I am rather passionate about God’s Word. In fact, my friend Peter wrote an excellent piece last week about Andy Stanley and apologetics, and while I actually agree with a lot of what he says, this was my reply to him (on Facebook):
“…However, I currently have zero tolerance for anything even resembling the mishandling of the Word, so…I’m a little sensitive.”
If I had a dollar for every time someone had misquoted, mis-interpreted, or mishandled Scripture and tried to apply it to my life of theirs, money would probably never again be an issue in our household.
One example of this is the “health and wealth” gospel, which preaches that once you accept Jesus, you will be rich and healthy. If you are not, you don’t have enough faith. These people use verses like the second part of James 1:5 – “…let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” They conveniently leave out the first part of the verse (“If any of you lacks wisdom”) and the context (testing of one’s faith). Or, one of their favorites, John 10:10b – “I have come that they may have life and have it abundantly.” Again, they completely ignore the context and actual meaning of this verse.
They mishandle the Word of God, and promise people that God will give them the desires of their heart. The consequence? Broken hearts, sick people, dead children, ruined marriages, and people who want nothing further to do with God, Jesus, or Christians, because “God didn’t give me what I wanted when I wanted it, and they said it was my fault for not having enough faith.” Or, it’s equally destructive partner: “God wants me to be happy, so I will do what I want, because the blood of Jesus has already given me grace, and when I sin, He will just give me MORE grace.”
But I am willing to bet most Christians in churches today don’t think they fall into this category. If pressed, most Christians, especially Christian women, wouldn’t claim to be “health & wealth, name it & claim it, blab it & grab it” Christians at all. They think that because they are involved in “Bible” studies written by today’s most popular authors, and are busy in the church, they are immune to this deception.
But they aren’t. This false gospel is insidious, deceptive, attractive, and so well-hidden that this affects almost every woman’s life in some way. You are either mishandling the Word of God and inflicting disastrous consequences on yourself and those around you, or you are standing firm and contending for the faith once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3).
How can you tell the difference?
- How are you studying God’s Word? Are you actually in God’s Word, reading more than one or two verses at a time? Are you reading the surrounding context, making sure that what you are reading makes sense to you according to what is happening in the overall story of the passage (be that a section, paragraph, chapter or entire book)? OR are you being asked questions by a book author and then looking up a verse – or worse, part of a verse, and answering questions based on nothing but a teeny tiny snippet?
- How are you finding answers to life’s tough questions? What do you do when infertility, adultery, death, disability, and terror strike into your life? Do you grab your well-worn Bible and turn to the index of topics, or a list of go-to memory verses already running through your mind? Do you pray? Do you have a series of pastors and sermons you can turn to and listen to for encouragement? Are you willing to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, doing all things without grumbling and complaining, blessing the God who gives and who takes away? OR do you whine on social media, pour yourself a glass of wine, put your kids to bed early, and display zero fruit of the Spirit while calling friend after friend searching for affirmation?
- How are you counseling others? Are you pointing others to the only source of hope: Jesus Christ and His saving work on the cross? Are you sharing the law and the gospel – that people are sinners in need of a savior, and the only Savior is Christ Himself? Are you telling of His salvific power and how only He can change their lives? OR are you spending all the time talking about yourself? Your story is unimportant; no one cares what happened to you – they need to know about Jesus! Even if you claim to be giving all the glory to God, you are really shouting “Look at me! Look at me!”
- What do you really believe? I mean it: ask yourself what do you really believe. Do you believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, and only He can save you from the penalty and power of sin? Do you believe that you are saved only by faith, not by any single solitary thing that you can do? Do you believe that you cannot earn more grace, and that you don’t have permission to continue sinning? OR do you think that believing in Jesus is simply some sort of “fire insurance,” and you can keep living however you want, because He’s already saved you? Do you think that you have to keep earning salvation somehow…like you have to complete a checklist of Christian behaviors in order to earn favor with God (Bible study, church service, fill-in-the-blank)?
- What are you conveying to others about your beliefs? This, dear sisters, is the crux of the matter. Do your words and actions match your true beliefs? Are you attending church every Sunday and not letting any other thing hinder your commitment to your local body of believers? Are your social media posts full of new-age sayings and self-help drivel, or do they point people to the saving grace of Christ? Are you using Scripture rightly when you mention it, so that people aren’t asking why God is blessing you and and not them? OR are you taking the most popular out-of-context verses out-of-context, and being a stumbling block to fellow believers or believers of weaker faith?
In my own infertility journey, I have been told I don’t have enough faith, I don’t pray the right way, or that I must have some unconfessed sin preventing me from getting pregnant. All three of these things are the result of mishandling Scripture. Thankfully, I have studied God’s Word enough that although those words hurt and stung, I knew better than to take them to heart.
But what about the women who haven’t studied? What about the women who get their “theology” from popular teachers who never take them deeper than a verse or two (and 95% of the time out of context)? What about the women who read another woman’s account of how God has richly blessed her, claims Jeremiah 29:11 or Matthew 7:7 as her “life verse,” and then promises them the same thing?
I guarantee those women are crying and asking, “Where is my hope and future? I have been asking and seeking and knocking! Where is my blessing that looks like hers? I’ve been praying for the exact same thing, and I claim the exact same life verse! Where is MY baby, promotion, husband, new house, new car, healing from illness, etc., etc.?”
Ladies, the consequences of mishandling the Word of God, especially in a casual medium such as a Facebook post, can be spiritually deadly for a fellow believer. I am pleading with you to be supremely careful in handling the treasure that is God’s Word. Handle it rightly, and it brings life to those who hear it. Handle it incorrectly, and you might drive someone far away from Christ.
Sister, be careful with your words, especially as they concern The Word.
“I tell you, on the day of judgment, people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” – Matthew 12:36-37.