A Matter of Interpretation?

By Robert Wane La Coste

Quite often when making an effort to present a truth from the scriptures, one will retaliate, “That’s just your interpretation of it.” I believe that this statement expresses the excuse given most often as to the why of religious differences today. The idea is: “everyone has a right to see things their own way, and because we all see differently, we could never have unity on what the Bible teaches.”

My friends, this is a grave error. Suppose everyone had a right to “see” the traffic light any way they wanted to-just make your own interpretation of what it meant. I believe I would become a pedestrian and fast (and make it a point not to go near a traffic light)! But the fact is, the Bible teaches truth. In most cases it is as clear as a red or green traffic light. We could all see it, if we really wanted to, but the fact is that many people want to be “religious” and still believe what they want to believe. So they “interpret” the Bible the way they want to “see it.”

As an example of this, get the following “interpretation” herein of an individual who read what Jesus said on the talents. This individual was a Mormon who years ago believed it scriptural to have many wives. “It is this way,” says the man. “Jesus in his parable of the talents calls his servants and gives unto them different talents. One he gave five, to another he gave two, and to another he gave one. Now these talents may well represent wives. When the Lord returned he found that the servant to whom he had given five wives had increased by rearing many children. The second servant had also as many children, but the man with the one wife had been unfortunate. The Lord took the one wife from him and gave her to the one who had five and said unto him, ‘Well done thou good and faithful servant; take thou this other man’s wife. Thou hast been diligent with a few wives, I shall make thee Lord over many.’ But the one who had a wife and did not increase his family shall never be permitted to enter into the joy of the Lord” (Letters of a Mormon to his son, pp. 23-24).

Now who will believe this man’s interpretation? Can I interpret the parable of the talents like the above and still please God? To be consistent with their ideology that we all “have a right to our interpretation,” some would have to allow this man and others to commit fornication! Who can believe it? Surely God has said something in this parable, but we are not ready to give in to this foolishness whatsoever!

The fact of the matter is, this parable is self-explanatory. Many young children know the truthfulness and the simplicity of this teaching by the Savior. Those who advocate “a right to your own interpretation” really just want a license to pervert scripture and they would do well to admit it. We should learn to take Jesus’ word as is, minus any private interpretation. The Apostle Peter wrote concerning this same scripture, “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Pet. 1:20-21). Peter tells us plainly that when this sacred word was given it was not written by these men with their fancies, personal desires or interpretations. They wrote exactly what God wanted them to write. What makes men so naive today as to believe that they can freely do that which holy men of God were forbidden to do? No man has the right to be wrong with the Word of God. Peter also wrote, ‘7f any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God” (1 Pet. 4:11). In taking the truth as is, one may “know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32).

Truth Magazine XXII: 13, pp. 220-221
March 30, 1978