Originally published in The Calhoun Times on September 19th, 2015.
There are some sayings and quotes that people think are in the Bible that are simply not scripture. “This too shall pass” comes to mind. Other sayings are quoted and attributed to the Bible that are either abbreviated or misquoted, such as “Pride goeth before the fall,” “Laughter is the best medicine,” and “Money is the root of all evil.” None of those statements appear exactly that way in the pages of scripture even if we remember them that way, just like Bogart never said “Play it again, Sam” in the film Casablanca. Some scriptures are taken so out of context that they don’t mean what people often think they mean. This is perhaps more dangerous; getting the words right but missing what the author was trying to say. One of my favorite verses of scripture has always been Romans 8:28, but you have to be careful when using it that people follow.
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28, ESV
First, notice who the promise is made to – those who love God and are called (or are the called in some translations) according to his purpose. It would be wrong to just say “All things work together for good” and leave it at that. The other danger is thinking that for the Christian believer everything that happens will be good. In this fallen and broken world, bad things do indeed happen to good people. On the other hand, Matthew 5:45 describes God’s common grace by saying “He makes the sun rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust.” Good things and bad things happen to good people and bad people. The promise of Romans 8:28 is that all things work together for good; it is God that works them together, for those that love and serve him. Which brings me to one of my most favorite analogies.
My mother makes the best homemade biscuits there ever has been or ever will be. This fact is not open for discussion. She learned from her mother so of course there is no measuring of ingredients or anything like that. I can’t give you the recipe just describe the process. She starts with a large plastic bowl that her self-rising flour is stored in. After the flour is sifted, she hollows out an open bowl shape in the center. She adds several cups of buttermilk (I’m guessing) and pours in some vegetable shortening that has been melting in the pan while the oven preheats. Who is to say how much flour, buttermilk and oil are used other than to say she mixes it until it’s right? She then pinches off a lump of dough a little larger than a golf ball, places it in the baking pan and lightly punches it flat with her fist. When the oven reaches 550 degrees, the pan goes in for about 10 minutes or so (much longer if you are really hungry). Three ingredients and a hot oven is all there is to it, and the process of baking bread has not changed much in 6,000 years.
Here’s the thing: I wouldn’t go into the kitchen looking for a midnight snack and shove a big handful of White Lily self-rising flour in my mouth. It would turn into a sticky, gooey mess and taste terrible. I certainly wouldn’t pick up a spoon and try to wash down the doughy paste with a big gulp of Crisco shortening. Maybe, just maybe, you happen to like buttermilk. I don’t. Drinking that would about as bad as the Crisco, in my humble opinion. And a few seconds in a 550 degree oven would be more than any of us could tolerate. The chemical reaction in baking bread produces two poisons, carbon dioxide and alcohol. The CO2 escapes the big fluffy holes it creates as the bread rises and the alcohol quickly evaporates in the hot oven. All of these things would be nasty or deadly if taken individually but are worked together to produce hot, fluffy, flakey buttermilk biscuits. Butter them up while they’re still piping hot and the butter soaks into the bread itself.
We don’t have to understand the physics or chemistry of baking bread to enjoy the finished product. So it is with Romans 8:28. God works all things together for good. All we need to do is trust and enjoy.