I'm not a scholar. I'm not a linguist or student of words by any stretch of the imagination, let alone words that are foreign to me. Yet, I could weep and I probably will weep later over what I am discovering. I can only pray that someone much smarter than me, someone who has dedicated their life to studying ancient words can find a way to make sense of it all for me.
The word Should has been bugging me.
When I looked it up in the NIV Exhaustive Concordance, hoping to hear from the horse's mouth just what exactly should means or doesn't mean, I could have fallen on the floor in shock. I almost did. I could hardly believe what my eyes were seeing. Surely I must be seeing this incorrectly. Surely those more knowledgeable than me, those with degrees saying they are anyway, those who have dedicated their lives to translation of the Holy Scriptures from ancient languages into my language, surely they can explain to me what my eyes were seeing and my brain was trying to compute.
Surely, someone SHOULD be able to tell me.
Next to each word in the NIV Exhaustive concordance is a number. This number signifies the number of times a particular English word is used in this particular translation. (NIV for me). Underneath the word is a list of each verse (in partial form) where the word is used. The first letter of the particular word is in italics. To the right of the partial verse is the number which correlates with either the original Greek or Hebrew word.
(The right hand column is usually my playground. This is where I take my shoes off, dig my toes in the sand, and start digging. I love this column. This blog is kept alive through this column).
But, I digress.
Back to S H O U L D.
Next to should is the number 371. Three hundred seventy one times the English word should is translated from either Hebrew or Greek...or at least that's what I thought.
Further digging shows that only five individual Hebrew words are translated should and five Greek words are translated should. Yes, I went line by line to make sure. Out of 371 English shoulds in the Old and New Testaments, only 19, that's right, 19 times, that's 19 verses, is one of those ten Hebrew or Greek words used.
All the other times, for all the other verses in the right hand column, my playground column, it either says AIT (assists in translation) or NIH (not in Hebrew) or NIG (not in Greek).
Approximately 365 times, plus or minus, there is no Hebrew or Greek word used to translate the English word should.
What's the big deal, Ronda?
Never used to be a big deal to me, until I started thinking about the four letter word SHOULD. (By four letter, I mean four letter curse words, figuratively, not literally).
We've lived our lives doing the shoulds and avoiding the should nots. We've been proud when we do what should be done, ashamed when we do what shouldn't be done and sometimes we are really good at telling others what should or shouldn't be done.
Remember how I encouraged you to be listening for the word should? I listened to my own words and I took a look for myself in the Bible to find the word should there. You should too, but you don't have to. Grace doesn't use should. Grace doesn't shame us for what we should do but don't. Grace doesn't point fingers at what we shouldn't do but what we do instead.
Should assists in translation alright and, I'll admit, sometimes adequately, but it's not a word that the language of Grace regularly speaks.
Remember the 10 commands God gave Moses? The translators cozied up the English word should to each one that makes them even more demanding. Instead of just reading it like the Hebrew states, "Don't kill," for example, for some reason the translators thought the original languages need some assistance in getting the point across. That may be when should was born.
I don't think God is a should God. At least not since He sent his only Son Jesus to be the atoning sacrifice for our shoulds and should nots. I'm thinking should is no longer part of his vocabulary now that the shoulds and should nots were fulfilled by He who had no sin. I like to think his favorite word may be Grace.
Should lies about grace sometimes. Or at the least, should let's grace into the party of freedom but it isn't long before it's offering a cocktail. "You should be careful who you give grace to. It may make Jesus look bad."
Should makes grace look weak. Should can shake a finger and say, "If you only knew how bad so and so is you wouldn't give so and so another chance."
Should oftentimes makes grace small and even unnecessary. "You shouldn't forgive, but if you have to, only forgive a little, when you need to. You'll be fine and so will they."
Should blinds hurting hearts from seeing grace. "You should know better then to expect grace to cover all the shame and guilt. Your sin is forgiven, but surely you should suffer the pain of sins' consequences."
Should puts expectations on someone or something that grace never demands. Should often demands what should or shouldn't be done. Grace doesn't do any of that. Grace frees. Grace makes the weak strong, grace heals the hurting heart. Grace opens the shutters and lets the Son shine in. Grace does not demand. Should lets pain in. Grace leads the heart out of pain.
When we "should" something, we in effect judge ourselves and others by what we/they do or don't do.
So, I know you're curious. What should we do? What does the Word of God say in regards to the shoulds we carry out and practice?
I'm so glad you asked!
These are the things Jesus says are "necessary, ought to" do.
1. Practice justice, mercy, faithfulness and the love of God... and..... don't neglect giving.
(Matthew 23:23 and Luke 11:42).
