Should This Verse Be In The Bible?
I had one of those “Well, duh,” moments this morning when I was reading my Bible. It came from 1 Samuel 12:21, where the prophet Samuel is issuing a warning to the people in a kind of farewell address. He says, “And do not turn aside after empty things that cannot profit or deliver, for they are empty.” I was tempted to skip over that verse and not spend anytime meditating on it because its meaning wasn’t difficult to understand—empty things are, well . . . empty.
However, the verse’s obvious logic gave me pause. Other translations—I was reading from the ESV—rendered “empty” as “useless” or “vain.” So, here’s my own paraphrase of the verse: “Don’t spend your time, emotions, and energy running after or thinking about useless things. Useless things—anything or anyone who promises to deliver you or to bring you profit—are useless.”
Even with my expansion of the warning, the verse’s original reasoning doesn’t change. The message is clear. The simplest reading makes perfect sense. It’s common sense. So why does it need to be in the Bible in the first place? Why is it part of Holy Scripture? Why is it taking up valuable space?
These words are here because, despite our knowing the truth, we DO run after empty things. As fallen creatures, we are running after, looking for, and taking in empty stuff all day long, just hoping it will bring us prosperity, just hoping it will deliver us. We need to be reminded NOT to do this.
Three verses later, Samuel tells the people—and us—what we should be doing instead, “Only fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart.” 1 Samuel 12:24.