment from reality. John writes Revelation in large part to steady the Christians to withstand the onslaught of persecution caused by Domitian. His message to the Christians during the reign of Domitian was consistent:

  • 1 John 4:4—“You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.”
  • 1 John 5:4—“For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.”
  • Revelation 1:6-7—“He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father—to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen. Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. So it is to be. Amen.”

How bad did things look, from an earthly perspective, during the reigns of evil rulers like Tiberius, Nero, and Domitian? The thing is, the early Christians did not look at things from an earthly perspective. As those trying to walk in the footsteps of New Testament Christians, will we imitate their faith and that perspective?

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“Truly In Vain Is Salvation Hoped For From…”

“Truly In Vain Is Salvation Hoped For From…”

 

  • A politician or political party.
  • Wall Street.
  • Military might.
  • Our net worth or economic savvy.
  • Government programs.
  • The second amendment.
  • Popularity and fame.
  • The worship of nature.
  • Exercise and fitness.
  • The appeal of our good looks.
  • Walls.
  • The importance of our occupation or position.
  • Our national identity.
  • The Supreme Court.
  • Ethnicity and race.
  • Science and technology.
  • Any religious figure besides Jesus Christ (even those claiming to represent Him).
  • Family members and friends.

In Jeremiah 3:23, the prophet writes, “Truly in vain is salvation hoped for from the hills, and from the multitude of mountains: truly in the Lord our God is the salvation of Israel.” Jeremiah’s brethren put all their eggs in the wrong baskets. They neglected to see where true hope was found and where saving faith was to be put. Their misguided trust led to their downfall. It cannot be otherwise in any generation, including our own.

We may never say we put our trust in anything besides God, but “the proof is in the pudding.” We demonstrate what’s first and foremost to us every day, in word and deed. Ultimate deliverance from our greatest trials, struggles, and challenges comes from only one source. Jeremiah succinctly identifies it.  Is that what you are trusting? If so, let’s make sure everyone who knows us knows that!

—Neal Pollard

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