Does the Bible Recognize … a Common Man?

We judge people as common, or uncommon, on a regular basis. Sometimes, we use a ruler of … physical appearance. Sometimes … societal position. Does the Bible distinguish between common, and uncommon, people? If so, what is the standard used to make such a distinction? I doubt you have ever read anything quite like this! You may even be surprised!

When the scribes and Pharisees challenged Jesus about His disciples eating with unclean hands, this was part of His response. “There is nothing outside the man which, going into him, can defile him; But the things which proceed out of the man are what defile the man” (Mk 7:15). Later, the disciples questioned Jesus about this. He added, “That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man. For from within, out of the heart of man, proceed the evil thoughts and fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, envy, slander, pride (arrogance) and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man” (Mk 7:20 -23). The primary word of interest here is the word translated, “defile.” The verb is koinoo, and the noun is koinos. Let’s look at the primary meaning of this word.

For a long time, many believed the Greek of the New Testament was a new language from God – heavenly, undefiled, and holy. But archeological digs began unearthing shopping lists and land deeds written in the same Greek – in the same time period! It was evident that the New Testament was actually written in that day’s common language. It is now called Koine Greek – Common Greek – from koinoo (v) and koinos (n).

Koine Greek has many words that are neutral – morally. Context determines if they are to be understood as positive or negative. For example, Jesus told His disciples, “I have earnestly desired (epithumeo) to eat this Passover with you before I suffer” (Lk 22:15 ). But elsewhere, “everyone who looks on a woman to lust (epithumeo) for her has committed adultery with her already in his heart” (Mt 5:28 ). The first context is obviously positive, while the other clearly isn’t. Such is the case with, koinoo (v), koinos (n). In a more positive light it means, “universal, generic, widespread … common.” Thus, Koine Greek. But in a negative light, this word means, “profane, inferior – defiled.” Such is the context in Mark 7: 15, 20-23.

The Bible clearly teaches that man’s normal condition – his common state – is one of moral defilement. “What man is there among you, when his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give what is good to those who ask Him?” (Mt 7:9-11). To be defiled is the common state of man.

Man has his own standards for measuring one’s commonness – or uncommonness. Fame makes one uncommon. Power makes one uncommon. Wealth makes one uncommon. But a heart that exudes “evil thoughts and fornications (porneia – sexual immorality of any sort), thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, envy, slander, pride (arrogance) and foolishness” … resides in a Commoner. To some scoffing Pharisees, Jesus said, “You are those who make yourselves righteous in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men (literally, high before men) is detestable in the sight of God” (Lk 16:15 ). This is a great encouragement because one’s station in life does not effect God’s assessment in this matter. So, based upon behavior, at any given moment, God views each of us as either common … or uncommon.

I wish I could say I have arrived at the position of uncommon. But I do not think this is a spot anyone permanently occupies in this age. Sin – that abounding, common element – constantly pounds inside … and outside each of us. When I violate God’s measure for uncommonness, I make myself … a common man. Anyone could do what I just did. Sometimes sin deceives me, and sometimes it blinds me. But many times, I just decide to participate with it. Oftentimes, by choice, I become a Commoner.

This life is one of continual process, change – and challenge. Ultimately, God alone determines our commonness, or uncommonness, event by event. Sometimes, when in the midst of a situation, it is difficult to accurately measure our “performance”. But, He has given us some tools (like the first passage in this Article) – so as to substantively assess ourselves in most circumstances.

Yes, at any given moment, God views each of us as either common … or uncommon. “There is nothing outside the man which, going into him, can make him common; But, the things which proceed out of the man are what common the man …That which proceeds out of the man, that is what makes him common. For from within, out of the heart of man, proceed the evil thoughts and fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, envy, slander, pride (arrogance) and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and common the man” (Mk 7:15 , 20-23). I do not want to stay a Commoner. It is my desire that God sees me as increasingly uncommon. I want to live in such a way that He might even say to the heavenly host, “Have you considered my son, Robin? Have you seen how uncommon he is?” Do you want to remain common?

Copyright 2007