“What does the polar bears say to the wrestler?… Brrrrirring it on!” Like most kids, my grandson David delights in ditties. He really likes puns and jokes which have to do with words.
The other day, David was helping me with a task during which he told me a pun. I said to him, “David, I believe you’re going to be a wordsmith.” “Wordsmith?” He said, “I don’t know what a wordsmith is.” So I told him to go find out and report to me later. I was encouraging him to join an astute club which I joined many years ago (I believe it was the third grade – back in the Middle Ages.) This club known as the “Look It up Club” has an unofficial membership roll and is characterized by one important feature. We look up words that we do not know and try to learn from them.
Membership in the Look It up Club has several benefits. First and foremost, it promotes understanding. In order to better comprehend what someone is saying, it’s always helpful to know the meanings of the words employed. You may have heard the story of the preacher who was trying to talk his congregation into buying a new chandelier. Discussion went back and forth until finally someone stood up and said “Preacher we don’t need a new chandelier – what this church needs is more lights!”
(Second, looking up words improves one’s vocabulary. By checking the word out in a dictionary, one is able to observe the range of meaning of words and their nuances in various situations.
Third, looking up words reinforces proper spelling. Finding the word in question requires proper spelling; finding it then reinforces the proper spelling. Repetition is helpful when learning new things.
Fourth, looking up words will improve one’s research skills. When using hard copies one’s library skills are developed. While electronic or digital searches enhance computer skills.
Fifth, looking up unfamiliar words promotes good learning habits. Looking things up not only accentuates the values of benefits one – four above, but also encourages investigation of the additional unknown facts. For instance, when I become accustomed to looking up appropriate spellings and then come upon something such as an allusion or citation, I have an inclination to check its veracity (look it up!). Thus, footnotes and endnotes become important sources of information rather than irritations.
Finally, the habit of looking things up is crucial when the Bible, especially specific verses, is cited as the authority. It’s always helpful to check out a Bible reference when someone says something like: “the Bible says…” (When you hear this, think: “Where?”) If a specific reference is given, it is always good to check it out and ascertain what the Bible is actually saying.
This is important because as you may know, the Bible can be used to prove just about anything. For instance, the Bible clearly states that “There is no God.” (Psalm 14:1 and Psalm 53:1) when you look at the entire verse, you learn that both read: The fool says in his heart, “there is no God.” Obviously, words are twisted to being the opposite of their intended meaning. (There are several other passages which include these words but they are always qualified. “There is no God beside me.” “Apart from me there is no other God.” “There is no God like you.”)
This is the most important “Look It up Club” you can join. It is vital to regard the Bible as your highest standard. As a Christian and Presbyterian, I confess that the Bible is our only rule of faith and practice. By this I mean that I attempt to govern my life – what I believe as well as what I do – with the authority of Scripture. For this reason, it is important that I learn what the Bible actually says rather than what someone says the Bible says.
Good news – David joined the club! With his mother’s help, he searched the Internet and determined that a wordsmith is one who excels in using words; a skilled user of words.
Better news – We have a sure and dependable guide for life. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,” (2 Timothy 3:16, ESV)