The most divisive subject in the world is religion.
On the one hand, this makes sense – none of us can really see God, so the idea that He exists at all takes a bit of effort to believe.
Yet on the other, it doesn’t make sense – since most of us claim to worship the same God and all base our beliefs on the same set of holy scriptures.
So since all Christians pretty much have just the one book… how can we possibly have so many differing opinions about what it says?
Easy: because we keep talking about it.
Every time one of us shares an opinion, it creates a new viewpoint, a new argument, a new belief which clouds over the actually quite clear original statement in the Bible.
And it is answering these opinions, and referencing each other’s ideas, leveraging them to prove the point our church believes in, which prevents people from seeing the often very clear answer in the Bible.
My job is to cut through all that. Take tithing; just the other day someone said to me “I’m worried I don’t tithe enough”. But you see… it’s literally impossible to tithe too little or too much.
“Tithe” is an archaic English word which means “tenth”. Generally translated from the Hebrew word ma’aser which means “tenth”. So you cannot tenth more than… well… 1/10th.
If you give more than one tenth of your yearly net income (your “increase”, in most Bible translations), it’s not a tenth anymore! (Deuteronomy 14:22).
If you give less, it’s not a tenth! If you tithe a tenth one week, but skip the next week, then you’re not giving ten percent of your total net income, and you’re still not tithing!
Giving more than is required is called an offering, which is fine… but has nothing to do with tithing! (Malachi 3:8). And an offering is, by definition, up to you – that’s why it’s a “free will” offering! (Ezra 8:28).
You cannot offer God too much – nor can you not offer Him enough. You give what feels right to you. You cannot over- or under- offer!
Nor can you over- or under- tithe. Because you’re either giving a tenth… or you’re not tithing at all! You either tithe or you don’t!
So why would so many people think they are “not tithing enough”? Because the act of tithing has become separate from the meaning of tithing.
The idea of tithing has taken on a life of its own in the Christian religion; it’s no longer a word, it’s a doctrine, a dogma.
And by endlessly discussing, debating, and debunking the idea of tithing, Christians forgot what a tithe even is: one tenth.
The word tithe means one tenth.
Why are we still talking about this?
Do you see how simple the Bible is, if you just shut up and let it talk? We could go on to discuss where and when to tithe, which is equally simple; but the definition of a tithe stands firm, never forget it: tithe is a tenth.
What else do you suppose is that simple in the Bible?
One of the most divisive things in the Christian religion is baptism.
Dip, dunk, pour, sprinkle, air, fire, water, spirit… who knows what the right form of baptism is? Certainly no two religions can agree!
Millions of pages have been spent debating and attempting to prove which is the one true form of baptism – or if baptism even needs to be done at all!
But here again, stop talking. Stop arguing. Stop reading what men wrote and listen to what God wrote.
“Baptize” comes from the Greek word baptizo; and “baptism” from the Greek baptisma. As you can see, these words were never translated. They were borrowed directly from Greek into English.
Now when Jesus or John used those words, they weren’t referring to the doctrine or dogma of baptism – no such thing existed at the time!
They simply used a commonly used Greek verb, used by pagans and Christians alike, with a very common, very simple meaning. Look it up in any ancient Greek dictionary; they’ll all say something like this…
“[baptism means] to dip, to immerse, to sink… There is no evidence that Luke or Paul and the other writers of the New Testament put upon this verb meanings not recognized by the Greeks.” (Greek and English Lexicon, “baptism”. Sophocles)
Can you immerse someone by sprinkling them? Can you immerse them by pouring water over them? Can they survive being immersed in fire? Of course not.
And if you hadn’t had thousands of years of people discussing the doctrine of baptism apart from the meaning of the word itself, it would never occur to you to think it meant anything but full and complete immersion!
The word baptize means to immerse.
Why are we still talking about this?
There are still other questions about baptism; who should be baptized, and by whom; when, where, and why; and all of these questions are just about as easy.
But for now, the point is clear: don’t let people distract you from the simple meaning of the Bible’s ideas by a flood of arguments about doctrines which didn’t exist as such until centuries after the Bible was written!
Because the Bible was written in simple words to the common man (1 Corinthians 1:17-29). And to understand it, you only have to ask yourself what did these words mean in the language of regular people like me?
Today we think of the ancient world in our own terms, and we forget that what are, to us special, religious-sounding words are nothing more than simple Greek verbs and nouns that meant nothing but their literal meaning to the speaker.
Take prayer. We think of prayer as a special thing, reserved for God. It isn’t. It’s simply an English word meaning “to ask”.
In Shakespeare’s day, “I pray thee, give it me” didn’t have any special meaning reserved for God. It just meant… I’m asking you, politely, to give me something (Genesis 13:8, 25:30, etc.).
Now if you simply update the English word used 400 years ago to the translation we would use today, if prayer were not a dogma, but a simple word… it would be hard to misunderstand prayer.
Prayer means asking. We can ask each other for things, we can ask God for things. That’s why the Bible doesn’t have specific prayers for us to recite; because the doctrine of a prayer didn’t exist apart from the idea of asking God for something.
No one in the Bible ever recited someone else’s prayer; because what person has a list of asks that they write down and repeat every day, or in certain circumstances??
The Lord’s prayer was not a prayer we were meant to memorize and recite like robots. That’s why Jesus said after this manner pray, or pray in this way – He never said recite this exact prayer! (Matthew 6:9). It was a template, a guideline – that’s why no one in the Bible ever copied it!
If you saw your brother ask your father for something, using an eloquent heartfelt plea, and saw your father grant it… would you try and recite the same exact words? And if you did, would it work?
