I think it is always good to have a reasonably literal translation of the Bible at hand; versions like the New Revised Standard Version or Today’s New International Version. But I think it is at least sometimes helpful to read familiar passages in freer translations as well; translations such as The Good News Bible or The Message.
I’ll admit that although I think The Message sometimes misses the whole point of a verse and gets it exactly wrong, there are far more times where it brings a verse alive in a new and wonderful way.
I love, for instance, the way The Message begins today’s reading: Repeat these basic essentials over and over to God’s people. Warn them before God against nitpicking, which chips away at the faith. It just wears everyone out…
Boy, that’s good, isn’t it?! It hits the nail right on the head, not just getting the word right, but also the feeling behind them: It just wears everyone out. I know an awful lot of worn out Christians. I expect you do too.
And it’s not serving that wears them out. It’s not giving of themselves generously and sacrificially that wears them out. To the contrary, these are the kind of thing that brings life and vitality to our faith.
No, what wears them—and us!—out is often the “nitpicking”; getting caught up in lesser things and the constant bickering that can then occur.
Nitpicking! It’s so easy to do, maybe because it seems like such a small thing, such a tiny sin in the face of things like lust or greed or violence. But even small things can do great damage, “chipping away” over time. What’s the old joke about how you eat an elephant? One bite a time…
Are you a nitpicker?
Am I? Sometimes, for me at least, the answer is yes.
May God forgive me, and in the future grant me grace to choose a better way, doing the work he has given me to do instead of complaining about what’s not being done or not being done just right…