The story’s told that once President Franklin D. Roosevelt was preparing a speech and he needed some economic statistics to back up a point he was trying to make. His advisers said it would take six months to get accurate figures.
“In that case, I’ll just use these rough estimates,” FDR said, and he wrote down some numbers in his text. “They’re reasonable figures and they support my point. “Besides,” he added as an afterthought, “it will keep my critics busy for at least six months just to prove me wrong.”
Now, I can’t prove the accuracy of this story, but it does provide a good illustration about accuracy.
In the recent mid-term election cycle, we’ve heard contradictory claims by opposing candidates. They both can’t be right. Yet, we’ve conditioned ourselves to accept that not everything a politician says is accurate.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary says “accurate” is derived from the Latin accūrātus meaning, “prepared with care, studied, meticulous.” It is from the past participle of accūrāre “to give attention to, do carefully.”
In many areas of life we demand accuracy. We insist the Pharmacist be meticulous in correctly filling our prescription. We expect the airline pilot to give attention to detail as he flies us safety to our destination. We want our food prepared with care when we dine out. Accuracy is expected in every profession from medical to legal and from accounting to carpentry. We agree with Arthur C. Nielsen who advised, “Watch every detail that affects the accuracy of your work.”
However, what about accuracy in our personal lives?
Do we demand accuracy of ourselves in our speech? Our jobs? Our business dealings? Our Bible teaching? Adherence to our professed moral values?
Nathaniel Hawthorne is credited with saying, “Accuracy is the twin brother of honesty; inaccuracy, of dishonesty.” Christians are called to a higher standard of honesty, integrity and accuracy than is often expected in secular society.
The Bible speaks to this issue in various ways.
“Give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all” (Rom. 12:17).
“Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices” (Col.3:9).
“A false balance is an abomination to the Lord, but a just weight is his delight” (Prov. 11:1).
“Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another” (Eph. 4:25).
“For we aim at what is honorable; not only in the Lord’s sight but also in the sight of man” (2 Cor. 8:21).
Religiously, there is a notion that accuracy is not needed or required. That as long as you’re honest and sincere, that’s good enough. Or as long as it feels good, that’s sufficient. Or as long as it makes your happy, that’s the most important component.
However, the Bible teaches that accuracy is vitally important in the area of our religious beliefs, practices and teaching. “The truth of the gospel” (Col. 1:5), should produce spiritual fruit in our lives as we carefully “walk in truth” (3 Jn. 3,4), and “speak the truth” (Eph. 4:15).
The book of Acts records how the apostles preached the gospel throughout the Roman Empire. They proclaimed Jesus as the only means of salvation. Condemned sin. And called people to leave their pagan religions and come to Christ. Guided by the Holy Spirit, their teaching was divinely accurate.
There’s an account of a man named Apollos who was an “eloquent man and mighty in the scriptures.” He spoke “with great fervor.” And he “taught about Jesus accurately.” However, there was one area in which his knowledge was deficient. Luke records that when a Christian couple, Priscilla and Aquila heard him “they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more accurately” (Ax. 18:17-28).
Subsequent accounts about Apollos indicate he was receptive to their instruction and correction. He continued to preach Christ with even greater accuracy. We should all follow this wonderful example of an attitude that seeks scriptural accuracy in proclaiming Christ.
Accuracy is often demonstrated by what we communicate, both verbal and written. So, Anna Brownell Jameson was right when she wrote, “Accuracy of language is one of the bulwarks of truth.”
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman