How Foolish?

In his Commentary on the Whole Bible, Matthew Henry popularized the aphorism, “None so blind as those that will not see.” No, this exact statement is not found in scriptures, but it certainly is consistent with Jesus’ explanation for why he used parables (Matthew 13:13).

The problem with blind spots is we often do not know we have them—we are blind to our blind spots. The sign at the top of this page well illustrates such dullness. But before we become too haughty toward the originators, many spiritual teachers need to ponder the issue of literacy.

Can the illiterate people in your community easily come to know God through your ministry? Has your ministry style been shaped more by the printing press than by the heard Word? Revelation 1:3 says,Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.”

A missionary friend in Equador recently shared, “Given that over half of the people we are ministering to here cannot read, I have noticed that their ‘groomed nature’ is not of being able to retain what they are learning by memorizing from not only themselves not reading, but when others are merely reading Scriptures, etc. However, when they hear a story, they remember it down to the tiniest detail. That speaks to my heart and shows me a fruitful way to minister to them by storytelling—reading some Scripture verses and incorporate a Biblical story that brings to life the concept or set of verses being taught. That’s one of the many wonderful things about Jesus! He doesn’t limit ways in which we can share Him!”

Make sure your teaching method does not require people to do what is actually impossible for them to accomplish. The Word was accessible to the illiterate long before the printing press was invented! Also, I encourage you to remember that three-fourths it was recorded in narrative format. God knows what He is doing! Let’s imitate Him!


  1. Excellent, John. Your comments ring true with circumstances I’m now facing more regularly. Working with the poor and marginalized (some that barely read or have poor reading skills) often challenges the teaching / learning style most of us take for granted. Adapting to audiences and individuals who struggle with literacy brings you back to earth (even when you didn’t know you’d left). The creativity required, can ironically promote a richer learning environment for all (i.e. proactive teaching and listening vs just reading through with everyone staring at the page).


    1. Mike, you are so correct! The more we work with lost people the more important it becomes to simplify our tactics and resources. We fail to recognize that our levels of complexity exclude people that God loves. When we present the gospel from an oral perspective, rather than a printed one, we also model a narrative hermeneutic that I believe is truer to the character of Scripture.


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