Saturday, January 8, 2011

All Things to Enjoy

“God richly gives us all things to enjoy.” This quotation from I Tim. 6:17 applies to possession of knowledge as well as enjoyment of material things. The verse relates to a broad spectrum of human activity. It is possible to pinpoint everyday physical occurrences in the kitchen, garage, or yard, or on our neighborhood athletic field and explain those events from a scientific perspective. Our personal enjoyment is heightened when we understand why things work the way they do. Demonstrations, visual object lessons, and use of analogies are helpful in getting the point across. “Scientific” explanations of what occurs around us may increase our enjoyment of those activities. Perhaps we will receive “Ho-hums” from some individuals.

Recently a neighbor called to question a report she had just heard: January 4 was the date of Earth’s “perihelion” when we are closest to the sun in our elliptical orbit around the sun. On July 4, at “aphelion” we are farthest from the sun. Over coffee that morning, she and her husband wondered why January temperatures, therefore, are so cold in light of being closest to the sun.

I replied that in the arena of cause and effect, there is a much more important factor than the 3.4% closer wintertime distance. In winter, earth’s tilted axis causes the northern hemisphere to tilt away from the sun. The tilt is 23½ degrees. Six months later, in summer, the same tilt causes northern hemisphere residents to be facing the sun. The result is that wintertime sun rays are slanted and must spread over a much larger area. Why are slanted rays cooler? My neighbor remembered that a flashlight shining perpendicular to a surface forms a small spot of light, while slanted rays create a large spot of light. The same amount of energy is shared over a larger area. When Grandma brings ten candy bars to a family of two children, each child receives more than when Grandma brings ten candy bars to a family of five children. With the sun/earth system, the slant factor is by far more important than the distance factor in determining winter temperature.

After exchanging a few laughs, I commended my neighbor for her interest in an issue many people might not even care to discuss. The inquiry process proved enjoyable as did the social interaction. God enables man to inquire and to discover. This is a gift from Him. He intends that the knowledge we gain should enrich us. Ultimately we may give God the glory for a universe operating according to orderly rules.

Matthew Henry wrote a lengthy commentary on the Bible 300 years ago. It is still in use by many students of the Bible. He offered commentary on virtually every passage of scripture verse by verse. Several times he paraphrased the truth of I Tim. 6:17. In one instance he stated, in the flowery, poetic language of that day, “He (God) gives us all things to enjoy, not only for necessity, but plenty, dainties, and varieties, for ornament and delight. How much are we indebted!” Surely, after reading Henry’s detailed commentary, we conclude that for him, the spirit of inquiry was equally as important as seeking after material satisfaction.