One of the temptations in modern life is to take important documents and interpret them as if they say what we think they ought to say. People today have become so smart that this is a regularly practiced exercise in politics, business, family affairs, religion, etc.
Let me share a couple of examples. In Government the Constitution is intended to be our source of authority. But even the Constitution gets interpreted in various ways, even by the Supreme Court, the group who has the final arbitration of constitutional meaning.
One issue is the proper limits of federal power. In 1918, the Supreme Court ruled that child-labor prohibitions were unconstitutional. In 1941, the court reversed itself.
Former Chief Justice Warren Burger, in 1991, said the National Rifle Association’s interpretation of virtually unlimited Second Amendment rights was an obvious “fraud.” Then in its 2008 Heller decision, the Supreme Court essentially adopted the NRA view.
It seems that even our great legal minds read their own political preferences into the Constitution. In 1845, Justice Joseph Story said, “How easily men satisfy themselves that the Constitution is exactly what they wish it to be.”
Do numbers always tell the truth? Can they be manipulated? Can numbers be used to prove what someone wants to prove?
Some disgruntled directors in Hollywood were promised a share of movie profits. In 2007 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix raked in $938 million world-wide. Warner Brothers’ accountants concluded it actually lost $167 million after they deducted distribution and promotion costs. Did the big hits really make money or lose money? Didn’t Mark Twain say, “figures don’t lie, but liars do figure.”
This also applies to biblical interpretation. Some people read the same passage of scripture, yet interpret it different ways. Did the world end May 21?
Paul reminded Timothy to “rightly divide the Word of Truth.” (II Timothy 2:15) The Bible is never intended to be used to validate some position we’ve already established – rather we need to look to the Bible and from it establish what we believe.
Now just because truth is difficult doesn’t mean it is not important. We have to live in a world where we understand, to the best of our ability, that we are functioning from a foundation of truth.
David wrote “Thy Word is truth.” (Psalms 119:160) Jesus said “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” (John 14:6) Jesus said “If you abide in my Word, then you are truly a disciple of mine; and you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:31, 32)
Tell the Truth!