Sunday, July 13, 2014

RYBS: Abuse or Misuse?

Read Your Bible Series - Week Ten

Abuse or Misuse?

This week I'd like to consider the original context of a couple of very popular verses that are, within our current society, either completely misunderstood or just openly abused.  These two are the verses that I hear being used the most frequently, but of course, your experience may differ.

Starting with Philippians 4:
I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
There it was... "I can do all this through him who gives me strength."  You know, the Sports Illustrated Tim Tebow eye black verse.

Yeah, that one.

The problem with these folks is that they never bothered to read what was written before the verse that they love to flaunt.  Paul even went out of his way to make sure that the reader understands that he had known and appreciated what it was like to both live with and live without.  And yet, most - if not all - people that quote this verse do so as some kind of haughty display, enthusiastically parading themselves around town as the righteous person that the rest of us should envy.

How commendable.

Now I will admit that if you've been beaten, left to rot in prison without much food or water, and you're still completely happy with where you are in your religion, then by all means use this verse.  Otherwise, you're doing it wrong.

So let's look at Luke, chapter 11:
Then Jesus said to them, "Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, 'Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.' And suppose the one inside answers, 'Don't bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything. I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.
So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
I'm sure many readers have heard this verse being exploited just after a colleague, a friend, or a family member received some very good news.  Whether it's a new job, a raise, or a good deal on a new car...

You know the drill:
"Praise Jesus!  Ask and ye shall receive!!!"
The problem here is, that's not even remotely close to what Jesus was trying to teach.  Barely one chapter before, the man had just gotten through scolding a woman named Martha for ignoring his impromptu lecture simply because she felt like there was too much to do while he was there and she was stuck doing all the housework.  (Martha was stuck doing it, by the way, because her sister Mary was busy "listening" to Jesus speak instead of helping, which is the equivalent of conveniently excusing yourself to the potty when the dishes need tending to.)

Plus, Jesus tells his disciples quite plainly that you will get, "as much as you need."  This doesn't seem to fit the popular narrative that as a Christian, you'll get whatever you want...  And yet these five words are so willfully ignored by so many.  Not to mention that it takes some serious gall to think that you are so special to the creator of the Universe that it is willing to ignore the desperate cries of starvation and acute dehydration from all over the world, just so you can have your petty little warm fuzzy over having your wish magically fulfilled.

If your worldview is this narrow and your thinking is this narcissistic, then it is your blatant abuse of these verses that bother me the most, not the somewhat odd messages that the Bible is conveying.

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