“Repeat these basic essentials over and over to God’s people. Warn them before God against pious nitpicking, which chips away at the faith. It just wears everyone out. Concentrate on doing your best for God, work you won’t be ashamed of, laying out the truth plain and simple. Stay clear of pious talk that is only talk. Words are not mere words, you know. If they’re not backed by a godly life, they accumulate as poison in the soul.” 2 Timothy 2:14-17

When I was in college, I was introduced to a concept called “apologetics.” It’s the ability to defend one’s faith when questioned by unbelievers. Although I had been in church since before I was born and had accepted Christ at a young age, those courses I took gave me tools to know why I believed what I believed, and how to explain it to nonbelievers.

In 2 Timothy, Paul warns against another type of religious debate: pious nitpicking. I think we all know what he’s talking about here. There are those in our time who it seems make their living arguing on non-essentials of the faith. They are the talking heads we hear so often quoted in news program sound bites, the ones whose latest pronouncement goes viral within minutes.

But what does Paul say about such situations? He says “it just wears everyone out.” Boy, does it! But worse than that, he cautions us that it “chips away at the faith.” Isn’t that the truth? There are probably millions out there whose only contact with Christianity (or the functional equivalent thereof) has been through these types. Unless they encounter someone who really, truly lives out the Christian life, they will probably have their perceptions poisoned and never come to Christ.

But, Paul gives us an alternative: Repeat these basic essentials over and over…concentrate on…laying out the truth, plain and simple.

The Truth. That Christ came to Earth as a baby, became fully God and fully man, lived a sinless life, died on a cruel cross and rose again three days later, taking our sins upon Him when we didn’t deserve it and neither did He. Folks, everything else is just gravy. All pious nitpicking does is wear everyone out, and poison others against the faith.

May God help us to use our words wisely, and concentrate on the basics!