Reading the Bible “Literally” or Contextually?

When reading John Walton’s The Lost World of Adam and Eve, a number of questions are sure to arise. Throughout this review series, we have seen Walton challenge many of the conventional assumptions people have about the Bible and how to interpret God’s word.

4612251_origHow should culture influence our interpretation of the Bible? Well, which culture do you mean? Ancient culture? Our church culture? The culture we presently live in?

One can feel tension emerge whenever these questions come up.

Do we interpret everything “literally”?

The word “literal” is problematic because it connotes different things to different people. For the sake of space, I’ll explore what it might mean to interpret Gen 1–3 “literally” according to the many people understand “literal.”

For many readers, we absolutely must interpret the Bible “literally,” which means the world was created in 144 hours (6 24-hour days), God used dust to create the first man “Adam,” and He cut into that man’s side in order to make Eve from a rib.

Before people get defensive, I would urge them to ask how one would interpret literally the following sentence:

“Whenever I think of 911, I get sad and angry.”

Literally speaking, “911” is a number that sits between 910 and 912. Interpreted in this way, we would naturally ask, “Why are you afraid of 911 but not 912, 632, 53 or other numbers?”

911_attacksOf course, we all know that “911” signifies far more than the sum of 900 and 11. Most people immediately recall the events on September 11, 2001, the day when terrorists used planes to attach the United States. This is why “911” is able to stir a variety of feelings, including anger and sadness.

It is worth mentioning that “911” can also refer to the phone number that Americans use whenever they face an emergency. Therefore, “911” could remind people of the day their father died of a heart attack. Perhaps, a son or daughter had to call “911” when they saw their parent lying on the floor.

In these examples, what does it really mean to interpret “911” literally?

Reading Genesis in Cultural Context

The meaning of words and images depend on context. How someone in one culture uses a phrase or metaphor may not correspond to the way people in another time and place use that same language.

When we overlook this seeming obvious point, we will inevitably misinterpret the Bible. This is beautifully illustrated in Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes. You can read my review of it by clicking here.

Walton urges readers to read Genesis from the perspective of its original ancient context. He puts it well when he says,

We therefore recognize that although the Bible is written for us (indeed, for everyone), it is not written to us. (19)

As some have put it, when we read the Bible, we are reading other people’s mail. Biblical scholars remind us of a principle that is easily forgotten: we assume our worldview is equivalent to that of the biblical writers. If we do, we will inevitably misinterpret Scripture.

literal interpCan’t it be both?

One might ask, “Can’t Genesis have functional or symbolic value while still being literally true?”

Yes. But it can’t simply be assumed.

Just as Walton makes effort to prove that Genesis gives a functional account of origins, so also interpreters must prove that Genesis gives a material creation. ( I talked about these options in a prior blog post).

In dialogue, we should be respectful and take care not to “demonize” others. There is no reason to question a person’s character or concern for the Bible simply because they hold a “functional” view of origins or does not interpret Gen 1 in terms of literal 7 24-hour days.

Walton’s book shows that exegesis can drive those conclusions, not the desire to appease non-believers or evolutionary scientists.

In the next post, I will consider Walton’s suggestion about how to read Genesis in a way that honors biblical authority. Then, I’ll explore some implications for contextualization.

Christianity Today Features Honor-Shame

Check out the latest issue of Christianity Today. The feature article is all about honor and shame!!

CT Cover Story--The Return of Shame (March 2015)In his excellent piece, Andy Crouch illustrates very well how honor & shame (H/S) particularly influence a Western context. What is most impressive is how balanced Crouch is when discussing H/S.

Andy is also very gracious to spotlight and draw upon my work, whether in Saving God’s Face and on this blog. When he and I met last year, I was very impressed with how well versed he is on a variety of topics. Therefore, I’m honored and grateful that he would allow me to contribute to the conversation within his article.

A “Fame-Shame” Culture

The article coins a quite nice phrase that I will surely use in the future. Andy speaks of a “fame-shame” culture. He writes,

So instead of evolving into a traditional honor–shame culture, large parts of our culture are starting to look something like a postmodern fame–shame culture. Like honor, fame is a public estimation of worth, a powerful currency of status. But fame is bestowed by a broad audience, with only the loosest of bonds to those they acclaim.

Of course, I couldn’t agree more. In fact, I would add that a “fame-shame” culture is a poor substitute for an “honor-shame” culture. I won’t say more now. You’ll have to see the article to see more about how Andy contrasts these two cultures.

He rightly notes that “fame-shame” cultures have a collectivist (i.e. group-oriented) dimension. As a result, there are many moral implications that we have to take seriously.

In fame–shame culture, people yearn to feel included in the group, a state constantly endangered, fragile, and desperately in need of protection …

In a fame–shame culture, the only true crime is to publicly exclude—and thus shame—others. Talk of right and wrong is troubling when it is accompanied by seeming indifference to the experience of shame that accompanies judgments of “immorality.”

The last few sentences above are among my favorites in the article.

I think you will like how balanced the article is. It does not stay at an abstract level. Neither does it simply give a lesson in anthropology. Crouch lets the reader wrestle with the Bible’s teaching on honor-shame. Theologically, he explores the way God provides a remedy for shame.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts. What other questions would you raise after reading the CT article?

Forward the article to others, post it on Facebook or re-tweet it.

Invite others into the conversation so we can tease out further implications of honor-shame for reading the Bible and doing ministry.



Chaos, Creation and Corruption

People sometimes prefer to have two nicely divided categories: good or bad, right or wrong, love or hate, . . . . Similarly, in debates or conflicts, we are prone to label others either “for us” or “against us.”

Signpost "Order vs. Chaos"The debate over human origins has been plagued with false dichotomies. Some of the ones I hear most often include: conservative/liberal, literal/allegorical, perfect/fallen.

In The Lost World of Adam and Eve, John Walton breaks the traditional mold. He interjects fresh terms into the conversation about creation. His categories will not doubt confuse some readers. Ironically, these same ideas will simultaneously bring greater clarity of understanding for others.

A few questions help illustrate the point.

1. Should an earthquake be called “evil” in the same way murderers and child predators are called “evil”?

2. Are “innocent” and “perfect” synonyms?

I would say “no” to both questions. For instance, the earth does not conspire to bring us harm for its own gain. Although a baby in some sense can be called “innocent,” the infant is not “perfect” in any meaningful way.

 Order, Disorder and Non-order

Walton says that Gen 1 tells at least a similar story as told by other ancient creation accounts.

The creation account depicts God the One who brings order out of (primordial) chaos. Chaos represents “non-order,” not “disorder.” Disorder is “evil.” By contrast, the ancient listeners/readers of Genesis would not necessarily regard non-order as “evil.”

(As a brief aside, Walton does not deny that God ex nihilo created the material universe. He simply says we can’t use Genesis 1 to arrive at that conclusion.)

At this point, Walton challenges some fundamental assumptions. For example, in this and previous books, he notes that ancient cultures had different ideas about existence and non-existence. If something was regarded as lacking a function, i.e. non-order, then is did not have “existence” (e.g. the sea, a desert).

waterAccording to Walton, humanity was called to serve God by bringing greater degrees of order to a world of non-order. It was not until the Fall (Gen 3) that disorder enters the world.

Death is an aspect of non-order, Walton says. However, when humans are denied access to the tree of life, we are no longer able to overcome our mortality. Consequently, death becomes lingering evidence of disorder.

Sin and Sacred Space

This interpretation does not totally dismantle Christianity’s view of Genesis; however, Walton will certainly cause people to rearrange some of the furniture in their theological house.

For instance, God’s work of “ordering” can be reframed in terms of Temple-building. God creates sacred space, one that will have neither non-order nor disorder.

Walton makes his own suggestions as to how this perspective of Gen 1–3 reorient our view of sin. Of course, readers will discern implications for other matters, like salvation and the work of Christ.

For many, Walton’s ideas will appear too novel to be reasonable. However, he would remind those readers of two points.

1. The past 100 years have yielded many significant insights into the ancient world that were not available to past generations when they interpreted Genesis. Scripture has authority, not tradition interpretations.

2. Walton’s reading of Genesis 1–3 coheres well with the rest of the Bible’s story and the imagery it uses.

 For more elaboration, you’ll have to read the book (and perhaps some of his other ones as well).

In some ways, Walton’s interpretation is very “Chinese” in that it finds a “middle way.” People in Eastern cultures appreciate balance. Perhaps there is wisdom here for us as we real Genesis.

