“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1 NIV).

Walking up the stairs, I called ahead, “Did you get your laundry put away, dear?”

“Yep,” our daughter replied. “All done.”

In the dim lights of her little Christmas tree, however, I saw them. Though the laundry basket sat empty, several stray socks were strewn about on the hardwood floor, right there in plain sight.

“Allie, all of your laundry,” I replied.

“Oh, Mama,” she moaned. “They’re just small socks.”

“I know. It may seem a simple thing, but when you’re asked to put away your clothes, that means everything. To do otherwise, unless by accident, is disobedience.”

Stooping to retrieve the last articles of clothing before stuffing them in her dresser drawer, she humphed.

“What have you been told about obeying?”

In a melancholy sing-song manner, her shoulders slumped, she answered. “It’s not just about the big things but the small things matter too.”

Her voice inflection made me think of Thumper from Bambi, when asked by his mom what she’d taught him about being kind with words, and I chuckled, ruffling her hair. “Now, get your shoes. It’s almost time to leave for school.”

After she’d gone, I sat in the rocker, the lights from our family tree in the living room casting a warm glow on the floor. I was pondering a recent sermon, my Bible open to John’s gospel, chapter 1.

The pastors at our church have been focusing on this particular passage throughout the Advent season, and something mentioned struck me, even though I’ve read John’s account many times.

In the beginning was the Word (v. 1a).

In other words–from the very beginning, Jesus, the Word, has been.

And the Word was with God (v. 1b).

Meaning–Jesus was with God, from the beginning.

And the Word was God (v. 1c).

Indeed–Jesus is God and, from the beginning, Jesus has always been God.

Jesus, therefore, was the powerful force behind the creation of the land and seas, the sky with all its celestial bodies–moons, stars, and planets–as well as all that has the breath of life–fish, birds, and other animals, not to mention that one thing in all of creation that was and is and will always be created in God’s image… humankind.

In the beginning was Jesus, the Word–the One who was with God. The One who is God.

But there was one thing mentioned in a recent Sunday sermon, something I’d never heard before, and I wanted to do some investigation of my own. And it was then that I discovered, on the same day of the small sock incident–that which, to Allie, seemed only a misdemeanor in the broader “obedience” issue of putting away laundry–the irony of the “article,” though not of the clothing variety.

Our pastor had pointed out how, in at least one translation of the Bible, a small word has been added to John 1:1 which, tiny though it is, changes truth to a lie.

Searching the internet, it only took moments to find what I was looking for. In a version of the Bible called the New World Translation, the one specifically used by the Jehovah’s Witness, John 1:1 says–“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god.”

Do you see it, that which generalizes who the Word was and is (not to mention, the NWT goes one step further to generalize by not capitalizing the word that follows, that word described by this one-letter adjective)?

Right there, second word from the end, that word that, in the English language, is called an article. There are only two articles, in fact–a (or an, if the word to follow begins with a vowel), which describes something generally and the, an adjective that describes something specifically. Though small, this word–ironically, this article, much like that article of Allie’s clothing–makes a great big difference.

Concerning our daughter’s laundry, the lingering socks right there in plain sight, willfully left, turned truth to a lie–thus, obedience to disobedience–when she was asked, “Is all your laundry put away?”

Similarly, the little article a, added to John 1:1 right before [g]od turns truth to a lie.

Why? How is it that this little, one-letter adjective–this article–so powerfully, and wrongfully, impacts this passage?

Because it implies that the Word–the One who was there in the beginning, the One who was with God, the One who is God–is just one of perhaps many gods. Therefore, The Word–Jesus–according to the NWT is just one of many in whom we can, for example, trust or turn to in times of fear or worry.

Though just one little word, one tiny article, a inserted in John 1:1 makes a big–yes, a world!–of difference.

Because if Jesus didn’t come to the world to specifically be The Way, The Truth, and The Life (John 14:6), then He’s actually only generally a truth, a way, and a life. (See the difference?) And how then can we turn to Him with complete assurance, offer Him, though we often fall short, our full obedience?

As Christians, we’ve been called to believe that the Word–Yes, Jesus!–is the only One in whom we can fully–

  • Trust–“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lordwhose confidence is in Him” (Jer. 17:7 NIV).
  • Seek forgiveness–“For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Col. 1:13-14 NIV).
  • Turn toward in times of fear–“The Lord is my light and my salvation— Whom shall I fear? The Lord is the refuge and fortress of my life— Whom shall I dread” (Ps. 27:1 AMP)?
  • Call our Good Shepherd–“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep” (John 10:11 NIV).
  • Receive grace–“I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing” (Gal. 2:21 NIV)!
  • Find peace–“I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 NIV).
  • Have abundant lifeI have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10b).

(Where you see the italicized the above, replacing it, as in the NWT’s version of John 1:1, with a completely changes the specificity of who God is, who Jesus is… who The Word is, does it not?)

Just as Allie’s answer, tiny as the articles of clothing were, was not truth when asked if her laundry was put away, so true the NWT’s rendering of John 1:1 with their addition of the tiny article a before [g]od. After all, doesn’t even a small untruth taint the purity of the whole, like just a pinch of salt–just a pinch!–in a glass of pure water?

“For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the One Man the many will be made righteous” (Romans 5:19 NIV, emphasis added).

So, Dear Daughter, Jesus came as Truth, to guide us toward obedience–Himself setting the example, obedient even unto death (Phil. 2:5-8). He is our most wonderful Reason to celebrate, at Christmas and all throughout the year.

And what is it your mother has said–

(Ah-Ah-Ahem)… “It’s not just about the big things but the small things matter too.”

Are there any areas of disobedience, small though they may seem, that you desire to confess? He is faithful to forgive (I John 1:9)!

Precious Word with God, help us to be obedient in all things. Not only is this pleasing to You, but it brings joy and peace as we journey, offering the freedom only found in Your presence. Thank you for coming as a little baby, Sweet Savior of the world. You teach us that powerful things–world-changing things–are sometimes very small. Amen!