Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Fear God Who Can Throw You Into Hell...

In discussing the whole "hell" debacle, some of the more popular verses that are brought up are found in Luke 12 where verses 4 and 5 are usually quoted.

 4 “I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more.
5 But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear God who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell (Gehenna). Yes, I tell you, fear God.


It's interesting that Jesus doesn't use the word Hades here but instead uses Gehenna (Jesus uses this word more than Hades) which was the valley right outside of Jerusalem that had become a garbage dump in the first century. But that's merely a side note and beside the point.

What I want to point out is that Jesus isn't finished talking at verse 5. Though I've heard these verses (4 &5) quoted many times in defense of a literal, geographically locatable hell (which is why above I pointed out that Jesus uses a metaphorical/descriptive Greek word which has been translated hell, rather than a word such as Hades), I have NEVER heard anyone finish Jesus' teaching which continues in the next two verses.

6 Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God.
7 Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.


Do not be afraid?

Didn't Jesus just say to fear God?

What is the point of Jesus' teaching here?

Is the point that it is a fact that God is going to throw some people in Hell so we should fear God?

Or

That we should not be afraid?

One should keep in mind that Jesus is speaking to, and Luke is writing to, people who are ruled by the Roman empire. An oppressive system infamous for its methods of unmerciful cruelty and violent ways of coercion.

It seems that Jesus is teaching words of comfort here, not of warning.

Maybe the text could be read like this...

Do not fear Rome... If you are going to fear anyone, fear God who has much more power than the Romans. But even God looks out for the birds and cares about you. God cares about you so much that God knows the number of hairs on your head... Therefore, you do not have a reason to be afraid, for God certainly values you more than the birds.

Thats a big difference huh?

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