Whenever a debate is polarized between two strict alternatives, we ought to consider whether there might be a way to reconcile the legitimate observations of the competing groups. In The Lost World of Adam and Eve, Walton gives a careful and constructive starting place for finding a “middle way.”

Honor-Shame in Ministry

Over at, you’ll find two fantastic videos that will equip people very well for doing ministry in an honor-shame context.

(In truth, honor and shame are “human” dynamics, so these videos are relevant everywhere.)

Honor & Shame 101

In the first video, Jayson gives a summary of ways that honor-shame can influence our ministry.

After watching the video, what would you add to the ideas mentioned in the above video?

Honor & Shame 201

The second video below is longer and aimed at longer-term workers. It has interactive exercises and is perfect for using when training other people.


A downloadable version of the second video is available here.

Thanks again Jayson for your excellent work!

Adam and Eve are Ancient “Archetypes”

I’m in the midst of a review series on John Walton’s The Lost World of Adam and Eve: Genesis 2–3 and the Human Origins Debate. (Click here for Part 1, Part 2)

Today, I will specifically look at Walton’s view of Adam and Eve.

Adam-and-EveWhat is “Adam”?

Walton further reminds us that “Adam” is not actually a proper name for a single individual. It is a collective noun, which refers to humanity. On rare occasions, it points to an individual, but people in the neighborhood wouldn’t have called him “Adam” if they wanted to invite him over for a steak and salad.

Adam bears this representative status as the “image of God” (language found in other ancient documents besides the Bible). This imagery indicates that Adam has royal authority to govern over God’s creation.

In other words, “image of God” highlights humanity’s function and calling.

Is “Adam” Real?

Yes. Adam was a real, historical person. However, Adam was not the first human being. Nor was Eve the first female.

How does that work?

Adam and Eve are “archetypes.” For Walton, this means Adam was “a representative of a group in whom all others in the group are embodied” (240). A person is an archetype if what is true of the one is also true for all those who are represented by in him. Adam and Eve are historical, not fictitious. In some sense, Christ, Abraham, and Melchizedek are also archetypes.

By the way, Walton suggests that Genesis 2 is a “sequel” of Gen 1. Chapter two does not go back and elaborate further on Day Six (from Gen 1). So, we shouldn’t confuse the “Adam” (or “man”) in Gen 1:26–28 with the “Adam” of Gen 2–3.

A Mortal Among Many

If Adam serves as an “archetype,” must he be the first person ever in history?

Walton says no. There is a different between a “prototype” and an “archetype.” In fact, he suggests that Adam and Eve were not the first two human beings on the planet.

20001023He is essentially saying what the text seems to overtly suggest. After all, Cain has a wife (Gen 4:7) and he fears that “whoever finds me will kill me” (Gen 4:14). Then, Cain builds a city (Gen 4:17). Christians have struggled to make sense of these verses for centuries.

Not only was Adam not the first man; he was also not immortal (as many have frequently assumed). For a fuller explanation as how this works out from the text, you’ll have to read the book. I will say this––Walton does an excellent job exposing certain assumptions that are never explicitly stated in Genesis.

For example, we might need to rethink our understanding of “good” (Gen 1), the meaning of the tree of life, and the significance of the “Fall.”

Is It Fruitful?

How might The Lost World of Adam and Eve prove fruitful for ministry?

First of all, Walton’s interpretations help us to see one another from a biblical––not merely a biological––perspective. God’s image bearers can better grasp the calling for which we were created.

Second, if Walton is correct, there is no direct contradiction between Gen 1 and the claims of many evolutionists.

Third, since so many people appeal to Adam when sharing the gospel, there may reason to rethink the role and significance Adam plays in the stories we tell.

Fourth, the book demonstrates the importance biblical training with respect to interpretation method. I’m not simply referring to theological instruction. In fact, Walton’s argument suggests that theological presuppositions are precisely what keep us from understanding God’s authoritative meaning in Gen 1–3.

The Lost World of Adam and Eve

Previously, I introduced my series reviewing John Walton’s new book The Lost World of Adam and Eve: Genesis 2–3 and the Human Origins Debate. I set the context by explaining what Walton calls a “functional account” of creation (in contrast to a material account).

TLW Adam Eve

Why tackle this Genesis/creation debate?

