Day 7: End of the Week
So, you’ve been thinking about the difference between the Greek and Hebrew views for a week now. Perhaps you’re ready for a bigger exposure to how much we are affected by these differences without being aware of it. We can picture some of these differences with the following word pairs:
Mind - Cognitive vs. Heart – Attitude and Action
Believe correctly vs. Behave righteously
Education vs. Submission
Knowledge vs. Wisdom
Reason vs. Revelation
Material vs. Spiritual
Outer recognition vs. Harmony between inner self and outward action
Fulfilled vs. Fruitful
Body-Mind-Spirit vs. Person (the Hebrew word is nephesh)
Enlightenment vs. Repentance
Destiny vs. Purpose
Of course, there are overlaps in concepts. Whenever entire cultures are reduced to a dozen words, many of the nuances are lost. But in general, we can see the striking differences between these two views. The differences are not just about the nature of Man. They are different in their outlook regarding history, purpose, epistemology (how you know what’s true), ethics, and religion.
How many times have we been frustrated in our spiritual growth or the application of Christian beliefs in our everyday circumstances because we have been trying to fit a square Hebrew peg into a round Greek hole? Look at the list again. How much of your own belief system is really Greek? Ask yourself these questions to see if you aren’t making Greek assumptions about the world.
1. Do you place a higher value on gaining knowledge than you do on submitting to God’s wisdom?
Perhaps you will say, “Oh, no. I don’t do that. I want to serve God’s purposes.” But the truth is usually found in our actions, not our words. How often have you shortened your time studying God’s word so that you could get to work? Do you tell your children that the path to success is a college degree? How much emphasis do you and your family put on understanding God’s purpose for your daily life or do you “assume” it while you rush to meet the next obligation?
2. Do you think that hard work and understanding will solve your problems?
Here’s another example. The last time you made a job change or took a promotion, did you decide on the basis of your evaluation of what’s best or did you consider God’s instruction about work as the priority? When you face financial difficulties, do you put in overtime or do you spend more time on your knees? When you are in conflict with your spouse, do you ask to pray together before you begin arguing, debating, or justifying?
3. Do you measure achievements according to the standards of your career instead of according to God’s revelation?
I have many college degrees. They are displayed on my wall. Do you think that they make me a better person? When you meet people, do you judge them by their accomplishments before you know if they have submitted their lives to God? If someone asks you what you do, is God’s purpose part of your answer?
4. Do you listen more to your mind than to your heart?
When you face a really stressful problem, where do you turn first, to your own mental resources (trying to figure out how to make things work) or to God (asking Him for His guidance)? When bad things happen to you, whom do you blame? Why do you blame anyone at all? Do you believe that God is using these things in your life for His purposes or are they just bad luck?
5. Are you shaped more by your outward circumstances than by your inner reflection?
When you are under stress, are you able to see God’s hand in every circumstance? Do you know the inner tranquility that Jesus promised (“my peace I give to you”) or are you so anxious that you just can’t let it all go?
6. Do you look for outward approval by men instead of inner recognition by God?
Does your reputation count more than your quiet devotion before God? Do you look for recognition from others? Do you keep “score”?
7. Are you struggling to find your destiny or are you striving to bring about God’s purposes?
If you wrote down the most important desires of your life, where would devotion (not service) to God be?
8. How hard is it for you to admit your mistakes, genuinely ask for forgiveness, and make apologies?
9. Do you see life as working to reach a destination, or do you see life as a journey?
Do I live in the assumption that if I finally arrive, things will eventually be better? Or do I realize that life is a journey? It’s on the journey that I find joy, fulfillment, and purpose, even in the hard times.
10. Do I see the world as binary code, black and white, right and wrong?
In the Greek world, mathematical equations are what solve all questions and problems. In the Hebraic worldview, life is gray. Questions only lead to more questions. Life is not about solving problems, it’s about growth.
Once you answer these questions, you may find that you are much more Greek than you are Hebrew. That might explain why you find frustration in your spiritual life. When Paul tells us that we must become like Christ by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2), he is speaking about much more than just changing our religious beliefs. We need to start seeing the world from God’s perspective, and that perspective does not come from the top of Mt. Olympus.
Today’s cultural orientation is based on Greek thinking and assumptions. If we are going to express Hebrew faith in this Greek world, we need to know when to confront these fundamental differences. This does not mean that we can’t be Christian in the workplace, in civil and social settings, or in education. Obviously, God is the God of all creation and sovereign over every circumstance. So, God expects us to behave like His Son. But we usually try to do the “right” thing without even knowing what God’s viewpoint really is. Maybe we need to take a serious look at what we really believe by looking at how we act, not what we say.
For example, we teach our children that success in life is the result of education. We tell them that knowledge and study is the way to happiness. This idea is thoroughly Greek. God’s way is quite different. First, life is not measured by material gain and success. Secondly, life is not about education, it is about wisdom. Thirdly, knowledge is valuable only if it produces a submissive attitude toward God. Degrees on the wall, sales awards, career promotions, and corporate titles mean nothing if they are not part of God’s purpose for us. This does not mean that we take an anti-educational stance. It means that we evaluate our education by God’s standard of useful holiness. We do what makes sense for a much bigger, eternal picture. We are not limited by the human horizon.
The Greek perspective is built into every aspect of our lives. Our hope is to strive to see and understand the Hebraic perspective of the Bible and allow it to shape our lives as God has intended.