How Exaggeration Can Undermine Your Joy in the Gospel

Exaggeration dulls our sense of the spectacular. We are always inflating or deflating.

“My concern with exaggeration is not so much with sociological observations but with theological implications. Let’s be clear: when you think the Bible’s portrayal of sin is exaggerated then you will think its statements about grace are overstated. Let’s test it out with a passage in Genesis.”

 

Have you noticed how prevalent exaggeration is in our language? Exaggeration is everywhere from the 4-year-old who says he is “starving to death” 15 minutes after lunch to the fisherman who relays the size of his great catch. We love to round-up. We love the superlatives. As the Lego movie taught us (painfully) “everything is awesome.”

But if everything is awesome then nothing is.

This is where we see how unhelpful our exaggeration reflex truly is. First, exaggeration diminishes our perception of reality. And second, exaggeration dulls our sense of the spectacular. We are always inflating or deflating with our exaggeration.

My concern with exaggeration is not so much with sociological observations but with theological implications. Let’s be clear: when you think the Bible’s portrayal of sin is exaggerated then you will think its statements about grace are overstated.

Let’s test it out with a passage in Genesis.

On the first had we see what God says about humanity:

“The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” (Genesis 6:5)

At first blush you might want to qualify this, but this passage is not meant to be qualified. It is meant to be read and understood in a straightforward manner. This is a divine assessment upon humanity. And God says it is wicked. It is an indictment.

Notice how thorough Moses is in his statement. Sin is sourced in man (the thoughts of the heart), it is pervasive (every intention of the thoughts of the heart), and it is persistent (only evil continually). With our exaggeration reflex we may want to brush this off but we can’t. God is making a staggering statement about the radical rebellion of humanity. The creation that God formerly said was very, very good is now very, very bad.

Those prone to a culture of exaggeration might course correct this statement and relativize it. We are not that bad, we are just not as good as we should be. Here is the danger again, if you think the Bible is exaggerating in its statements about sin then you will not be very impressed with what it has to say about grace. In other words, you will be as impressed with grace as you are repulsed by sin.

In fact, look at verse 8 of the same chapter:

“But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.” (Genesis 6:8)

Favor is another word for grace. Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. Do you see how big this is? Because of the radical depravity of man all are cued up for destruction. The wages of sin is death (Rom. 6.23). God’s goodness demands a penalty. In fact, God says he is sorry he made man and that he is going to blot them out (Gen. 6.6-7). We were so messed up that God was basically wiping his hands and going to start over.

Only he doesn’t wipe everyone out.

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