Daily Archives: January 20, 2010

The Trouble With Inquisitions

One of many blights on the face of the Christian church is the Spanish Inquisition. If you’re like me, I cringe whenever the term is uttered. Enforced between 1478 and 1833, the purpose was to expose crypto-Jews (practicing Jews who acted like Christians) and force them to convert. If they confessed and did their penance, their lives would be saved. If they relapsed, they were burned at the stake.

Estimates of the number of Jews murdered during that period extend as high as 32,000.

While a variety of factors contributed to this atrocity, the desire to bring purity to the church was close to the core.

But the trouble with inquisitions is that all of us are guilty—as you’ll see in the Monty Python video at the beginning of this post.

In today’s reading, we’ll explore this in greater detail.


Genesis 41:17-42:17
Matthew 13:24-46
Psalm 18:1-15
Proverbs 4:1-6

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Genesis 41:17-24. Remember that Joseph had two dreams—just like Pharaoh. Duplicate dreams were an indication that they would be quickly fulfilled (see verse 32).

Genesis 41:40. When Pharaoh named Joseph second in command in Egypt, he also was given authority over Potiphar, his former master.

Genesis 41:45. The Bible Background Commentary explains, “The marriage arranged for Joseph allied him with one of the most powerful priestly families in Egypt.”

Genesis 42:9. This is an easily overlooked verse: “Then he remembered his dreams…” In his dreams as a child, eleven brothers and his parents bowed down to him. But his brother and father were missing. This discrepancy between the prediction and the reality—and probably his intense curiosity—caused Joseph to question his brothers.

Matthew 13:25. The weeds in this passage were probably darnel (usually translated “tares”). They were poisonous and in the early stages resembled wheat.

Matthew 13:31-32. The mustard plant can grow as high as 15 feet.

Psalm 18:2. When psalms use the word “horn,” it usually means “strength.” Think of a bull with horns versus a bull without horns. Horns are a distinct advantage.

Proverbs 4:1-6. The first part of Proverbs doesn’t actually offer any proverbs. It stresses the importance of searching for wisdom. Wisdom isn’t valued in our culture. Material success is, but wisdom? Not so much.


For most of my life, I’ve been moderately fixated on who was in and who was out. Who was right and who was wrong. Who was a Republican or Democrat, Catholic or Protestant, even the specific flavor of Protestant.

Partly, I was looking for a label to place on the people around me. But also, I wanted to hang out with people just like me. People who wouldn’t steer me in the wrong direction.

In Jesus’ parable about the weed sown among good seed (Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43), two insights stand out:

  1. Jesus determines who’s in and who’s out. I cannot know the state of a person’s heart. Only Jesus can see through someone’s actions to who they really are. Granted, our actions say a great deal about the state of our hearts, but they only go so far.
  2. Completely purifying ourselves is impossible. The weeds were intermingled with the good seed (probably wheat). This prompted Craig Blomberg to comment on this passage:

Jesus’ principle here applies in every age to the question of why God allows evil and suffering in the world. His creation can be purged of all evil only through the judgment and re-creation of the universe at the end of the age because evil resides in every person. God’s delay in bringing the end of the world is thus entirely gracious, giving people more opportunity to repent (2 Pet 3:9).

Obviously, this doesn’t mean I need to give up my pursuit of purity. But it does mean I need to stop drawing lines in the sand—and placing me on the good side. I can treat people with whom I disagree with humility, respect, and love…because I’m a work in progress just like them.


  1. What spoke to your heart in today’s reading?
  2. Describe a time when you—like Joseph—were placed in a position where you could take vengeance on someone who wronged you. How did you respond? Why did you respond in that way?
  3. What distracts you from searching for wisdom?
  4. What does purity look like for you?


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