This past week, my small group spent most of the time discussing Philippians 1:6. I came away thinking that the basic idea of the verse is that, no matter what may be happening, God is not finished with you yet. The verse, a much over-quoted one, says it this way:
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. (ESV)
We got to talking about some Scriptural analogies for this, things like Job and some personal life experiences and I got to thinking about a little story about a man named Tobit. This story is about a faithful Jewish man, named Tobit, who is always careful to observe the Law in every matter. One day, someone dies and he becomes so distressed that he runs immediately to bury the body, which, of course, makes him ritually unclean.
He is outside the city, and he sits down by a wall for a rest. Unbeknownst to him, some birds are hanging out on the same wall, directly above him, and, as he sleeps, in typical bird fashion, they poop all over his eyes. When Tobit wakes up, his eyes are covered in a white film and he is unable to see anything. After a journey and a wedding and some conversations with an angel named Raphael, Tobit’s sight is restored and everyone lives happily ever after.
In retrospect, this story has much to say to the Christian. There are a lot of times in our lives when there is just so much poop clouding our vision that we simply can’t see what God is doing. And it is very encouraging to know that “he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” You may not be able to see through all the crap, but God is working and He will finish what He has set out to do in your life.
Protestant Christianity is left without this analogy, though. Our Bibles do not include the story of Tobit. As a result, we are left trying to figure out those times of blindness on our own. The Bible simply does not speak to those times in our lives. Yeah, we have Paul, but most of us were not Christian-killers who ran into a glowing Jesus while out on orders. And we’ve all had moments when we should have listened to those asses in our lives who were trying to give us good advice. And the Protestant Bible speaks to those situations, but when the crap of life clouds our vision…well…the Bible is silent.
There is a lot of wisdom and a lot we can learn from those books known as the Apocrypha. It’s one of those things that I think the Catholics have that we Protestants lack. In sticking with the tradition of Martin Luther and the particular Jewish Scriptural canon he decided was the right one, we are left lacking in some ways. I think it is time that we sort of reclaim the apocrypha as Protestants and stop being afraid to use it. Our fellow Jesus followers may find strength and encouragement there that they never had before, and it may be a way to combat that growing number of people leaving the faith because they feel it is irrelevant and doesn’t speak to their life in any meaningful manner.
Let’s start by reclaiming the story of Tobit.