You’ve seen these all over Facebook haven’t you?  It’s a puzzle.  But it’s also a lesson.  As a puzzle, the answers of each equation lead you to find a pattern which will give you the answer for the last equation.  It really doesn’t take a genius.  The reason I know that is because I figured it out in about 15 seconds.  You just take the sum of each equation and add it to the numbers of the next equation.  5+2+5=12; 12+3+6=21; therefore the last equation adds up this way: 21+8+11=40.

[Here’s an additional approach, taken by the more genius of my readers (Dave Wick): “there is one other pattern. Each complete equation could also be the result of adding the first number of the equation to the multiple of the first and second number, making the last answer 96.”]

But as I said, this is not just a puzzle.  It is also a lesson.  You see, the way it’s written, the first equation is right.  The second is wrong.  The third is wrong.  And the answer the fourth is 19.  Just because other people get it wrong, it doesn’t change the rules of math, or let’s say, the “truth” of math.  The context of 8+11 doesn’t change the truth of how math works.  You can put these equations in any order and the real answer is the same… 19!

“But I want to be a genius,” you say!  And that’s just too easy.  It’s too simple-minded.  Maybe.  But it’s true.

Christians are being told that our context is changing.  And it is.  We may need to change our approaches.  But that doesn’t change truth.  People in our culture are looking for new patterns, new ways of defining, new ways of understanding the most basic, enduring truths the world has known.  And many believers are tempted to follow suit.  We find more and more Christians who are afraid of letting the truth stand.

This applies to both conservative and liberal Christians.  We all are tempted to shape the gospel to be what fits us and those around us.  We are tribal and we all want God to look like our tribe.  Truth, if it exists, should look like us.  But the believer who takes truth seriously will constantly look for signs that we have made truth fit us, rather than truth bending us toward God’s reality.

Like psalmist, with God’s Word open, we should pray…

“Search me, O God, and know my heart! 

Try me and know my thoughts!

And see if there be any grievous way in me,

and lead me in the way everlasting.”

Psalm 139:23-24

Now, I don’t think we need to be rude about truth when we find it.  But neither do we need to stop believing and living out what is true.  Here is some truth to chew on… Christ is Lord.  The Bible is His Word.  Faith and repentance are the responses God requires of us.  Love is defined by God and His Word.    Sacrificial love (as defined by God) is to be given to God, to my neighbor, to my brother and sister in the faith, and also to my enemy.  These are all truths no matter our context and no matter our circumstances.

Let’s not fall for being a genius in our culture and context.  Let’s be faithful to truth as God has revealed it.