Temporary v. permanent. I think of these two terms frequently. The dynamic is at work when you consider a temporary solution v. a long-term one. Or short-term goals v. long-term ones.
But, most of the time this relationship comes up when I drink coffee, which is regularly.
I like to use a “real” coffee mug instead of a travel cup. It’s not really an opposition, as much as a preference. I’m not “offended” when I use a travel, to-go cup to drink coffee, but if given a choice I opt for the old-fashioned mug over the paper cup.
Frequently, when I think of the purpose of a coffee mug v. a coffee cup I think of covenants. Specifically, I think of covenants. Covenants between God and the Israelites (or wider in scope) are throughout scripture (see Genesis, especially: 6.18-21; 9.1-17; 15.1-21; 17.1-27). Immediately my attention turns to the point that when rightly considered covenants are promissory. They are pledges, compacts, agreements, declarations, and oaths, often in the form of a promise.
As a specific example, see the covenant established by God with Noah, in Genesis 9, is essentially a promise. The difference between God’s promises and mine are significant. They resemble each other, kind of. They have similiarities, sort of.
This is precisely why I think of promises when I think of coffee mugs. Promises made by God v. ones I make. The difference is about as identifiable as the difference between a coffee mug – which falls on the permanent side of things – and a travel paper cup – which falls on the temporary, disposable side of things. Sure they serve the same function. But, the very nature of them is different. And the quality of the materials and their utility is of a different kind, too. This also leads to their shelf life. One is temporary. The other is permanent.
I make promises to my children in a “I promise we can get a QT slush on the way home” sort of way. I suppose I have made more significant ones, too, but I am reticent to over-commit so often I steer clear of obligating myself too often to the whim of the moment. If I’m honest this has less to do with Jesus’ comments in Matt 5.33-37, and more to do with my fear of not keeping the promise.
When I make a promise it’s closer to a “I really want to do this, so I hope it works out” stop-gap measure. When God makes a promise, the declaration is guaranteed. God will not fail to fulfill the obligation. For God, a covenant is an assured promise. Arguably, for God, a covenant is a fulfilled promise (even though we may be awaiting fulfillment). Said differently, when humans make promises they are weak, temporary, not for long-term utility. Like to-go paper cups.
God’s promises are strong, permanent, and able to be passed from one generation to the next. Like coffee mugs.
Dr. Neal earned a BA in Political Science from Texas Tech University. He then pursued theological and ministerial training and is a graduate of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (MDivBL), and the University of Edinburgh, Scotland (MTh; PhD). He is married to Jennifer, and they have four children.
Dr. Neal’s teaching and research focuses on the relationship between biblical interpretation and theology. His Ph.D. research focused on systematic theology, specifically questions raised in contemporary German theology. He is the author of Theology As Hope: On the Ground and the Implications of Jurgen Moltmann’s Doctrine of Hope, and has published a variety of essays, articles, and chapters on theological topics. Dr. Neal has presented papers in several academic venues in England, Scotland, New Zealand, and the United States. Most recently he presented a paper on eschatology at the University of Notre Dame.