Sometimes people tell you that when you’re feeling down, you should read the Bible. I think it seems like a good enough strategy at first glance – but I also think that HOW you choose to do it is important. For example – there is a well known strategy, used by many over the course of time, where the reader decides to open their Bible to a random page and allow God to speak to them through the words of a verse, supposedly chosen at the will of the Holy Spirit, or His leading. We religious types have a joke about this, and you’ll have to forgive us, because it’s a little dark. It goes like this.
A man opened His Bible randomly asking God to speak to Him, and his eyes were immediately drawn to Matthew 27:5 which reads;
"Then he threw down the pieces of silver in the temple and departed, and went and hanged himself”
The man, slightly shocked, turned the page again, and read a second verse, Luke 10:37;
“Go therefore and do likewise…”
Suddenly this strategy doesn’t seem so brilliant anymore.
Believe me when I say that I as much as ANYONE can understand the potential danger in hearing or reading JUST those words, and assuming that it’s a message from God straight to us. God would NEVER desire or direct someone to end their own life. He didn’t want Judas to do it, and He doesn’t want you to either. He is just as concerned about your mental health as He is your spiritual and physical. But when you and I read the words of Scripture out of context and without a “total” view of the message of the book, there are many potential dangers.
Let’s consider another example. Many people turn to the Bible to feel better about themselves, perhaps especially after they’ve made an egregious mistake in their lives. They want to know that God loves them, that He works in their lives, and that if they cry out to Him, things will change. They want to be assured that they have value to Him, and that if they follow Him, He will help them turn their lives around. Consider then, how that person might feel if they stumble across these verses in Romans 3 (quoted from the Psalms;
Romans 3:11–18 (ESV)
“None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands;
no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have
become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”
“Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.” “Their mouth is full of
curses and bitterness.” “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have
not known.” “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”“None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.” “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” “Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.” “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
That doesn’t exactly fill the world with hope now does it? I mean, if you are in the right place and really start to consider it, you might find solace in the fact that EVERYONE is just as bad as you, and no one is exempt from the clutches of sins grasp. But again, you’d really have to be thinking straight. More likely, is a scenario where this section of God’s word causes you to feel as though you’re a lost cause and you’ll never be able to stand before God and make a just plea for Him to consider you “righteous” or holy enough to spend eternity with Him, much less for Him to get involved in or care about your every day life.
Enter the opportunity to understand the WHOLE story of God. Because if you were dependent on that one passage to inform you about your standing with God, you probably wouldn’t feel to good about it, or about your chances to convince Him to let you in. However, the story of God contains (pardon my crassness), some big buts. Buts like this one –
Ephesians 2:4–7 (ESV)
BUT God, being rich in mercy, because of the great
love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses,
made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and
raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in
Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable
riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
And also this one…
2 Corinthians 5:17–21 (ESV)
Therefore (BUT), if anyone is in Christ, he
is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and
gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was
reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses
against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.
Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through
us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake
he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become
the righteousness of God.
When you hear the WHOLE story – INCLUDING the BUTS – suddenly the whole having to defend or prove yourself goes out the window. You’re no longer responsible for pleading your own case, nor do you even have to – because it’s already been plead, heard and ruled on. And the ruling is in your favor. You’re good. You’re in. You’re set free from your debt. In the words of some Italian mob boss from the Bronx – “FUGGEDABOUT’ IT”
The Bible is the best selling book of all time. I can only imagine over the course of its existence I guess you can say, one can only assume how many times it’s been used to try and cheer someone up, fix their problems, or write a wrong. Hopefully, more often than not, people have found the hope and assurances that can only come from the totality of God’s story. I hope so anyway. I guess you can say, it pays to keep reading.