I’m more of an old-fashioned traditionalist when it comes to Bible translations. Not King James-old-fashioned, mind you. More like New International Version. Or, if I’m feeling especially mod, the New Living Translation. But The Message? I resisted it for a long time because it seemed too trendy, too newfangled and hip for me. I figured people like Shane Claiborne read The Message, radical Jesus people; cool people. But not live-in-Nebraska-have-two-kids-and-attend-PTO-meetings kind of people.
Finally, though, I bought my own copy because I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. I’m glad I did, and here’s why:
Initially I read yesterday’s lesson, the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, from the New Living translation. And I skimmed right by these opening verses:
Jesus said, “There was a certain rich man who was splendidly clothed in purple and fine linen and who lived each day in luxury.” (Luke 16:19).
After I read the whole parable, I opened The Message translation to see how the story read there, and I read these opening lines:
“There was once a rich man, expensively dressed in the latest fashions, wasting his days in conspicuous consumption.”
Do you see where I’m going with this?
In the first version, the verses didn’t feel like they applied to me. I’m not splendidly clothed in purple and fine linen. I don’t live each day in luxury. I’m picturing The Emperor’s New Clothes here, people, not a woman who lives in Nebraska and shops at Kohl’s.
So I move on.
But The Message version? The Message version makes me cringe. “Dressed in the latest fashions” strikes an uneasy chord, because, let me tell it to you straight: I do like fashion. I do like clothes. I do like to shop. In fact, several years ago, a colleague told me she thought I was the most fashionable person in the building. Not that I was the kindest or the smartest or the most gracious or even the most professional person at work, but the most fashionable. I wore that complement like a crown.
The description of the rich man in The Message doesn’t let me off the hook so easily because it describes me and one of my many flaws.
I haven’t been reading the Bible all that long. But already I’ve gotten complacent. The more familiar I am with the parables and the messages, the more inclined I am to skate by the truth, to overlook how each story applies directly to me, to neglect the fact that Jesus is talking to me, not to some “other” worse-off person.
I like reading more than one translation because it keeps me on my toes. It doesn’t allow me to get lazy or self-righteous. And sometimes, a different translation hits me where it hurts, which is exactly what I need.
What about you? Did you tend to read more than one translation or do you stick with your favorite?
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