Thinking Out Loud

June 20, 2014

Gauging the Spirituality of Others by Superficialities

Don’t let anyone look down on you because you read The Message, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.
  (I Timothy 4:12, somewhat altered)

Good News bibleYesterday I had a conversation with an elderly woman who told me quite plainly that her Christian friends look down on her because she reads and memorizes verses in the Good News Bible (aka Today’s English Version).

This should raise all kinds of red flags.

First of all, it denigrates the translation itself. As‘s writeup states, “The GNT is a highly trusted version.” The American Bible Society continues to support the translation with fresh printings and formats.

But more important, it concerns me that her “friends” feel the need to implement correction in terms of her Bible reading choice. In other words, there is an attitude of superiority here, either in terms of their knowledge of what is the best Bible for her, or in terms of their own personal piety or spiritual maturity.  In Romans 14 we read:

4Who are you to judge the servants of someone else? It is their own Master who will decide whether they succeed or fail. And they will succeed, because the Lord is able to make them succeed.

(Quoted, just for good measure, from the Good News Translation.)

There are so many things one’s choice of translation doesn’t tell us about the person. How often to they read it? How much time do they spend in the Word in each reading? How are they allowing the seed of God’s Word to take root in their life?

Good News for Modern ManWhy do we judge?

Why do we sometimes seem to want to judge?

Honestly, we don’t know the heart of another. Even our closest friends. I Samuel 16 offers us a verse we know but tend not to practice:

7b…I do not judge as people judge. They look at the outward appearance, but I look at the heart.”

The Louis Segund translation renders it this way:

…l’homme regarde à ce qui frappe les yeux, mais l’Éternel regarde au coeur.

In English, it would read that man looks at what “strikes the eyes;” in other words first impressions and superficial indicators.

But God is concerned with the heart.

I got the impression that her “friends” wanted to present a caring attitude, but were perhaps looking for a vulnerability or a weakness because they possibly see her as more spiritual than they are, and by knocking her down a peg or two, they were elevating themselves.

Still, in a “NIV versus ESV” Evangelical environment, it was nice to see someone voting for the Good News Bible.



  1. I managed to read the whole of the Old Testament using the Good News Bible. (With help from The Amazing Collection for Women and a group of friends) My preferred translation is the NIV now, though. I recently heard of The Passion Bible. Have you heard of that? Sue

    Comment by suesconsideredtrifles — June 20, 2014 @ 10:44 am

  2. I hope you have a really large readership that pays attention to this post.

    Christians need to know the immeasurable harm they cause when they judge, it turns people away from the church, it can turn people away from Christianity. It is my understanding that we are commanded in the new testament ‘not to judge others but to leave that to God.’ Pull the mote out of your own eye….and we all have motes in our eyes. Not a judgement, but a fact of our human state. Thank God for mercy and grace.

    Comment by MJ — June 20, 2014 @ 5:10 pm

  3. My youngest son and I read the entire Bible when he was 17 years old. We used the NIV for most of our readings, but when we would get bogged down in the OT prophets an evening of reading from Eugene Peterson’s The Message, would provide some relief.

    Comment by Jon Rising — June 21, 2014 @ 3:34 am

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