Several years ago I had the privilege of going to Athens, Greece, and saw the site where Paul met with the Areopagus to proclaim the message of Jesus. Pastor Rob referred to the site as Mars Hill (Acts 17:22), and today it’s one of the major attractions near the Acropolis. But the phrase that caught my attention on Sunday was the one used by the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers to describe Paul. They called him “this babbler.”
It turns out that this term, babbler, had a distinct meaning in the culture of the day. The word in Greek meant “seed picker,” a bird picking up seeds here and there. My NIV study notes say that later it came to refer to “a loafer in the marketplace who picked up whatever scraps of learning he could find and paraded them without digesting them himself.” In Paul’s case, they couldn’t be more wrong to call him a babbler, could they?
Obviously, the Greeks meant it as an insult. But I like the idea of Paul as a “seed picker.” I can’t help but think how apt the description is when you think of other references Jesus made about seeds. There’s the tiny mustard seed (Matt. 13:32), for instance. Then in Luke 8:11 (The Parable of the Sower), he told his disciples that “the seed is the word of God,” and the farmer goes out to scatter it. Birds play a huge part in getting the seed disseminated, hmmm! Do you see where I’m going with this?? On the road to Damascus, the seed became the Living Word for Paul, and he wanted nothing more than to pick it up – every bit of everything Jesus had to offer!
What expressions have you heard today to describe us Christians? What about the references used by those close to you? Do they call you names when you start to share your story of accepting Christ? Paul had three responses to his message, so I don’t think we should be discouraged when we get a similar outcome, you know? Some will sneer and turn away, no doubt, rejecting even our personal testimony. But there might just be those who want to hear more, and when they do, go for it, my friends! Just don’t forget to do it with gentleness and respect, okay?