Context, Context, Context

When I was taking a class on Biblical interpretation, my professor said, "The key to interpretation is 'context, context, context.' By that he meant we had to take into consideration the grammar, the literature, and the historical setting in order to discern the meaning of the passage. But I think his dictum also applies to life in general. We can only truly understand our life in context.


A great metaphor that sheds light on this can be seen in how words take their meaning from the sentence they are in. For example, the word 'cook' by itself could be a verb (to cook something) or a noun (he is a cook) or even symbolic (they cooked up a plan). Only when we see the word 'cook' in a sentence can we be sure of its meaning. Interestingly, the sentence only has meaning from the collection of words and the words get their final meaning from the sentence. It's all very interdependent. 

In the same way, we only know who we are in relation to other people. Our most important aspects of love, care, consideration, hope, and trust can only be seen in the nature of my relationships. I also see myself reflected in how others respond to me, so my impact on the planet depends on how I am perceived and known by others. Curt Thompson (Anatomy of the Soul) even argues that our sense of being is completely dependent upon the extent to which we are known.

Who I am depends on whose I am — That's Context.

Our sense of value and meaning is also dependent upon the context in which we place ourselves in terms of purpose and intent. If my whole life revolves around self-indulgence, that context has a lot to say about me. That is why Jesus called the rich man a fool in his parable about building bigger barns in order to retire early (he created a foolish context). On the other hand, if my life revolves around the exercise of power or climbing the corporate ladder, that context has a lot to say about who I am. And finally, if my life is dedicated to the Kingdom, to finding out what the Father is doing, to being involved what He is calling me to, and to being mentored by His Spirit, that context reflects who I am as well.

Who am I? Context — Context — Context.

David Takle

Author, speaker, apprentice.

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