I never cease to be surprised at how evil, deluded and selfish the human heart can be. Even the heart of a saved born-again Christian. Oftentimes, we grow in knowledge of the Lord but not in wisdom about ourselves. More often than not, however much we know, our basic personality remains the same. Our personality is the last bastion of our enslavement to ourselves: we don’t change it and we say "scriptural" things about our character and personality all too easily. If we acknowledge that something is wrong with our personality, we often shrug and say, “That’s just the way I am. I can’t help it.” But certainly, if personality is so unchangeable, then we don’t need God or maturity, do we? After all, we are not put on earth to remain the same from birth to death.
But people who are short-tempered often remain short-tempered. People who are judgmental or rigid or emotional remain judgmental or rigid or emotional no matter how much they grow. Why do unsaved know-it-alls become saved know-it-alls?
They allow God to save them. But they refuse to let him touch their personality. They excuse their personality as a trait. People who are timid often remain timid. Remember Paul telling Timothy to be brave. Timothy was not a typical evangelist. But Paul had to knock his old timid personality out of him. It took two letters but we can assume that Timothy took Paul’s advice and learned to speak up. Many Christians read Timothy’s letters and take all the advice written in them as advice for all Christians...or advice for pastors. But the truth of the matter is that those letters were for Timothy and for timid pastors like him. But how many times have you heard a pushy person use verse meant for Timothy? And that is another problem, isn’t it. We take a lot of scriptures that aren’t really meant for us. And some people have “favorite verses” that shows so much more about themselves than about God. Yes, we should read the whole counsel of Scripture but we have to be very careful about how this selfish human personality of ours accept certain Scriptures.
There are folks who tend to repeat certain Scriptures an awful lot. Hey, I have my favorite passages too. For the most part, I take people as I find them. But every once in a while I see some pretty nasty selfish patterns that irritate me because I feel I am faced with a human Christian using God’s words for his/her selfish ends. This is not to say these verses are bad. Or that the people who use them are bad. It’s to say that we need to examine ourselves a bit more. And we cannot use God.
So, then, that said: let us examine a few of my observances about favorite scripture verses.
Why do bullying or insecure husbands often say, “a wife should be subject to her husband?” Yet neglect the other part of the passage which says, "And a husband must sacrifice himself for his wife just as Christ sacrificed himself for the church?"
Why do bullying parents say, “Children obey your parents in the Lord?” Yet they often forget the other part of the passage, which says, "And you parents, provoke not your children to anger?"
Why do gay and lesbian Christians always say, “In Christ there is no male or female?” or "we are all under grace not law" or "God is love." And why do they say David and Jonathan were lovers or Jesus and the Beloved Disciples were lovers? Or why do they say that Jesus never mentioned anything about homosexuality?
Why do judgmental Christians always say, “Get out from among them and be ye separate” when they discuss homosexual Christians. The verse was used to describe a type of faithless church, not people.
Why do judgmental Christians always say, “Keep away from every appearance of evil?” Why do they especially pick on the way women dress? Is it the old idea that woman is temptation incarnate?
Why do cruel Christians constantly speak of “speaking the truth in love?” Why don't they ever see that Paul lists gentleness and forbearance as the heights of spiritual maturity?
Why do wishy-washy Christians always say, “Judge not lest ye be judged.”
Why do uncaring selfish Christians always say, “Let each man bear his own burden?” Is it because they don’t want to care about other people? Why do Christians who feel unloved often repeat the same verse? “Let each man bear his own burden.” Is it because they don’t want to bother other Christians with their sorrows? Christianity isn’t stoicism.
Why do Christians who give up on other Christians often speak about the "leopard being unable to change his spots?"
Why do bitter and vengeful Christians always say, “What a man soweth that will he also reap.” or shake their heads sadly and say, (at a drunk on the street or some other unfortunate soul) “The wages of sin.”
Why do those Christians who are "unacquainted with grief" judge sad Christians (people of sorrows) and tell them they don't have faith and that they should "rejoice in the Lord always?" Don't they remember that Rachel wept for her children and could not be comforted?
Why do positive-thinking Christians always rush to judge Job's wife and say that she "tempted" Job to be sad? Don't they realize this woman had grief too? And why do they say Job got into trouble because he didn't speak positively? Don't they realize they're acting like Job's comforters and attempting to find a reason for Job's problems by blaming him? Are they afraid to think that God owns our lives and can do whatever He wants with it?
And yet, why do clinically-depressed Christians often say, "The Lord has his reasons for creating me like this?" Why do they believe that God and fallen nature are one and the same? A genetic illness doesn't mean God wills the illness.
