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Where’s the Punctuation?

F.W. Emmons wrote the following article in 1873. Note that each paragraph is exactly the same, word for word. Only the punctuation is changed.

The Good Man: “He is an old and experienced man. In vice and wickedness, he is never found. Opposing the work of iniquity, he takes delight. In the downfall of his neighbor, he never rejoices. In the prosperity of any of his fellow creatures he is ready to assist. In destroying the peace of society, he takes no pleasure. In serving the Lord he is uncommonly diligent. In sowing discord among his friends and acquaintances he takes no pride. In laboring to promote the cause of Christianity he has not been negligent. In endeavoring to stigmatize all public teachers he makes no exertions. To subdue his passions, he strives hard. To build up Satan’s kingdom he lends no aid. To support the gospel among the heathen he contributes largely. To the evil adversary he pays no attention. To good advice he gives great heed. To the devil he will never go. To heaven he must go where he’ll receive the just recompense of his reward.”

The Bad Man: “He is an old and experienced man in vice and wickedness. He is never found opposing the work of iniquity. He takes delight in the downfall of his neighbor. He never rejoices in the prosperity of any of his fellow creatures. He is ready to assist in destroying the peace of society. He takes no pleasure in serving the Lord. He is uncommonly diligent in sowing discord among his friends and acquaintances. He takes no pride in laboring to promote the cause of Christianity. He has not been negligent in endeavoring to stigmatize all public teachers. He makes no exertions to subdue his passions. He strives hard to build up Satan’s kingdom. He lends no aid to support the gospel among the heathen. He contributes largely to the evil adversary. He pays no attention to good advice. He gives great heed to the devil. He will never go to heaven. He must go where he’ll receive the just recompense of his reward.”

It is amazing how so much can change depending on the location of the punctuation in a sentence. This lends itself to the very thought that choices matter, as we get to decide as to where we will put the punctuation in our own lives.

We must not become lackadaisical, for the location of the punctuation, our choices truly do matter. There are numerous passages that tell us to “beware!” Such as in Hebrews 3:12,13: “Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.” Passages that tell us as to how we should walk. Such as in Ephesians 5:15: “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise.” There are many recorded for us in the scriptures who would start out good and then over time would begin to move the punctuation, choosing evil over good, wrong over right, error over truth. Such would bring destruction.

We must always keep in mind that what we have today is of great value and that our spiritual well-being, yea, our eternity depends on where we put the punctuation in our lives. It is imperative that we heed the many exhortations given in scriptures to be careful in the choices that we make each and every day, cautious of our steps (cf. Eph. 5:15), thoughtful about our path as to where we are putting the punctuation as each chapter of our lives are being written. Think about that which God gave us to light our path, that which guides our steps, gives direction and instruction on how to walk, instructing us as to where to put the punctuation in our lives: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path”Psalm 119:105. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” – 2 Tim. 3:16,17. Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” – 2 Tim. 2:15.

Friends, it is imperative that we hold to His word and walk in the light with each sentence of our lives that we write. Jesus is the greatest example of all of one who knew and demonstrated the importance of where to place the punctuation in one’s life. Even at an early age (12 years old) could be found about His father’s business (cf. Luke 2:49). He worshiped, He prayed, He was tempted in all points as we are, yet without sin. Hebrews 5:8,9 says that “though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him.”  May we strive to have the mind of Christ (cf. Phil. 2:5).

As one has rightly noted, “much of life depends on where we put the emphasis, or punctuation.” Let’s examine our lives to see where we are putting the punctuation (cf. 2 Cor. 13:5). You can change the punctuation at any time. Let me know if I can help. 🙂

For “He who would love life and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips from speaking deceit. Let him turn away from evil and do good; Let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayers; But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” – 1 Peter 3:10-12

Something to think about. Have a great week! – DJ 🙂

About Author

DJ Dickerson

Evangelist | La Porte Church of Christ

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