I’ve been warned by a few people to stay away from this topic on the blog. It’s too much of a lightening rod issue, they say. Certainly so.

The truth, however, is that there are more important things involved here than the age of the earth and the merit of some scientific theory. (Personally, I myself am a bit agnostic about the precise, scientific details that fuel the entire debate.)

As much as I have tired of the discussion over the years, that doesn’t mean it becomes less relevant. Those who work in a place like China, for example, know the frequency with which people want to rehearse the details of the debate. How one responds to the Genesis/creation debate could either be destructive or constructive.

Why Missionaries Should Read This Book

In many contexts­, particularly China, the creation-evolution discussion is sure to come up eventually. What’s at stake in these conversations? I’ll list five things.

1. Biblical Authority

For a long time, non-believers have tried to use the theory of evolution to usurp biblical authority. They attempt to show how science contradicts a literal reading of Genesis 1.

2. Biblical Interpretation

Whether we speak with Christians or non-Christians, our discussion will train people how to interpret the Bible. In other words, we will implicitly teach people what are the boundaries for faithful biblical exegesis.

3. Biblical Meaning

If we misread Genesis 1–3, we will miss out on what the text actually intends to say. Perhaps our view is not entirely wrong; yet, it leads us to overlook the passage’s main ideas.

4. Biblical Faith

The creation vs. evolution question is a major stumbling block for many people. By misinterpreting Gen 1–3, we potentially create obstacles that hinder them from believing the gospel or from maturing in their faith.

5. Biblical Unity

Churches, teams, and mission organizations split over topics like these. The conversation is embedded within various Christian subcultures. Emotions run high. I imagine many people assume they have heard all the arguments and so don’t need to listen to what others have to say.

These are not small issues.

A New Starting Line

I think The Lost World of Adam and Eve offers far more than do most other theology and apologetics books that address the subject.

Let me mention of few of the book’s key ideas. In coming posts, I’ll offer more specific thoughts on some of these ideas.

* Adam and Eve were a real couple in history.

* They may not be the first two humans.

* Adam and Eve are archetypes for the humanity.

* We can’t assume that Genesis answers modern questions.

* Genesis 1–3 provides a “functional” (not “material”) account of origins.

* The world was created “good,” but that doesn’t negate the possibility of death prior to the “Fall.” It simply means there was not “disorder.”

* The Bible is more concerned with the theological implications of sin and death, not “original sin” as a theory about genetics

* Gen 1–3 provides a theological message about God and the humanity’s calling; it is not meant to be a scientific text.

 This is just a sample of noteworthy ideas you’ll find inside the book. I particularly think we can learn from the way he allows culture and Scripture to interact with one another.

John WaltonAn Overview

There is a natural flow to the different propositions (which represent different chapters). Each chapter is concise and easy to read. The first few chapters summarize ideas found in Walton’s The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate and The Lost World of Scripture: Ancient Literary Culture and Biblical Authority (both of which are helpful and interesting reads).

Here is the outline for The Lost World of Adam and Eve.


Proposition 1: Genesis Is an Ancient Document

Proposition 2: In the Ancient World and the Old Testament, Creating Focuses on Establishing Order by Assigning Roles and Functions

Proposition 3: Genesis 1 Is an Account of Functional Origins, Not Material Origins

Proposition 4: In Genesis 1 God Orders the Cosmos as Sacred Space

Proposition 5: When God Establishes Functional Order, It Is “Good”

Proposition 6: ’adam Is Used in Genesis 1-5 in a Variety of Ways

Proposition 7: The Second Creation Account (Gen 2:4–24) Can Be Viewed as a Sequel Rather Than as a Recapitulation of Day Six in the First Account (Gen 1:1–2:3)

Proposition 8: “Forming from Dust” and “Building from Rib” Are Archetypal Claims and Not Claims of Material Origins

Proposition 9: Forming of Humans in Ancient Near Eastern Accounts Is Archetypal, So It Would Not Be Unusual for Israelites to Think in Those Terms

Proposition 10: The New Testament Is More Interested in Adam and Eve as Archetypes Than as Biological Progenitors

Proposition 11: Though Some of the Biblical Interest in Adam and Eve Is Archetypal, Yet They Are Real People Who Existed in a Real Past

Proposition 12: Adam Is Assigned as Priest in Sacred Space, with Eve to Help

Proposition 13: The Garden Is an Ancient Near Eastern Motif for Sacred Space, and the Trees Indicate God as the Source of Life and Wisdom