Probably not; it wouldn’t ring true to him because the words didn’t come from your own heart! (Matthew 7:7, Romans 10:1). God doesn’t want a canned speech any more than your own father does (Matthew 6:7); just be straight with Him, and ask Him what you want (Matthew 7:7-11).
Treat God like a good Father (2 Corinthians 6:18), not like a medieval dictator being approached by a serf (Hebrews 4:16). Because if you’re formal and distant with Him, that’s how He’ll be with you (James 4:8).
And like when you ask your own dad for something, do so in your own words, not in an archaic or dead language! None of that “I thank thee, O Lord” stuff. Just say whatever sounds normal to you, because God hates pretentiousness! (Matthew 23:14).
As for how often we should pray, that’s even easier: as often as we have something to ask for… Or as rarely. If you have nothing to say, then don’t say anything. Just like you would your human father.
If you have a lot to say, then spend all night saying it (Luke 6:12). If you’re an important person with a lot of things to go over, do it three times a day (Daniel 6:10-11), or seven (Psalm 119:164); if you’ve got nothing to say… then say nothing. See how easy all this is?
Prayer means “ask”.
Why are we still talking about this?
If you truly understand what these words meant to the men who wrote them down – if prayer really means ask to you – then it’s hard not to understand how to use it, or what it means! Because the Bible is really that simple if you just let it be…
Or take apostles. Holy men, anointed by God in a special ceremony? Of which God only appointed the original twelve, and never any more since?
We could debate this all day; many books have been written on what an apostle is, usually concluding that there aren’t any today (or that the guy writing the book is one) – full of many, many, many words.
But we only need the one word: apostle.
Apostle comes from the Greek word apostolos. As before, it was copied directly into English and means “one who is sent off”. That’s all. And that’s enough.
Once again, this is an ordinary Greek noun with no special meaning until organized religion gave it one.
If you had said this word to a contemporary Greek, they would have known it meant an emissary – which is just a word English borrowed from Latin meaning… “one sent”.
And in hindsight, this simple meaning makes perfect sense; for God’s Kingdom is in heaven (Hebrews 11:16). And God sends emissaries or ambassadors to speak things He wants other men to hear (2 Corinthians 5:20).
But that also means that anyone whom God sends is an apostle. Anyone. Take John the Baptist. Not one of the twelve, nor ever mentioned as an apostle… and yet, called an apostle in the Bible, though few know it!
John 1:6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.
In the original Greek, the word used there is apostello; in other words, this says there was an apostle whose name was John (the Baptist)! They didn’t translate it as a title because it isn’t a title – it’s simply a description of the job!
This John died before Jesus, long before the other “apostles” were sent out in Matthew 28:19. Because that particular group of apostles were never intended to be the only ones in the world. They were just the first after Jesus died!
Everyone God sent was, by definition, an apostle. Because that’s what the word means! Not just the twelve; for Jesus promised He would send many different kinds of teachers (Matthew 23:34)… and if He sent them, they were apostles of His! (Mark 12:1-9).
This means Jeremiah was an apostle (Jeremiah 26:12); Jesus was an apostle (Hebrews 3:1); Samuel was an apostle (1 Samuel 15:1); Barnabas, though not one of the twelve, was explicitly called an apostle just as much as Paul was (Acts 14:14); and so on.
Of course, not everyone who says “God sent me!” is in fact an apostle of God; many are liars (Revelation 2:2). When someone claims to be sent from God, we are supposed to test them and see, by their works, whether they are one or not (1 Corinthians 9:1, 2 Corinthians 12:11-12).
Just as we should test every spirit, and every so-called prophet! (1 John 4:1-3). But the fact that we are supposed to test them, means there must have been apostles out there to test! Apostles who were not one of the original twelve!
But all this just goes back to the point: an apostle is not a holy office, ordained by a great church, with holy oil and robes and prayers in a dead language; an apostle is someone God sent to do something.
Apostle means “one sent”.
Why are we still talking about this?
So much of what we read in the Bible is what we put there. When the Bible said something simple and plain, we complicate it by projecting our assumptions onto the very simple words it said.
The Bible had no sooner said “baptize” before religions started bickering over what that means; but if people stopped telling the Bible what it meant for a few seconds, and just listened to what it said, the answer is easy; the word means “immersed”. Why are we still talking about this?
It’s as if I said “the dead must be buried!” and then 2,000 years later, people were to argue about whether I meant “you must have dirt sprinkled on you”, “you must have dirt poured over you”, or “you must be covered up with dirt”.
Which one of these did I SAY? So why are we still talking about this?
I could go on about this for dozens of pages. Words like angel, church, ordination, hell, heaven, trinity, beast, mercy, love, faith, cross, Sabbath, temple, spirit, bread, rock, wind… all of these words, and so many more.
All these must be understood not as doctrines… but as words God used to mean something. And if you want to know what that was, all you have to do is listen.
Christians today think they know too much to listen to what God said. They’re so sure they already know what He’s about to say, they say it for Him; so sure they know what a verse means to their dogma that they can’t hear what it actually says.
But if you are willing to sweep your arm across the cluttered desk that is religion, and go back to the basics of what did it actually say… these things cease to be confusing.
Matthew 11:25 (BBE) At that time Jesus made answer and said, I give praise to you, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have kept these things secret from the wise and the men of learning, and have made them clear to little children.
They cease to be a question worth discussing; they become easy, and obvious, so that every child can see the plain answer God gave us. Because that’s who God wrote them for.
He wrote them for people who would look at His words, see them for what they say, and then look at what other people say, and quizzically say…
“That’s not what it says at all. Why are we still talking about this?”
If you want to learn how to cut through the clutter of religion and leave the centuries’ worth of accumulated traditions and opinions of men behind, enroll in the free Bible Study Course below.
If what you read in those lessons isn’t what the Bible says, don’t believe it. If it is, then do what the Bible says.