Today I am writing not as some Bible scholar (Lord knows I’m not, no pun intended), but as someone who has read the Bible cover to cover a couple of times, someone who is still struggling to understand much of what I have read, how I’ve read it, and how I’m still reading it. I am writing as someone who does not debate the Bible or religion itself with others, but am open to discussion and further learning. I don’t aim to ruffle feathers (though I’m sure I might), only to speak on this journey, this place I’m in as I grasp what the Bible has to say. That said…
We’ve taken a very ME ME ME approach to the Bible, in my opinion. The more I get in there, the more I realize the Bible is not a motivational speech, meant to make me feel good and powerful about myself. It’s not about me – it’s about God. And it’s definitely not about how God will give me whatever I want if I follow Him.
“I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.” -John 11:22
I have come to realize that we (myself included) take so many scriptures out of context and suit them to our desires (not necessarily our needs). Many mega-church religions are built on principles that we can live a good life, ask God for that new house we deserve, and God will lead us down the path to riches, to prosperity. If I tithe just right, I’ll get it back – and more! I’ll reap what I sow!
This past Christmas season, I received different cards and notes with scriptures included that reminded me to pray for prosperity for the new year. In fact, if I pray certain verses every day, God will indeed bless me.
Look, I don’t for one second believe God won’t give me anything I desire when I ask…IF He wants to. I believe scripture that says if I had real faith, I could tell a mountain to move and it would move (Mark 11:23)…IF I had faith, and ultimately IF God wanted to move it. I believe IF God wanted me to have a house I “deserve,” He’d most certainly give it to me. Sure.
But I don’t pray to ask for stuff. I don’t read the Bible so I can prosper (with material items). I certainly don’t follow Jesus so that I will be blessed with riches and fame. I am offended when one person says to another, in the midst of hard times, “You just need more faith.” More faith? I think of all the people who have rich and beautiful relationships with God, yet they live in poverty. Do they not have enough faith? I think of those who have suffered horrible deaths. Did they not have enough faith?
We live in a fallen world. The times, they are not good. One read through the Bible or any history book will show these bad times are not new, they are merely different. And the Bible even says following Jesus is not easy, it’s not the wide open road, but rather a narrow path. So why are we trying to make Christianity look like it’s the truth and the way to living the American Dream?
Over and over, I see Christians focusing solely on the feel-good parts of the Bible, often the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John only. But there is so much more to God’s Word than that. From the very first sentence all the way through until the very last, the Bible is about God, not me, not you. The first four books of the Bible’s New Testament tell a beautiful (and tragic, lest you forget) story about Jesus, and it’s certainly worth reading and sharing over and over. Yet, there is much more that is overlooked, much more that teaches us how to live for and worship God. We receive what we receive here on Earth because we are in greater relationship with God, but it doesn’t always translate to wealth, goods, or even a tragic-free life. What we gain, however, is a solid foundation in knowing what lies after — after this life, whether we have lived in a big house or a mud hut, whether we made a lot of money or lived off the land, and whether we lived in the riches of America or the trash dumps in India.
Our reward is not found here. Though many of us may live a rich life here in Earth, that does not mean all who do so are followers of Christ and have received rewards for such a following.
Finally, if we are going to take the good stuff from the Bible and make it work to feel better about ourselves, we also need to take the “scarier” stuff and learn how that applies as well. You don’t just get to hold out your hand and ask and ask and ask – not for yourself, for stuff.
Do you remember this famous quote?
“Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.” John F. Kennedy
What if we changed that to:
“Ask not what God can do for you. Ask what you can do for God.”
Father, what can I do for YOU today?