I remember having to learn how to diagram a sentence. It started around 7th grade, perhaps earlier. I can still picture my English teacher — a constantly smiling, red dyed-haired, bright red lipstick wearing woman whose slip sometimes peeked from under her dress. I can see her standing over the projector, smiling and instructing us. I can remember learning how to write papers properly. I remember stacks of 3×5 cards with subjects for each paragraph that was to come. I remember red marks on those papers noting my errors: missing punctuation, misused punctuation, improper sentences, run-on sentences, paragraphs lacking a direct subject, and the like. Needless to say, I learned much from this English teacher. I had her for 7th and 8th grade at the private school I attended.
And then I moved to the public school for high school. Sitting in English class, I bemoaned the fact that we were spending an extraordinarily long time on the basics of sentences. Hadn’t these students also been subjected to the rigorous (slightly boring, but so important) tasks of tediously diagraming a sentence? As I talked to my sister one day as we waited for the bus home, I commented on how much time we were spending on what a noun was. A girlfriend standing near, two years my senior, heard us and stated, “A noun? I don’t know what a noun is.” I was astounded. I remember that day distinctly. How did a junior in high school not know that!
And then I went to college. I was decent at writing papers, still had errors, but for the most part after my own proof reading as well as another friend reading through it briefly, I got average to above average marks. Then one day a friend asked if I’d help her proof a paper she had to write. I read it. Line after line I got more and more discouraged. I was tearing her paper apart due to the lack of organized paragraphs and the grammatical mistakes. I finally suggested she take her paper to the learning lab, a place set up by the school for free basic tutoring and homework help. I didn’t know what to do with her paper, and I wasn’t sure I could help!
Thus, though we use our language every day of our lives — reading and writing, we all need a refresher sometimes in correct writing. In fact, don’t look too closely at this article (especially if you are an English teacher!), for I’m sure that I have my own disorganization and grammatical errors! Yet I was thinking the other day how important words are. How important each function a word has within a sentence. There are the basics, of course. A sentence has to have a subject and a verb. For instance, “I ran” is a short sentence. I (the subject) act out the past tense form of “to run” — so in the past I ran. Basic. But then you can add an adverb (in case you’ve forgotten, an adverb describes a verb, or an action, and often answers the question how). So, “I ran quietly” becomes a better sentence … more descriptive. Or, try this – “I ran to the bed quietly.” Now, my sentence gives details, provides interest, and is more than just a basic sentence. When reading this new sentence you can imagine where I was running and how I was running. But now, the finale: “I ran to the bed quietly, jumping into it just before my parents checked to see if I was still sleeping.” You know know why I ran to the bed quietly. I added interest with my words.
A word is vastly important. Authors choose their words and then editors pour over these with a fine tooth comb. Editors have the job of helping an author correctly use words, and make words the best they can be. It’s a hard job!
Why does this all matter? Well the other day, as I read my Bible, I was reminded of the value of a single word. All scripture is God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16). Meaning, each word of Scripture is ordained by God. Different versions may have various interpretations of the original language, since English is a translated version of the original Greek or Hebrew. But if I believe that all scripture is ordained by God, and that it is without error, then every little word matters. We sometimes read our Bible and ignore key words in the sentence. For example in 1 Thessalonians 5 we read, “Give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” It is very tempting to skip the word all. In our minds we tell ourselves something to the effect of: in the circumstances we choose, give thanks. Or again, “Wives should submit to their husbands in everything” (Ephesians 5:24).
As a newlywed, I am tempted to read the words in everything with a blind eye, so to speak. I don’t want to submit in everything. I want my own control. I want to have him submit to me sometimes. I want the words in everything to have an out, so I don’t have to obey. Of course, with all verses the context matters, and scripture should always interpret scripture, and the whole counsel of the whole Bible provides the answers to anything confusing. So in submitting to my husband in everything I am not to follow him into sin, or turn a blind eye to him when he sins (such as abuse). That being said, if I were to diagram that sentence I’d see myself (a wife) as the subject. The verb (or action) is to submit. The phrase in everything clarifies what I’m to submit to my husband in. The sentence is pretty clear. The wording is important.
Newlywed or not, you and I are to read the Bible with an understanding of each word’s value. Rejoice always. Give thanks in all circumstances. Forgive each other as in Christ God forgave you. Be completely humble. Each word or phrase I’ve highlighted are words we like to ignore when reading scripture. We want to rejoice sometimes, give thanks when we feel the circumstance is good, forgive only when we feel someone deserves it, and be humble when the occasion merits.
Oh sisters, let’s be women who understand the value of a word. Let’s read scripture with the pen of an English teacher, seeking out each word that we may mine the richness of the Word of God. We know that God’s Word is inerrant, it can not be false in any way. When you see a word believe it is purposeful. Each tiny word tells the extreme details of God’s design. Submitting to my husband only when I feel like it, or giving thanks only in happy times, would make me miss out on the beautiful character building truths that God wants for me. Submitting when I don’t like my husband’s way teaches me to let go of control and learn to trust. Thanking God in the midst of trials reinforces what I believe about God, that He is sovereign and in control.
So you see, a word is extremely valuable. Just like an editor helps an author write in such a way that each word is purposeful, descriptive, and necessary — the words that God uses in His Word have been carefully chosen. The littlest detail is intentional. Enjoy the Word of God, it is living and active, down to the last in, but, and all!