Rhetorical Devices, Jesus and Serving Two Masters

I am a moron. I know this because 1) I’ve lived with me a long time and 2) lots of people have told me. I have come to grips with this reality, maybe even reveled in it from time to time. I am a fully functional moron.

One of the times I was informed of my moronicness is when I published my book The Gospel-Filled Wallet. I was accused of not understanding that Jesus uses rhetorical devices.

My opening chapter is about me loving my stuff and thus concluding that I hated God. I based this on the verse saying–no man can serve God and mammon (wealth, riches, stuff) because he will hate the one and love the other.

It’s a little known fact that the original title for the whole book was going to be “I Think I Hate God.” I can only imagine what a moron I would be today if I had gone with that title.

I was accused of not understanding Jesus’ affinity for rhetorical devices. A “rhetorical device” is defined by dictionaries as “a use of language that creates a literary effect (but often without regard for literal significance).”

A “rhetorical device” is defined by Christians as, “stuff Jesus says I don’t have to deal with cuz I know He didn’t really mean it, duh, it’s a rhetorical device.”

A rhetorical device is a way of making a point. The point is true and to stress its truthiness, extreme language is used. No one use exaggeration in making a point to deny the point being made.

The Chicago Cubs are the stupidest organization in the world. That’s a rhetorical device using hyperbole. Obviously the Nazi Party is slightly more stupid. Ah, I did it again!

Now, although my actual statement may be overstated, my point is clear–I think the Cubs are stupid.

When Jesus says you can’t love both God and mammon, which then means if I love my wealth I hate God, I think He actually meant something by that. I think it means if I love what my wealth does for me then I do hate God.

To me, that’s His point and I think it would help us to think in these terms. If I were given the choice between God or my wealth I’d go with God. But life is not made up of stark choices that often.

Life and your wealth have a way of weeding their way in, slightly distracting you. Even while you tell yourself, “Oh, I’d choose God over my stuff,” the stuff sure seems to take up a lot of your time.

Jesus is using a rhetorical device, it is true. There is a hyperbolic contrast going on in serving two masters. But His point is very true. One of the points of being born again, being made a spiritual creation, is to disinterest you in the things of this world.

If Jesus took time, and a lot of time at that, to warn us about money and how it destroys faith, I think we ought to listen up.

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2 thoughts on “Rhetorical Devices, Jesus and Serving Two Masters”

  1. I disagree with anyone who thinks you misunderstand what Jesus says. You understand very clearly what He is saying, and that is part of why you are such a good Bible teacher. Don’t be bummed if you are misunderstood as you are in good company. :)

  2. Ah!
    The old “rhetorical device” defence. An effective tool for the temporary relief of a conscience troubled by Jesus’ words.

    But there are side effects: the potential searing of the conscience if this tool is overused.

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