Tuesday, March 03, 2015
Words With Weight
The Greek word translated here as "empty" (kenos) could mean "empty" in a literal sense. In one of Jesus' parables, for example, a servant goes on behalf of his master to fetch the harvest from some tenant farmers, but they beat the servant "and sent him away empty-handed [kenon, a form of kenos]" (Mark 12:3). In Ephesians 5:6, kenos is used metaphorically. Empty words are those that lack substance, wisdom, and truth. They are words not filled with reality or matched with action. The famed fourth-century preacher, John Chrysostom, said when preaching on this verse from Ephesians, "There are always people among us who want to diminish the force of words. . . . Empty words are words that are for a moment attractive but in no way are proved by deeds" (Homily on Ephesians 18.5.5-6.1).As I read that today I find myself wondering about a situation where empty words have taken hold. Some in the church see it and some don't. Are calls for unity in such a situation further empty words? Is the disunity more harmful to the gospel than the original empty words?
Paul was concerned that the recipients of his letter might be enticed by purveyors of empty words to reject a Christ-shaped perspective on life, especially when it comes to sexuality and greed. We have no shortage of such empty words today. In multiple ways, the empty wordsmiths of our world convince us that life is best when filled with sexual exploits and lots of stuff. We can begin to be persuaded that Christian morality is outdated, irrelevant, and oppressive. Thus, Paul's injunction to the Ephesians deserves a new hearing today: Let no one deceive you with empty words.
There are so many variables in such circumstances that I do not think there can be a straightforward answer. There is so much Christian division that I know we dilute the message. But unity in support of emptiness is not genuine unity either.
It is also not good enough to be "true to your own perspective." I am a sinner, like all other sinners, and I can be wrong. My perspective must be shaped and tempered by Scripture and others steeped in it.
This I know - I mourn for the church right now. We mix empty and meaningful words with such ease anymore that we present people with enormous dilemmas. How many are lost on the horns of such dilemmas?
church dilemmas emptiness