Wednesday, 14 May 2008


Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few.
Ecclesiastes 5:2

To say something with only a few words is a very rare ability. To write something in only a few words is less rare thanks to the luxury of re-writing and refining the vocabularly used. This is why the best speakers are often also really good writers (because they've laboured hard as wordsmiths to make their writing concise and persuasive).

Before Ernest Hemingway's tragic end, he had attained literary-legend status within his own lifetime. He received the Pulitzer Prize in 1953 for The Old Man and the Sea, and the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954. He was renowned for being a concise writer. Like G.K. Chesterton before him, he could say a lot with just a few words. This ability was challenged when he was asked if he could write an entire story in just six words!

He did.

When I heard of Hemingway's 6-word story I was struck by its immense simplicity and power. It then got me thinking about Jesus of Nazareth and how little he spoke, and how scant our record of what He spoke actually is. But consider the impact of what we do have. His statements fill our language and most non-Christians probably wouldn't even realise it! "Go the extra mile...Turn the other cheek...Ask and you shall receive..." Jesus spoke with more profound simplicity than even the great Ernest Hemingway.

And the disciples were amazed at his words.
Mark 10:24a

After I heard Hemingway's 6-word story I couldn't shake it from my head for the rest of the day. I pondered it. I admired it. I felt it.

Contrary to Eastern Meditation, where the practitioner is required to empty their mind, Biblical meditation is filling the mind. I had been meditating on Hemingway's 6-word story. The Bible instructs us to meditate on its contents. That is, we should ponder a Bible verse. Memorise a Bible verse. Dwell on a Bible verse. Admire a Bible verse. And feel a Bible verse. This is the essence of Biblical meditation.

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.
Joshua 1:8

When Ernest Hemingway was asked to tell a story in just six words, here's how he responded-

For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn.

Wow. Apparently those who first heard it were stunned and some even began to cry. But here's something even more concise and even more moving-

For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.
Colossians 1:16


Andrew Corbett

1 comment:

  1. Another concise, elucidatory author was Isaac Asimov.

    A self-professed atheist, he wrote prolifically and with clarity on a wide range of topics, including religion and the Bible. Asimov's Guide to the Bible - while in places factually incorrect - is a good reference to have.

    A notable quote from his last autobiography - "If I were not an atheist, I would believe in a God who would choose to save people on the basis of the totality of their lives and not the pattern of their words. I think he would prefer an honest and righteous atheist to a TV preacher whose every word is God, God, God, and whose every deed is foul, foul, foul."

    And finally a rather cheeky, if not thought provoking, short story called How It Happened. Highlighting Asimov's viewpoint "that a good joke can do more to provoke thought than hours of philosophical discussion".