Christianity 201

November 8, 2020

When the Motivation is Encoded in the Description

Bible translation is both an art and a science, and we see the possibilities in various ways of rendering the same Hebrew or, in this case, Greek text.

The third verse of the first chapter of Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians apparently offered translators a variety of options.  In the NIV, the verse reads:

We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Before we look at three distinct pairings in this passage, I want to point out that from my perspective, the words work and labor suggest the same thing. In some the second word is service. But even that is very similar, though not all work is an act of service, all acts of service certainly involve some effort.

The NIV would seem to say that faith, love and hope are the motivators or inspiration for work, labor and endurance.  Thus,

  • faith gives way to work (something James would agree with)
  • love gives way to labor (see this September, 2014 post on compassion)
  • hope gives way to endurance (we would not endure if there were no hope, right?)

But in the ESV, we see the motivating characteristic embedded in the fruit that it produces:

  • work of faith
  • labor of love
  • steadfastness of hope

To some of you it may be a minor nuance in the translation, but it certainly reads differently.

The GNT (Good News) expresses it yet differently again perhaps putting more emphasis on the motivation than the fruit:

  • you put your faith into practice
  • your love made you work so hard
  • your hope in our Lord Jesus Christ is firm

The ISV (still not available in print) provides a more descriptive picture combining the motivation and the effect:

  • your faith is active
  • your love is hard at work
  • your hope in our Lord Jesus the Messiah is enduring

I think it’s a real blessing that certain passages can be read different ways, but also it challenges me to see the intertwining of the action and the motivator. Some people believe that as long as certain results are attained it doesn’t matter why. Paul certainly saw this as a distinct possibility:

ESV Phil 1:15 Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. 16 The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. 18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.

But what a greater beauty awaits you when you see both the purity of the motive and the fruitfulness of the result; when you see them intertwined.

ESV Prov. 16:2 All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes,
but the Lord weighs the spirit.

Unbeknown to most of us, the motivation (which is the word used in some translations of the verse above) is written into, or the actions we take, not unlike the genetic code is embedded or encoded in every cell in our body…

…As interesting as this is (to me at least!) we can delve into this and miss the obvious: Our lives should be characterized by the three spiritual fruit named: Faith, hope and love.

At least that’s how we say it. But in the text it actually reads: Faith, love and hope. Go deeper. Look again at the above renderings in different translations and ask yourself if perhaps there is a significance to the order in which these three are presented.

November 22, 2014

Translation Nuances in 1 Thessalonians

The third verse of the first chapter of Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians apparently offered translators a variety of options.  In the NIV, the verse reads:

We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Before we look at three distinct pairings in this passage, I want to point out that from my perspective, the words work and labor suggest the same thing. In some the second word is service. But even that is very similar, though not all work is an act of service, all acts of service certainly involve some effort.

The NIV would seem to say that faith, love and hope are the motivators or inspiration for work, labor and endurance.  Thus,

  • faith gives way to work (something James would agree with)
  • love gives way to labor (see this September post on compassion)
  • hope gives way to endurance (we would not endure if there were no hope, right?)

But in the ESV, we see the motivating characteristic embedded in the fruit that it produces:

  • work of faith
  • labor of love
  • steadfastness of hope

To some of you it may be a minor nuance in the translation, but it certainly reads differently.

The GNT (Good News) expresses it yet differently again perhaps putting more emphasis on the motivation than the fruit:

  • you put your faith into practice
  • your love made you work so hard
  • your hope in our Lord Jesus Christ is firm

The ISV (still not in print) provides a more descriptive picture combining the motivation and the effect:

  • your faith is active
  • your love is hard at work
  • your hope in our Lord Jesus the Messiah is enduring

I think it’s a real blessing that certain passages can be read different ways, but also it challenges me to see the intertwining of the action and the motivator. Some people believe that as long as certain results are attained it doesn’t matter why. Paul certainly saw this as a distinct possibility:

ESV Phil 1:15 Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. 16 The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. 18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.

But what a greater beauty awaits you when you see both the purity of the motive and the fruitfulness of the result; when you see them intertwined.

ESV Prov. 16:2 All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes,
    but the Lord weighs the spirit.

 

 

 

March 5, 2012

Can’t Get No Satisfaction

Today we’re introducing you to David Rupert who blogs at Red Letter Believers, where this post appeared recently under the title, Can’t Find Satisfaction at Work? You’re Right on Track.

Last week, I opened up the book of Ecclesiastes and read the yearnings of Solomon. A man on the outside that looks like he had it all. But really, he was a sorry sap, a man looking for satisfaction in all the wrong things.

“Vanity of Vanities,” he wrote.

“So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. What does a man get for all the toil and anxious striving with which he labors under the sun? All his days his work is pain and grief; even at night his mind does not rest. This too is meaningless.”

As I pulled my pants on this morning and buttoned my shirt, I have to admit that some similar thoughts ran through my head. Does it really matter what I do? Am I making a difference? Isn’t it true that if I were to leave, then 100 would be ready to step in my place — many of them better suited for the work?

Maybe Solomon was right. What do we get for all the toil and anxious striving? In today’s age, when the pay doesn’t go up but the workload is increasing not just in percentages, but exponentially as company’s continue to make do without hiring. Sure I get a paycheck at the end of two weeks, but that just makes me a hireling — a man who will do anything for money.

But I know better.

I enjoy what I do. Like a beaming third grader, I do my work well so the boss will be happy. I want the company to succeed, even prosper and do my part to make it function. I like my coworkers and anticipate my time with them.

However, I am not a person who finds his satisfaction in his work alone. I cannot put my trust in my labor, hoping that it satisfies the ache in my soul

If I do, I’ll be found wanting in the end. That was Solomon’s quest, his fruitless pursuit.

“There is a God-shaped hole,” Pascal wrote. And that hole cannot be filled by anything less than a relationship with Jesus. My job, profession, or occupation will never fill it. That’s why work can feel so hollow at times. It was supposed to be like this.

So when I get frustrated today, it will be a reminder of where my passions should be. Sorry boss, but it’s not in my office. I’ve my eyes focused on distant fields.

Does your work satisfy you? Does it fulfill you? Or is there something missing? Comment here. 

Related articles, Looking for God in all the wrong places

~David Rupert

  • Take this to the next level with these thoughts by Jeff Lyle who blogs at Transforming Truth, with this piece, Success That Endures.