The Battles for Jots and Tittles
Words have meaning, and when we lose words or allow their original meaning to drift into obscurity, we don’t just loose letters or syllables, vowels and consonants arranged in particular order, but we loose ideas, concepts, and whole intellectual notions. When we lose words, we lose the truths these words define. And yet God, in all of his wisdom, chose to unveil to us his indelible mysteries through oracles consisting of letters and syllables, vowels and consonants arranged in a particular order.
Part of a pastor or teacher’s job is to fight for words, because in that fight, we contend for the truths of God lest they disappear with a gradually devolving and diminishing cultural vocabulary. Our pupils look at us like mad men as we war over small things like tiny scribbles written on paper, scuffling over the crossing of the t or the dotting of an i, explaining every detail and difference between a jot and a tittle.*
What our pupils may not know is that the war over vowels and consonants and miniscule scribbles is a war over the biggest of things – the very oracles of God both concealed and revealed through these words. And so, the pastor and teacher laments when words lose meaning and we rejoice when people can properly define terms. In this endeavor of vocabulary, the oracles of God are held secure for the ages – if we can keep it.
In just one example, consider that word ‘propitiation.’ Worldlings do not know the definition, and few believers can parse its meaning. But in this word, ‘propitiaton,’ lies all the beauty, grandeur, greatness, and glory of the Gospel. In this one, single and solitary word lies a full and exhaustive understanding of both the wrath of God and the love of God and how they are intricately entwined on the Cross, culminating in our salvation. To understand this word, is to understand the Gospel. It’s just one word. In our language, it’s just eleven tiny, independent scribbles of the hand called ‘letters.’ But in these scribbles lies the greatest truth and best news in all the universe. A truth too great for us to fully understand, God has placed in letters so small it’s easy to overlook.
Never underestimate the importance of words, letters, syllables and consonants arranged in the right order. And next time your pastor or teacher fusses over these seemingly insignificant things, understand that he sees in them, a Universe of meaning.
* A “jot and tittle” is a reference to Matthew 5:18 as translated in the KJV, first coming into the English Bible through Tindale’s translation in 1526. A “jot” is a transliteration for the Greek “iota” and is the smallest letter in the Greek alphabet. A “tittle” combines two words, tiny and little, and refers to the stroke of a pen as a part of a letter.
Busyness, the Bane of Our Age
“Busyness is the bane of our age. Busyness is our idolatry. We are a people that travel to and fro like never before (Daniel 12:4). We are a people that glorify busy. Look at social media as an exhibit. Look at the photos and statuses that people post. Person by person, each one tries to prove that they are busier than the next. It is a sign of achievement, of success, of accomplishment; worn-out tires and frequent flier miles are the trophies of our modern age. We are compelled to push into our lives as many activities as is humanly possible and we have been conditioned to do this since the advent of the automobile and onset of global communication. Like mindless and soulless lemmings, we jam into our schedule more activities than we have capacity for and grin with excitement, under the impression that busyness equals success and success equal happiness. We have become the hamster on the wheel and the rats in a maze with no end, although we are not running for the cheese; we are running for no apparent reason other than the fact that everyone else around us is also running.”
The Value of Tradition
“Today, the evangelical church in America is starting to see the value of tradition and its influence over generational unity. The church growth movement and the seeker-friendly church movement have relegated hymns, liturgy and catechism to the dustbin of recent history. As we see growing generational disconnectedness within the Body like never before, hymns, liturgy and catechisms are again seeing their place in worship. Although there’s nothing necessarily sacred in these things, they have a powerful ability to bind generations together as intergenerational traditions. For example, as someone who has come out of the seeker-friendly movement, I realize now the beauty of not being able to hear Amazing Grace or I Stand Amazed without hearing it in the voice of my long-departed grandmother. She is gone, and yet I am connected to her. There is a comfort in picking up our church’s catechism, used for four hundred years, and knowing that I cast my eyes upon the same words as my beloved Spurgeon. And although Baptists are not a liturgical people, there is for those of that particular tradition a beautiful familiarity from uttering the same words out loud as Saints long gone from us, knowing their voices still echo along in unison with our own as their sound waves (created hundreds of years before) still echo somewhere out there in God’s Universe, steadily traveling outward towards the expanse of heavens unknown.”