Proposition 14: The Serpent Would Have Been Viewed as a Chaos Creature from the Non-ordered Realm, Promoting Disorder

Proposition 15: Adam and Eve Chose to Make Themselves the Center of Order and Source of Wisdom, Therefore Admitting Disorder into the Cosmos

Proposition 16: We Currently Live in a World with Non-order, Order and Disorder

Proposition 17: All People Are Subject to Sin and Death Because of the Disorder in the World, Not Because of Genetics

Proposition 18: Jesus Is the Keystone of God’s Plan to Resolve Disorder and Perfect Order

Proposition 19: Paul’s Use of Adam Is More Interested in the Effect of Sin on the Cosmos Than in the Effect of Sin on Humanity and Has Nothing to Say About Human Origins (Excursus on Paul’s Use of Adam, by N. T. Wright)

Proposition 20: It Is Not Essential That All People Descended from Adam and Eve

Proposition 21: Humans Could Be Viewed as Distinct Creatures and a Special Creation of God Even If There Was Material Continuity

Conclusion and Summary

When Did God Make China?

People can’t seem to agree about when God made the world. So, perhaps we can adapt the question a bit. When did God create China?

map of ChinaIf you stop for a moment, that’s not at all an easier question. Sure, people will say China is somewhere between 3,000–5,000 years old (depending on your source). But to what does that “age” refer?

What is “China”?

We should clarify what we mean by “China.” Then might we understand what the questions even means when we ask, “When did God create China?”

Perhaps, “China” could refer to a group of people who claim a common ethnicity, language, and history.

Or, “China” is a political entity, a nation state.

Likewise, “China” could refer to a geographic territory that spans over 3.7 million square miles and borders the Pacific Ocean.

So, when did God create China? Perhaps, we should first rethink a different word––“create.”

How did God create China?

There is a legitimate sense in which we can say God “created” China thousands or millions of years ago (depending on your scientific/theological perspective). Even if the land was unpopulated, the territory that we today call “China” still existed.

Yet, we can see this question (about China’s “creation”) involves more than simply mountains, rivers, and oceans. Imagine that all the people in China and Russia suddenly decided to swap land. They even took with them major historical artifacts and rebuilt key landmarks in their new location. There would be a definite sense in which China would be both the same and different.

How did God create the world?

I have a purpose for this thought experiment. It illustrates a key idea found in John Walton’s new book The Lost World of Adam and Eve: Genesis 2–3 and the Human Origins Debate (IVP, March 2014).

TLW Adam EveIn the coming weeks, I will offer a review of Walton’s interpretation of Genesis 1–3. As I’ll explain in the next post, I think it will be helpful for people in many mission contexts (like China) to think through the issues he raises.

In this post, I want first to give a bit of context and perspective.

Walton’s new book follows up where he left off in The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate.

Walton argues that we need to read Genesis as it would have been understood in its ancient context. Accordingly, Genesis indeed explains the origins of the world but it tells a particular kind of story. It provides a “functional” (rather than a “material”) account of the world origins.

He uses a metaphor and claims, “The seven-day origins account in Genesis is a ‘home story’; it is not a ‘house story’” (TLWAE, 45). In other words, there is a fundamental difference between a mere building (i.e. “house”) and a “home.” A structure may exist but it doesn’t become a “home” until the house serves a particular function.

Genesis uses a similar approach found in other ancient documents: Existence depends on function.

If I move beds and dressers out of a “bedroom” and replace it with a desk and file cabinets, what would we say? A “bedroom” no longer exists. I have now “created” a office or study.

Similarly, Genesis 1 explains how God created the world to be a sacred space, a Temple where He would dwell with his people. This view of Genesis helps us to see who God is, who we are, and God’s design for the world.

A Modern-Day Analogy

The graph below represents an analogy that parallels the 7-day Genesis account.

How Do We "Create" a School?--A Function Account (English)I have listed 7 stages that are involved in the “creation” of a school. Notice that this sort of “creation” is a functional account. It’s not a material account of origins. It doesn’t talk about creating ex nihilo the school building’s wood, steel, and water.

In each stage, the school’s “creation” involves some sort of ordering.

