Last week after the service, a member of our Parish family observed that the categories of “Doers of the Word” and "Hearers of the Word” (described in my sermon) are a distinction similar to the modern-day personality definitions of ‘introvert' and 'extravert'. I found it an intriguing observation, one which points to practice or a method of speaking and thinking that will further your spiritual growth and deepen your faith.
Why did I choose to use the language I chose in my sermon when there is such an obvious overlap in ‘doer’ and extravert, and ‘hearer’ and introvert? To help explain my intention, allow me to introduce a few more words.
Meriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines ‘coincidence’ as the occurrence of events that happen at the same time by accident but seem to have some connection. While this is a common definition and one which is found in like form in all the dictionaries I looked at, it is not a Christian one.
The word coincidence is used only once in the New Testament. In the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:31), Jesus said, “And by a coincidence a certain priest was going down in that way, and having seen him, he passed over on the opposite side.” Synkyrian, the Greek word translated as coincidence, is a combination of two words: sun and kurios. Sun means “together with,” and kurious means “supreme in authority.” Thus, a biblical definition of coincidence would not point to a random act of chance, but “what occurs together by God’s providential arrangement of circumstances.”
Meriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines ‘luck’ as “to prosper or succeed especially through chance or good fortune.” (As with many definitions, this one breeds the opportunity for further research by introducing other words such as ‘chance’ and ‘good fortune,’ but for today we will stick with ‘luck.’) Again, this is a common definition and one which most people get behind.
The word luck is not found in Scripture; more than this, though, the concept of luck is rejected by the biblical witness. Throughout Scripture, it is clear that God is in control of all of His Creation and is somehow able to take the random acts of natural law, the free will of both good and evil humanity, and the wicked intent of demons, and combine them all to accomplish His good and perfect will. Genesis 50:20 states, "As for you, you meant evil against me, but if God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today." In the Book of Job, the ultimate witness is of God’s oversight and plan in all things. In the Gospel of John, Jesus explained that the blind man was not blinded because of his sin, but that his blindness (caused as result of original sin) is allowed by God in order to show forth God’s glory (9:3). St. Paul admonishes the Romans that “...we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (8:28).
So, it is with single words (and there are many more), but especially with concepts that we have a likeness. At times, as in the case of Doers/Extraverts, Hearers/Introverts, there is a very real synonymity (two things that are, at are some level, actually the same), but also the wonderful opportunity to lift the common definition expression/word to express the divine intention. Simply put, in all our conversations, and in our meditation and reflection, we should extoll the Christian definition above instead of the cultural one.
Meriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines ‘providence’ as “divine guidance or care.” A fuller definition is “…God’s caring provision for his people as he guides them in their journey of faith through life, accomplishing his purpose in them. God’s mission is to save people and shape them to be more like Jesus” (GCU College of Theology). The practice of replacing the words “coincidence” and “luck” in a conversation with the word “providence,” or introvert and extravert with hearer and doer, opens the opportunity for teaching and witness.
Using the word “providence” in our meditation and reflection opens our spirit to the presence and purpose of God in our lives. In all cases, deferring to the Christian word(s) brings glory to God and illumination to ourselves and others.
Through the providence of God,
Father Bill Burk†