Published June 30, 2015
"Words no longer have meaning."
Those words were used by U. S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in his scathing dissent from last week's Court ruling upholding "the intent" of the so-called Affordable Care Act.
He was incensed that the Court had decided the term "established by the states" found in the law didn't really mean "established by the states." Huh?
While we're at it, remember these famous words from the fight to get the Unaffordable Care Act passed in the first place: "If you like your doctor you can keep your doctor." Those words turned out to be meaningless. (The less generous among us might brand it an outright lie.) And that from the man who, ironically, two years ago said in a significant speech in Wisconsin, "Don't tell me words don't matter."
It reminds me of the words of a former President who, when faced with accusations of moral failure, insisted that "it depends on what the meaning of 'is' is."
So, "words no longer have meaning?" Increasingly, that's describing a fundamental problem of society today its frame of mind, its relationships, its morals (or lack thereof).
Here are some other rather famous words* that seemingly, according to today's society, no longer have meaning:
- "I am the Lord your God...You shall have no other gods before Me." Except, of course, for all those other things that take priority.
- "You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain..." Walk down any city street or watch any modern secular movie or even TV show and hear those words ignored.
- "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy." It's now just like any other day.
- "Honor your father and your mother." "Male and female He created them" (Gen. 1:27b), regardless of what the Supreme Court says.
- "You shall not murder." Unless, of course, it's someone totally defenseless in the womb.
- "You shall not commit adultery." Does society even remember the meaning of the word? Do the words "I do" no longer have meaning?
- "You shall not steal." The tax man can't figure that one out.
- "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor." Have you read today's newspaper?
- "You shall not covet ... anything that is your neighbor's." (Many wars, international and domestic, military and legal, have been fought because this was forgotten or ignored.)
Everything, we are told by society, is relative. It's the constant media drumbeat. Today, situational ethics trump the actual clear wording of the law, even God's law. There is no "right" or "wrong," only what feels good. But God says, "The way of a fool is right in his own eyes..." (Proverbs 12:15). But that's alright in the fool's eyes, because, after all, "the fool has said in his heart, There is no God.'" (Psalm 14:1). So, why should he worry? He's accountable to no one.
Obfuscation of the meaning of words is Satan's oldest trick. In the Garden of Eden, he sssslithered up to Eve and said, "Has God indeed said, You shall not eat of every tree of the garden?" (Gen. 3:1). And thus the devil's cunning trick to negate the meaning of God's words caused sin to come into the world and it's still one of his favorite tricks. One who doesn't use words to convey truth has no compunction against using lying, deceptive words. And Satan "is a liar and the father" of lies (John 8:44).
God obviously thinks highly of words and their meaning. Consider... He uses words to communicate His truth to us through Holy Scripture. He used words to speak Creation into existence (Genesis 1:2, ff.) God even refers to His Son, Jesus, as "the Word" (see John 1). Clearly, words have meaning. And, like God Himself, His word never changes and endures forever (Psalm 112:9). "Forever, O Lord, Your word is settled in heaven" (Psalm 119:89). And, "...the word of our God stands forever" (Isaiah 40:8). So, as Peter affirmed, "...the word of the Lord endures forever" (1 Peter 1:25).
It's comforting to know that some things never change. And even the Supreme Court can't reinterpret the Supreme Being's clear words.
* from Exodus 20
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