As an aside, I know some people may be curious why the graph uses the structure it does. Scholars have long recognized that Genesis 1 has two parallel triads (days 1–3, days 4–6). Literarily, one sees parallels between days 1 and 4, days 2 and 5, days 4 and 6.

Accordingly, I wrote the 7 stages to make the visual analogy more clear.

In upcoming posts, I’ll explain why this book matters for the church’s mission and then get a bit more into the details of Walton’s arguments.

Nik Ripken on the Chinese Christian Context

Nik Ripken offers a rather succinct but helpful summary of the situation many Chinese Christians either presently face or have faced in recent decades. I thought some people would find it helpful. Some of the claims may only be true in certain places or in a earlier day. Overall, it gives people a good sense for the Chinese context.

In The Insanity of God: A True Story of Faith Resurrected, Ripken writes,

41HnxVCd8HLWhat I appreciated most was their description of life for believers in communist China. Several of the people I interviewed assured me that the communist government actually didn’t care what its citizens believed . They claimed that the government’s long and brutal opposition to religion had not been about faith , but about control . I knew, of course, about China’s “one- child policy.”

My new friends explained that the enforcement of that law through involuntary abortions was merely one of countless ways the government determined to control every aspect of an individual’s life. The government mandated where people could live and whether or not they could ever relocate to another part of the country. The government determined where children could go to school. School authorities determined if and where each student could continue his or her education. The government would decide each person’s career, where a person would work, and even what the salary would be.

Before young people could marry, they would have to get permission from their supervisor. Applying for a marriage license, they would wait for government approval. If a couple wanted to start a family, they were required to seek permission from authorities at their place of work and in the local government. All pregnancies had to be reported and were supposed to be pre-approved. Unexpected or unplanned pregnancies, even when it was a couple’s first, would sometimes be aborted. Once a woman had given birth to her one allotted baby, any subsequent pregnancies would be automatically terminated by an involuntary, government- ordered abortion. Many work places required regular pregnancy tests for all female employees of child- bearing age in order to catch unapproved pregnancies early. Women seeking government permission and paperwork to travel from one province of China to another would first be required to pay for a pregnancy test to make sure that they weren’t going somewhere to secretly give birth to an unapproved child. The personal cost for an elective pregnancy test could be more than one- month’s salary.

Any woman who somehow managed to escape the notice of the pregnancy police, or any family that refused to abide by the government’s one child policy , would pay a terrible price. Because the government issued only one child identity card per family, no additional child could ever have an official identity. As far as the government was concerned, that additional child did not exist. That child could never attend school and that child could never get a job.”

What do you think?

China shames tourists

As my friend put it, you know that honor and shame are important to a culture when they decide to use shame to punish tourists who behave poorly.

mqdefaultThe Washington Post recently posted an article titled, “Beijing is embarrassed about unruly Chinese tourists and plans to ‘publicly shame’ them.”

The article recounts a number of incidents where Chinese tourists have behaved, well, “uncivilized” (as China’s Vice Premiere put it).

The government is tired of feeling embarrassed, so they will turn the tables. Via re-education and shaming on the media, they are hoping to fix those “bad pandas” (the term being used for poor behaving Chinese tourists).

Two observations

Aside from the humor of it all (from some people’s perspective), I would agree with my friends assessment. If the Chinese president and other high officials feel the need to speak publicly about this problem, honor-shame is a far more pervasive issue in Chinese culture than many have thought. It is hardly a “side issue” along other subjects one would read about in Lonely Planet or study in an anthropology course.

There’s one more thing certain people should note. Observe how this public shame is regarded as a “punishment.” I have heard a fair number of conservative evangelicals express concern that honor-shame was a “subjective” psychological problem. Likewise, they have said we need to talk about the threat of punishment for sin, not “merely” loss of face.

However, this separation of concepts doesn’t quite represent reality. Particularly, when we speak of humanity in relationship to God. We were created to belong to the one human family with a heavenly Father. Therefore, we can hardly cast it aside as a petty matter that many will be put to shame before God and reckoned outsiders to His people.

How Jesus Used the Threat of Shame

Here are a few of Jesus’ words, which appeal to those who are sensitive to “face” (honor and shame):

“Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops. (Luke 12:1-3)

Likewise, a few verses later.

“And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God, but the one who denies me before men will be denied before the angels of God. (Luke 12:8-9)