“Just because it’s in the Bible doesn’t make it biblical.” (Iain W. Provan, from my personal notes taken during Regent College lectures, Vancouver, Canada, 2002.)
Yep. That’s just so true.
How many times have people used Scripture to assert their stupid ideas? From the past nonsense of propping up slavery to the ultra-modern bias for supporting lavish lifestyles, we’re adept at claiming Bible support for crazy ideas.
How do we do this? By making these classic mistakes.
1. Ignore the context.
If you just narrow your focus and ignore everything else, you can make the Bible say pretty much anything you want.
Need a verse to support your idea for the future? You’ll find it.
Would Scripture be helpful in an argument with your boyfriend? Got that, too.
Need something to make you feel better about your resistance to change? Easy.
All you need to do is eliminate the larger story, ignore what’s going on around the chosen verse and you’re away to the races. People do it every day.
2. Make it all about you.
It’s not, you know. Not all about you, that is. We aren’t the main subject of the Bible. God is.
Don’t get me wrong. The Bible has a ton to say about us. But it’s all about God, first. He’s both the author and the hero of the Bible, and we come to understand ourselves only in reference to him. As people created in God’s image, the more we come to know him the more we come to understand ourselves and what it means to really live. But God is first, not us.
If we default to ourselves first, we demand the Bible answer our questions rather than attending to Scripture’s main concern. We make our situation central, forcing the Bible to give into our demands and yield up the results we want. And that, my friends, is a sure-fire way to get bad answers from the Bible. If we push hard enough, the Bible will give us answers alright, but they might be dead wrong.
3. Rush your conclusion.
When we do look to the Bible for answers, we are often in a rush. We’re under pressure, needing to respond to a situation, frantic to just do something. Needing God’s support, we can rush to the Bible and snatch a conclusion that’s likely wrong.
You see, the Bible is not a quick-fix guide for whatever’s broken in our lives–it is God’s living Word to us, designed to reveal himself to us so we can align ourselves with him. Yes, the Bible gives us guidance. I happen to think the Bible is incredibly practical on many things, such as marriage, finances and addictions. But ultimately Scripture reveals Jesus to us so we can follow him and let him lead our lives; the helpfulness of Scripture supports the Spirit’s goal to help us follow Jesus.
If we come to the Bible determined to get answers by the end of coffee break, we may not only get stupid answers, we might miss the whole point of God’s Word–to mature us into people who look and love and lead more and more like Jesus every day. It’s only those who take time, over time, who really experience the guidance Scripture offers.
So let me ask you:
Which mistake have you been prone to make?
How can we prevent these classic errors?