Friday, June 20, 2008

Realizing definitions.

So, one of the most important things I've gained from teaching English as a foreign language is to really understand the definitions of words for myself. So many times, I take words for granted. It's when a student asks me, "What does this word mean?" that I really have to sit down and find the answer for myself. This has been esp helpful when I teach the Bible. I can see a Bible verse in a whole new light, because I can understand the meaning of a word better.

Once a week, I have a Japanese/English Bible study with the deaconess of our church. I teach her the English, and she teaches me the Japanese. It's a good language study for both of us. A few weeks back I had one of my "word" revelations. In Matthew 6 it talks about not worrying about the future, but instead trusting in God to provide. One verse is rather famous. "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." (Mat 6:33) I've heard this verse so many times, I don't even bother to pay attention to it anymore. It's too familiar. I think I know it all ready. This is a problem for me sometimes. I have a student who does the same thing. She used to live in America (she's 6th grade now) and her English is much better than most people around her. But she thinks this means she doesn't have to pay attention in English class. So now, because she knows too much, she misses out on important Grammar things or meanings of words that she would have caught otherwise. I do the same thing with the Bible. I think I understand it, and since I can read it in English, it seems easy enough. But sometimes, I realize I can always listen more.

So, the case in point. We are reading this verse, so Yang Sensei (the deaconess) askes me, "What does 'seek' mean? Does it mean hoshi (the Japanese word for want)?" I immediately told her no, that's not really what it meant, and we eventually managed to find the correct Japanese word to express seek. But during that process, I realized how often we treat the word in that verse as "want" instead of "seek." What is the difference? Want is merely a feeling. Oh yeah, I want God's kingdom and his righteousness. And I want a new bicycle. But, I can want something for a long time, and never DO anything about it. Seek is different. Seek is an action. There's a big difference between only wanting a new bicycle and saving up enough money and going to find a place to buy a new bicycle. I can sit around wanting all day. It does nothing. Seek is something that takes effort.

Now I realize that this might just be an English word choice problem, so we decided to look it up in Japanese and in Greek. All three languages point out an action word. Seek. Exert yourself. Get up off your butt and do something about it. Don't sit around waiting and wanting something to happen. Seek it!

I think this is an important thing to remember. So many people I know think that wanting the kingdom of God is the same thing as seeking it. It's not. If we wait for the Kingdom of God to come to us, it's gonna be too late. You have to seek after it. How's that for a little motivation?

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