John at “Jesus the Radical Pastor” shares a post called “The Meaning of ‘Stop’” which was originally written by Tim Perry from Durham University. He uses caricatures of modern hermeneutical methods to examine the meaning of the word “STOP” on a stop sign. Here are some of my favorites (although there are many hilarious examples):
5. A fundamentalist, taking the text very literally, stops at the stop sign and waits for it to tell him to go.
6. A seminary-educated evangelical preacher might look up “STOP” in his lexicons of English and discover that it can mean: 1) something which prevents motion, such as a plug for a drain, or a block of wood that prevents a door from closing; 2) location where a train or bus lets off passengers. The main point of his sermon the following Sunday on this text is: when you see a stop sign, it is a place where traffic is naturally clogged, so it is a good place to let off passengers from your car.
10. A NT scholar notices that there is no stop sign on Mark street but there is one on Matthew and Luke streets, and concludes that the ones on Luke and Matthew streets are both copied from a sign on a street no one has ever seen called “Q” Street. There is an excellent 300 page doctoral dissertation on the origin of these stop signs and the differences between stop signs on Matthew and Luke street in the scholar’s commentary on the passage. There is an unfortunate omission in the dissertation, however; it doesn’t explain the meaning of the text!
Yes, these are funny and very close to reality. But, I wonder: how many people who study the stop sign would actually stop?
I enjoy a good scholarly study of a biblical passage. But, if you want to teach, start by living out what you are teaching. You can study and outline and explain and exhort, but if your life does not match what you say, then you are not teaching (in the NT pattern of teaching). Consider this passage from Jesus:
The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so practice and observe whatever they tell you- but not what they do. For they preach, but do not practice. (Matthew 23:2-3 ESV)
And this passage from Jesus:
Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me. (John 14:23-24 ESV)
And this passage from Paul:
What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me- practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:9 ESV)
And this passage from James:
Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. (James 3:13 ESV)
So, study the stop sign. Examine the stop sign. Analyze the stop sign. Read what others say about the stop sign. Discuss the stop sign. But, most of all, STOP!