The other night my husband and I were at Costco and were just about to get in the check-out line. I noticed a woman looking at the coconut (the same coconut featured in my Toasted Coconut for Recipe Friday post), and I overheard her say to her daughters, “Oh, the second ingredient is sugar. There’s nothing good in that.”
For some reason I felt compelled to correct the error in her conclusion. I went over and pointed out that although sugar is indeed the second ingredient listed on the package, the nutrition information revealed that there is only 1 gram of sugar per serving but that there are also 14 grams of fiber. I was able to convince her that overall this was a pretty healthy snack, either right out of the bag or toasted. She did ultimately purchase a bag to try it.
(I think subconsciously my motive was to make sure people buy this coconut from Costco so they keep carrying it. But I digress.)
This woman looked only at the ingredients list on the coconut and not at the nutrition information panel. The ingredient list was accurate and true. Coconut was the first ingredient and sugar was the second, with a freshening agent being the third and last ingredient. But the list of ingredients was only half the truth because it didn’t reveal the proportion of each ingredient in a serving. Nor did the ingredient list reveal that this food is an excellent source of fiber, which is greatly lacking in the typical American diet.
I was thinking about this encounter the next day and it occurred to me that it is a great illustration both for life in general and for Biblical interpretation.
Quite often in life people make decisions or reach conclusions based on only part of the available information. We might look at how a person is dressed and reach conclusions about their values or intelligence without finding anything out about their personality or character. We might read the dust jacket of a book, or maybe even just the title, and conclude that it is not worth reading, missing out on the wisdom contained within its pages. We might learn that a company makes a huge profit in their business and conclude that the CEO and other officers are greedy and ruthless, without ever finding out that the company gives millions to help the needy each year.
When it comes to Biblical interpretation, people often take a single verse or passage as evidence that God is vengeful and full of hate, without ever having read the entire Bible to see the whole character of God. Others read a single verse or passage and determine that another person is a sinner and destined to perish in Hell, without considering the many passages that reveal that we are all sinners but that Christ came to save sinners and redeem us all. Others read a single verse or passage and determine that they are free to do whatever they please and that what they are doing is not sin, without considering the verses that reveal the holiness of God and that the purpose of the law is to reveal our need for a Savior.
Biblical interpretation that is based on only half the truth can be a lie.
Each verse and passage in the Bible is true and right, but can be construed in a way that ends in a lie if not considered in the whole of the Bible’s great story of mercy and grace. From creation to fall, from exile to restoration, from death to resurrected life, from beginning to end, the Bible reveals a coherent and complete truth of God’s relationship with and love for His creation.
The whole truth of the Bible is so much greater than any half-truth that you may have heard or read. Seek the whole truth and you will be blessed.
“Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back from captivity.” Jeremiah 29:12-14a (NIV).