2. Invest money. (Matthew 25:27)
3. Count on the Holy Spirit to give you the words you need to say. (Luke 12:12)
4. Set free those in bondage no matter the day. (Luke 13:16).
5. Always pray and don't give up. (Luke 18:1).
Then he said, as a way of owing or showing debt or being bound to others,
Wash each other's feet. (John 13:14).
The Apostle Paul (a guy who lived keeping the Jewish should list before Jesus knocked him to his feet) had a small list of things necessary to do also.
1. Take his advice. (Acts 27:21)
2. Declare the gospel fearlessly. (Ephesians 6:20)
3. Proclaim the mystery of Christ clearly. (Colossians 4:4)
4. Make sure the worker gets the first fruits of his labor. (2 Timothy 2:6)
Paul also found it important to remind us that the only thing we should feel obligated not to do because we're God's kids, is to think God is like the images man designs or makes him to be using gold or silver or stone. We should not be obligated to see our heavenly father as man pictures him. We should see him as he has revealed himself, not as man has tried to illustrate him. (This should not is a word that means to be in debt; be bound by oath; be obligated and is used by Paul in Acts 17:29. It is NIV Exhaustive Concordance number 4053).
So, there you have it. The Should list.
Along with the two most important commands Jesus said to keep, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and love your neighbor as yourself," there's not much else to add.
Those are your shoulds.
The interesting thing about all the other shoulds in the concordance, those AIT and NIH or NIG, most of them could simply be stated without the word should. Often the word LET was used instead. (I'll leave that digging up to you. I hope you get a shovel. You'll be greatly blessed.)
Grace and should don't mix. Ever. If you are living on shoulds that don't fall under the lists of Jesus or Paul, then maybe it's time to evaluate what exactly you believe grace to be.
Are you still obeying laws because you should and not breaking laws because you shouldn't or has grace truly freed you to do the things Jesus said are necessary to do and avoid those things he encouraged us to stay away from doing? Do you find freedom in Christ clouded by burdensome traditions and rituals that leave you empty and in bondage? I have yet to find in Jesus' words any indication of rules and regulations for reading the bible, practicing church, worshiping, songs that should or shouldn't be sung, instruments that should or shouldn't be used, how much to tithe, or give to the poor either.
Not one time.
(If none of this describes you, and your faith is strengthened by any or all of these things, then this is not for you. If they work for you, praise the Lord!)
But if some of this is striking a nerve......
I hope you know deep in your soul it's not a matter of what we should do or shouldn't do. If grace is "shoulding" you, it isn't grace. I hope you find that it is only a matter of what God lets us do, what God longs for us to do without fear of punishment or judgmental peer pressure. If your should list doesn't look like Jesus' or Paul's, maybe it's time to look closely at your should list and begin to write a new list.
You don't need permission to do the right thing. Just do the right thing. I'm not telling you you should do the right thing. I'm telling you:
Do the right thing. The things on Jesus' list. The things Jesus put on Paul's list to do. Everything else is just bondage, disguised as grace.
Should needs to find a new place to communicate. I don't think it's a vocabulary word necessary for the follower of Christ to use. Try grace on your tongue. Try the word freedom. See how awesome it feels to hear the word let roll out of your mouth.
Let me love the Lord my God with all my heart soul mind and strength.
Let me love my neighbor as myself.
Don't should me to do either.
Just let me.
For further understanding (I hope this helps anyway):
Here is an example of the transliteration of Genesis 41:35
The NIV reads: They should collect all the food of these good years that are coming and store up the grain under the authority of Pharaoh, to be kept in the cities for food.
The transliteration reads this way: And let them gather all the food years good that come of those and lay up grain under the hand of Pharaoh food in the cities and let them keep."
What would life be like if we were "let" to do something, rather than "should" do something. There are a little bit more sounds of freedom coming from "let" wouldn't you agree?
For further investigative digging:
Must is a word also used to translate from the Greek. NIV Exhaustive Concordance number 1256 is the word used above for the words of Jesus and Paul. The following verses use the word must, also translated from 1256.
Matthew 16:21; 17:10; 24:6; 26:54
Mark 8:31; 9:11; 13:7,10
Luke 4:43; 9:22; 13:33; 17:25; 19:5; 21:9; 22:37; 24:7,44
John 3:7, 14, 30; 4:20, 24; 9:4; 10:16; 12:34
Acts 3:21; 4:12; 5:29; 9:6,16; 14:22; 15:5; 16:30; 19:21; 20:35; 23:11: 27: 24, 26
1 Corinthians 15:25, 53
2 Corinthians 5:10; 11:30; 12:1
1 Timothy 3:2,7
2 Timothy 2:24 (must not quarrel only; the other must is AIT)
Hebrews 2:1; 11:6
The 371 "shoulds" of the NIV translation.