Week 6: Twisted Scripture

A Year With Jesus: Matthew 4:1-11

What is something that Christians and non-Christians have in common?

We all have the tendency to use the Bible to advance our own agenda. (We also have a lot more in common, by the way!)

The temptation of Jesus (by none other than the devil himself) is a fascinating account and one that can be approached from multiple angles. But here’s the angle I’m most intrigued with: the devil wielded Scripture against Jesus in an attempt to take him down.

Psalm 91 is a psalm about finding rest and safety in God. The devil quotes a very small portion of it to tempt Jesus to test God. Come on, Jesus. Prove to me that you really have faith in your Father.

A Bible verse (or verses) ripped out of context is a very dangerous thing. Take the oft-quoted Jeremiah 29:11, for example:

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

That verse is quickly thrown out to offer encouragement to someone going through a difficult time. If not quoted responsibly, however, it can quickly be misinterpreted as a prosperity message. If you just have enough faith, good things will start happening. The truth is, God is offering hope in this verse. But he’s offering it in the context of a very long period of trials. Look at the verse that comes immediately before it (verse 10):

This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place.

How come we leave that off the plaques and coffee mugs? We literally quote God mid-sentence!

The whole “God said it, I believe it, that settles it” argument that some Christians use is not only irresponsible, but I believe it’s also showing a disrespect for God’s Word. When we select verses and rip them out of their context to support what we already believe to be true (or want to be true), we begin to use God for our own convenience. When we insist, for instance, that the earth HAD TO BE created in 6 literal days, it leaves no room for nuance, no room for different interpretations, and no room for the Spirit to work in our hearts. (By the way, before I continue, let me just say I’m totally guilty of this. I constantly find myself judging others for what I perceive to be a wrong interpretation of Scripture.)

On the other side of the equation, I’ve seen non-Christians cherry-pick verses to make believers look like fools. It’s very easy to take a verse, rip it from its historical, cultural, and literary context and make all kind of wild accusations about what Christians believe. I believe this is also irresponsible. (Another “by the way” caveat: I’m not talking about non-Christians who have genuine concerns/questions/problems with the Bible. I believe that real concerns should always be addressed in a safe environment.)

In the end, Jesus beat the devil at his own game. For each lie the devil threw at him, Jesus had a proper understanding of the truth. Scripture is indeed powerful. Old Uncle Ben said, “With great power comes great responsibility.”

I pray that I use the power of God’s Word responsibly, and not simply to advance my own agenda. 

Questions to Ponder:

Where do you see the Bible most used as a “weapon” today?

Have you ever had one interpretation of a Bible verse (or verses) only to have it change over time?

Please feel free to leave a comment!

Author: Michael Murray

I like steak. I like bacon. And I want to follow Jesus the best I can.

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