February 2022

Good morning,

There's an old saying, "English is important, but math is importanter."

I'm guessing that's what Mr. Garcia thought as he taught my high school algebra class. He began most lectures with an algebra joke (an oxymoron if there ever was one). He had the odd notion that algebra equations were the key to solve any problem. They were his bread and butter, but they were succotash to me!

Unraveling algebra problems didn't come easy for me, and I'm sure it showed. Therefore, I was an easy target for Mr. Garcia's teaching moments. He thought that putting me on the spot would challenge and ultimately stimulate me to unravel the algebraic mysteries.

It didn't. It just frustrated me.

I'm sure my memory has warped over the years. However, as I remember it, Mr. Garcia called me to the front of the class and gave me a simple algebra problem to solve. "Mr. Walters, give us an equation to solve this problem: if Bob has five marbles, and Joe has nine marbles … how many marbles do you have?" Dumbfounded, I answered, "None, because I lost my marbles."

"Mr. Walters, go back to your seat!"

I think the biggest problem in understanding equations is in the definition. Webster defines an equation as "a proposition asserting the equality of two quantities."

C'mon Webster, is that the best you can do? Overinflating a thought with distracting words does one thing — it confuses us.

Simplifying is best — as long as the subject's true meaning is never lost. So, here's an easier definition: an equation has two equal sides separated by an equal sign. Or, if that's too dull or unimaginative: an equation is a perfectly balanced teeter-totter with an equal sign as the fulcrum.

Equations don't have to be mystifying. For example…

  • Black eye = eye + story
  • Claustrophobia = you – space
  • Road trip = are we there yet + are we there yet + I have to go to the bathroom + are we there yet?
  • Denial = what I say – the facts
  • Midlife crisis = what I want to do รท what I've done + fast car

Even Einstein's famous E=mc2, meaning energy equals mass times the speed of light squared, was, I think, an afterthought. I can't help but wonder if Albert first intended E=mc2 to mean, energy equals my 2nd cup of coffee.

Ironically, equations exist throughout scripture, and, thankfully, they're not difficult to understand:

  • God spoke = it happened. (Gen 1)
  • Confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord + believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead = you shall be saved. (Rom 10.9-10)
  • If we confess our sins = He is faithful to forgive our sins + cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1John 1.9)
  • Call to Me = I will answer you + I will show you great and mighty things which you do not know. (Jer 33.3)
  • Resist the devil = he will flee from you. (Jam 4.7)
  • Weary + burdened + come to Me = I will give you rest. (Matt 11.28)
  • Defending your faith = always ready to give an account for your hope + showing gentleness and respect. (1Pet 3.15)

Scripture even offers simple pastoral equations:

  • Enjoying God's approval + being unashamed = handling the Word of Truth accurately. (2Tim 2.15)
  • Preaching the Word = reprove + rebuke + exhort + great patience and instruction. (2Tim 4.2)
  • Fulfilling your ministry = be sober in all things + endure hardship + do the work of an evangelist. (2Tim 4.5)
  • Being an example = good deeds + pure doctrine + dignity + speech that's beyond reproach – anything our opponents can use against us. (Titus 2.7-8)

God has given us more than just a job to do, or a church to pastor, or a role to serve; He's also given us all the tools we'll ever need to accomplish His work. Our calling doesn't have to be frustrating or confusing — the equations prove it.

But I'm still scratching my head over algebra.


Ron Walters
Ron Walters
Salem Media Group

© Copyright 2022 by Ron Walters

Ron Walters