The Apostle Paul is in Athens waiting for some friends but he can’t just be a tourist. The classic city is teeming with idolatry and relics that only drive a numbing sense of nostalgia rather than an embrace of current realities. Paul is provoked to speak at every opportunity in the city. In the religious settings, in the marketplace and on the hill known for the proclamation of theories and the latest ear-tickling ideas.
“So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there. Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers also conversed with him. And some said, “What does this babbler wish to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities”—because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection.” (Acts 17:17-18 ESV)
What does this babbler wish to say? Babbler. Perhaps never a truer title for one that proclaims Christ. The label here is certainly meant to be derisive. To degrade Paul, this outsider bringing in new ideas. The word we translate as babbler is a “seedpicker,” someone who picks the ideas or another and shares them as their own.
This is what we do when we preach the gospel right? We take the truth of Jesus, the words that he taught, the fulfillment of prophecy that he declared and the “it is finished” he proclaimed from the cross, and we speak these things to others. His ideas, we proclaim as our own because he has made us his own.
We don’t want to be known as babblers though. We want to get creative. We want to be engaging, moving, inspirational. All good things. But not when those things become our purpose.
Let’s get comfortable being babblers. Let’s preach one message, Jesus, over and over, in every venue, at every opportunity.