Why do emotionally uncaring people or pastors who don’t want to deal with the normal pressures and responsibilities of family life say, “The Lord tells us He is always first, before families, before friends”?
Why do people who only care about their families say, “The Lord wants us to take care of our families first?”
Why do many lazy Christians often say, “The Lord will supply all your needs?”
Why do workaholics or too self-reliant Christians say, “The Lord helps those who help themselves?” A phrase that is not in the Bible.
Why do Christians in flagrant open adulterous sin always say, “Now there is no condemnation in Christ” or bring up David as an example of a servant of God who sinned but who was "used mightily of God" and "was a man after God's own heart?"
Why do immoderate sinners who over-eat and over-drink say more often than not, “The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak?”
Why do Christians who are afraid of venturing forth on their mission in life always seem to speak about doing things in “The Lord’s time?”
Why do Christians who are overzealous in their witnessing always say, “It is always good to be zealous for the Lord.”
Why do rigid people always say, “Let all things be done decently and in order?”
Why do certain people who dislike order always say, “Quench not the spirit?” Or “Be drunk in the spirit.”
Why do people who don’t want to study say, “The Lord will teach us all things”? or mimisters who feel intimidated by an educated parishioner say "let us not trust in worldly wisdom?"
Why do people who are proud of their education often say, “Study to show yourselves approved?”
Why do people suddenly change their idea of God when they fall into sin? For instance the minister who preached against divorce suddenly starts preaching about God being the God of grace and the second chance when he gets a divoorce? Why do people "grow in grace" whenever they do wrong but stick to legalities when other folks do wrong? Isn't this iniquity? Using different scales depending on who is sinning?
Why do overly controlling ministers constantly speak of discipling their flock? Why do the insecure ones constantly remind their congregants of the verse that a God has given them
authority? And why do their way-too-proud-to-be-a-minister’s-spouse wives constantly speak as if their husband’s calling is more special than everyone else’s calling? Can’t they find some other way to find their own worth? Did God really intend to create a class of people whose members would always be permanently better and wiser than everyone else? Isn’t this idea of clergy being more "called" than “lay Christians” very Catholic? Why do insecure deacons and ministers constantly talk about “fulltime service?” What, do the rest of us serve the Lord only on a part-time basis?
The trouble with a lot of our pretensions is that other people see through them. Thankfully, they keep their opinions about our foibles and mind-games to themselves. But our “pious” verses do turn a great many folks off. And what does our self-delusion or hypocrisy do? It reflects on God’s church. Why, for instance, are so many people virulently anti-Christian? Is it always becausechristiaan-haters are hateful, deluded people? No! It’s because, like Darwin, Karl Marx and Madalyn Murray O’Hair, the originator of the American Atheist society and daughter of a minister, they have been around religious people too long and seen way too much hypocrisy, cruelty, self-delusion and judgmentalism.
I am not saying having favorite verses are bad. God forbid! They are Scripture and God’s truth! Nor am I saying that everyone who uses these verses are deluding themselves. Nor am I saying that you should go around judging other people. How many times have I sat in church where a minister spoke about some sin and everyone nodded his/her head in agreement? Obviously they were all thinking about their neighbors sins and not thinking about their own sins.
I am saying that we are all human and that we are way too easy on ourselves. We need truth and balance. We need to know ourselves. But certain Christians often use Scripture to hammer themselves with or to hammer others. They use scripture as excuses. And if I have offended anyone, I’m sorry. But we must remember how selfish and deluded and self-righteous we humans can be. Jeremiah told us, “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Who can know it?” We must know ourselves. Sin uses us. And we blaspheme God by using his Scriptures to hide those parts of us that we should change.
That's a good piece Carrole. You don't like to pick light and fluffy topics do you? Still, we (I)do need to be more honest with ourselves.
I had a couple of thoughts.
1. I might change some of the "evils" to something less offensive, like "selfish." It's easier to admit that "I" am "selfish" than "evil" and it might help you touch more people.
2. I might add the second part of some of those verses, especially husband and wife, and children and parents. It would make it easier for people who don't really know the Bible well.
Oh, and did you know that "the Lord helps those who help themselves" is not in the Bible?
12 Oct 2002
Thank you for this insightful article. I saw myself (OUCH!) but I also thought, law uses law. Where there is law within ourselves we ourselves use that very law. I find God's ways amazing because He uses His Word (just watch what Scriptures we use) to show us ourselves. God's Word NEVER returns void, so those of us who use the Word in wrong ways, will have the Word used against us, in His timing...but He'll always use it.