Observing a recent dialog that my friend’s kids had with their grandmother took me down memory lane. How am I to put this? I guess I was always a paradox – a chatter box yet an introvert. You could find me either totally buried in my books (reading, school work etc) or being a total chatterbox. As a child I used to always get told off by my mum for a long winded story, “Can’t you just come to the point?” she would scold me. (Of course at school in the UK, I would get highly commended for my creative writing skills!). However, it’s the times that I do stick to the point and not the details is when I would eventually get into trouble for not having told her something as it would turn out that wasn’t the only point. You get the drift of the story right?
Some details may not seem important at the time of a dialog to the speaker so those details are left out. However those very details could be important to the hearer. Some details take away the context of what happened and why it happened. Omission of such details could easily misrepresent or bring about a false judgment about something or someone else. It could also give undue credit to the speaker as the details of how the speaker managed to do something was left out. I have gotten into enough of trouble with my mum as a kid – either way!
Even now, I prefer to give the long story so that no one else gets misrepresented by a short version – even though the misrepresentation may not be intentional. If the recipient however misunderstands what is being said or filters what is being said through their own perception, worldviews, values, beliefs, prejudices etc then that of course is not our issue!
This is not much different from the way we communicate with God or about God either. Ever so often we share ‘verses’ perhaps with a good intention to see people being touched or saved or encouraged (and some of course with a motive of wanting to sound religious and be the person people praise).. However, when we share isolated verses, there are often times that in taking it out of context of the passage, the book and the Bible in its entirety we are at a risk of not giving the full picture, of giving half the truth which can make it a lie!
A great example of this in Scripture itself is that of Satan quoting scripture! Is it of any surprise that it is Satan who is misquoting Scripture?
Jesus had been led to the wilderness by the Holy Spirit and He had fasted and prayed for 40 days and 40 nights. Scripture is clear that He was hungry. How do you feel when you are hungry? Weak? Without resistance? “Whatever!” kind of mentality? In fact Matthew records in chapter 4, that the purpose for being led to the wilderness was to BE TEMPTED BY THE DEVIL.
The tempter came alone and first tried to taunt Jesus saying IF you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread! Imagine when you are starving and someone talks about food.. Gosh, I know that thought full well… The enemy use that to break down Jesus’ resistance to use His power to do something out of line. Jesus clearly responded with Scripture emphasising what is important for the life of a believer.. It is God’s Word that sustains us.
Now soon after Jesus says this, the enemy uses the very word of God to try to get Jesus to respond to his commands stating ‘For it is written’ (Matthew 4:5-6). Jesus responds with Scripture, “It is also written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test’.
How often are we putting God to the test by ‘claiming’ a scripture out of context in our prayers? How often do we quote a verse in isolation of God’s Word in its entirety?
After Jesus answered the devil for the second time, the devil told Jesus he would give all the kingdoms of the world if Jesus were to worship him. Jesus at that point rebuked the enemy and said ‘away from Me, Satan! For it is written: Worship the Lord your God, AND SERVE HIM ONLY”
How often are we following the enemy’s lead in taking verses out of isolation? In that process we are serving the enemy.
Most of the promises in the Bible have a CONDITION attached to them. For example, Jesus says your needs will be added to you – that’s the promise. Along with it comes the condition, “Seek FIRST the Kingdom of God and His righteousness”. It’s not even just about seeking His Kingdom and righteousness but to do it first. When we present the promise without a condition, we are misrepresenting God and making a liar out of Him.
Some promises are in context of what God was doing in a situation or in a particular context. Some promises talk about the spiritual aspect of our lives and not the physical. Some talk about eternal life.. There is a time and a place for everything. God has a purpose for everything.
Taking the TEXT out of con-TEXT leaves you with a CON.
Jesus doesn’t promise us an easy life. He tells us that in this life THERE WILL BE trouble. Yet He promises us that He is with us and His peace will transcend all understanding. In addition to that Jesus calls us to CARRY OUR CROSS… – Our walk with God in obedience to Him will be a life carrying our cross – of making choices that belong to the NARROW path and not the broad path of the world.
Let’s always seek discernment and God’s Wisdom to know how to present His Word. May we not put God to the test with our verses in isolation. May we be a people who know how to correctly handle the truth remembering Jesus is THE TRUTH.
May we discern the source of each verse and the motive behind it…
May we be a people who are the Ambassadors of Christ and Christ alone!