Saturday, February 02, 2013

Bible and Culture

I am trying to avoid just reading my lengthy daily Bible passages and not thinking about what I read. For this reason I have begun to make sure that I pull out at least one identifiable observation. Here is today's from Matthew 5-7.
Matthew 6:17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face (NIV)
We all take that as being only relevant to the culture of the time. I don't know of any group which fasts and then oils their head. We easily extract the intention of the verse (or we think we do . . . under what circumstances did people of that time oil their heads?)
But what about Matthew 6:34: Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.
Is that a cultural expectation or a Christian one? In South Africa we have cultural groups who thrive on planning for tomorrow and subsequent days. We also have cultural groups who live for today and to worry about tomorrow is a very difficult, unusual thing to do.
The effect is that the group that plans consumes the group that does not plan, because it becomes more powerful. What does that verse say to us? Should we resist planning and be consumed? Or do we worry about tomorrow and reckon that the Biblical verse speaks to a need of the time it was written?

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