Straight Talk

 In all your ways acknowledge him, 
          and he will make straight your paths (Proverbs 3:6).


Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15).

You can tell a lot about a preacher by the Bible he carries. Modern upbeat ministers carry iPads. City preachers often carry thin New Testaments that they can roll up in their hands and use to pound the pulpit, but I once heard a preacher explain why country ministers carried such large Bibles. “When you get to the farm, if you step out of your car with one of those thin Bibles, you’ll probably lose a leg to the ranch dog that will greet you. Country preachers know to carry a Bible large enough to knock Rover silly.” (I just throw dog treats to the other side of the road and run for the porch.)

It’s true, some people use the Word of God like a club and beat up those who disagree with their interpretations. On the other hand, the Hebrew writer explained, “The Word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword” (Hebrews 4:12). Dr. Lightfoot explained in class that the word translated “sword” (machaira, μάχαιρα) can also refer to a surgeon’s scalpel “piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (ESV). I like thinking of the Bible as a tool for healing!

In his last letter, the Apostle Paul encouraged Timothy to be a careful worker “rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). This is the only place in the New Testament this relatively rare word translated “rightly handling,” orthotomeo (ὀρθοτομέω), is found. We have a number of English words based on the prefix ortho-which means “straight” (orthodontics, orthopedic, and orthodoxy are just some examples). Combined with -tomeo which means “to cut,” ortotomeo means “to cut straight.”

This word is found twice in the Greek translation of Proverbs in the Old Testament in the context of road construction where trees are cut down and the path leveled:

   In all your ways acknowledge him, 
          and he will make straight your paths (Proverbs 3:6).

And:

     The righteousness of the blameless keeps his way straight (Proverbs 11:5).

So how does this apply to us? The Greek Lexicon explains:

Then [ortotomeo] would probably mean guide the word of truth along a straight path (like a road that goes straight to its goal), without being turned aside by wordy debates or impious talk 2 Timothy 2:15.[1]

Next time you prepare to teach a Bible class, put on your hardhat, and grab your chainsaw! Careful teachers make it easy for their students to understand the correct interpretation.