Bible Study Tools / Character

Changing the Status Quo

by UNC Contributor

It was 70 years in the making enlisting the aid of hundreds of volunteers, and was overseen by a single-minded man who made the project his life’s work. It was a bold, massive undertaking, and without the efforts of that dedicated army of volunteers, today we might not have the Oxford English Dictionary (OED).

The first edition of the OED was published in 12 heavy volumes cataloguing nearly half a million words. The English-speaking world had never seen anything like it before, and, in the words of author Simon Winchester, the OED “remains in all senses a truly monumental work – and…is still regarded as a paragon, the most definitive of all guides to the language that, for good or ill, has become the lingua franca of the civilized modern world” (Simon Winchester, The Professor and the Madman, 1999, p. 25).

The OED was the first comprehensive English-language dictionary, although it was not the first dictionary per se. Samuel Johnson produced his famous lexicon in the 18th century, and there was an English-language dictionary as early as the 13th century. However, the OED was the first dictionary to catalogue the entire English language, wholly and objectively. It was to forever change our language and how we use it.

The project was spearheaded by Sir James Murray, a Scotsman who devoted most of his adult years to the OED. He and his volunteer “army” poured through countless books, organizing and defining words. They were not dissuaded by the enormity of the task, and they plodded through with an almost superhuman tenacity.

As Christians we, too, have an all-consuming life’s work in preaching the gospel and preparing for the kingdom. Like Sir James Murray, it is possible we could spend most of our lives working on this “project,” doggedly forging ahead even when we are beset with trials, setbacks and discouragement.

Our job is a big one, and sometimes the vastness of it is overwhelming. But just as each volunteer, working on one word at a time, helped compile the OED so each Christian adds to the spiritual temple. If one word – or one stone – is missing, the entire project is incomplete.

Ultimately, our goal is to help bring about change that will benefit humanity. But in order to do that, we ourselves must change; the painful process of changing our carnal nature to one filled with the Holy Spirit.

Change is not easy, yet we continue to do it so we can help bring about the biggest change on earth – the establishment of God’s government. Sir James Murray dedicated his life to a dictionary and changed the course of the English language; by dedicating our lives to God’s plan, we can change the course of history.

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