A Workman Unashamed
Have you ever done a job you would prefer not to sign your name to? Maybe you were rushed at work and turned out a “boiler-plate” performance at whatever you do. Or maybe your heart wasn’t in it and so you put in minimal effort. Perhaps you were asked to do something you really didn’t have the training to do – and it showed!
In all of these cases, we might feel the antithesis of pride in our work – we might be embarrassed, or ashamed. Spiritually speaking, the apostle Paul urges his younger disciple Timothy to strenuously avoid this sorry experience in reference to one of the most basic activities of the Christian life – Bible reading.
Here is the text of 2 Timothy 2:15 in its most literal, wooden translation:
Be eager to present yourself to God, a workman unashamed, cutting-straight the word of truth.
To begin with the end, your objective in reading the Bible is to “cut-straight.”
This figurative language was once translated “correctly divide” which in turn lent itself to a number of unhelpful approaches to scripture!
The word translated cutting-straight only appears in biblical studies in the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament – it occurs in Proverbs 3:6 and in Proverbs 11:5.
In both cases, the “way” or “road” of the righteous will be “cut-straight.”
In the NIV, this word is simply “straight” as in “he will make your paths straight,” and, “the righteousness of the blameless makes a straight way for them.”
The idea of “cutting-straight” a road is still in use today by highway engineers! When driving on the interstates in Vermont, you will drive through a “cut” every couple of miles. The cut is made to keep the road going straight through whatever hills or mountains might otherwise obstruct and hinder the traveler. A straight path, then as now, offered multiple benefits to the traveler. Time of travel, convenience, safety from slipping, a direct line of sight (remember banditry was a common problem in biblical times) – all of these were improved by a cut-straight path.
In your personal Bible study, do you get to the heart of what the Scripture you are reading is teaching? Or do you find your mind and heart wandering all over the page and ultimately settle on your days schedule or the shopping list you need to write down? Having begun with the ending of this verse, I would like to end with the middle: eagerly pursue being a “workman unashamed.”
Be a workman! This word is generally used to denote a common laborer who engages in physically demanding and rigorous tasks. It is not a description of a craftsman; it is a description of a ditch digger. And this word speaks to a significant problem the church has been facing for some generations now. Too often, we believe that the hard work of interpreting the scriptures consists only in the discipline of setting a time of day and actually getting your Bible and opening it. We often suppose that if we are Spirit-filled Christians, the Bible is just going to make sense to us without any need for careful cross-referencing, word studies, considerations of the passages broader context in its chapter, book, and testament… Here is where the work comes!
Do you find yourself feeling at times like a “workman ashamed?” Do you feel that a Bible study you led or your own personal reflections on the Word of Truth are too shallow and winding? This September, we are going to be having an exciting opportunity for you! Beginning on Sunday, September 8, we will be having a class “Understanding Scripture” at the church from 6:00 – 7:30 p.m. Come and grow your passion for God’s word as we explore how to work harder and more efficiently in using study notes, atlases, concordances, and commentaries while learning how to approach such different texts as prophecy, poetry, narrative, and epistles. Absolutely no prior knowledge is necessary – and YOU are invited!