This morning I was checking out my “On This Day” Facebook posts, you know, reminders of things you posted on this day in past years. I enjoy checking these out and remembering what I thought was funny or thought-provoking or otherwise noteworthy in the years I’ve been on Facebook. Today I reread a post from 2014 that was written by Ben Irwin titled “Five Bible Verses You Need to Stop Misusing.” It was a great article and I enjoyed it all over again.
Sometimes Christians like to take a verse or two from the Bible and proclaim it one of their favorites and maybe even use it as a motto. The problem comes when some of these verses taken by themselves and out of the context of the passage as a whole or even the Bible as a whole. These verses sometimes mean something altogether different from the out of context interpretation.
I’ll give you one of his examples. Luke 11:9 “‘So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.'” There are those who think this means that whatever you ask God for, you will get.
Have you tried that? Have you asked God for something and then didn’t get it? Irwin’s point is that you have to understand that Jesus said this right after teaching the disciples (at their request) how to pray and what to ask for. Jesus responded by teaching them what has become known as The Lord’s Payer. Then he said, if you ask (for this) it will be given to you.
In other words, if you ask for God’s Kingdom to come and God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven, it will be given you. If you ask for just enough bread for today, it will be given. If you ask for forgiveness as we also forgive others, it will be given you. It’s not the same thing as asking for whatever ever you want and God will give it to you. God is not, after all, Santa Claus.
But people have been doing this sort of thing since the books of the Bible were first written. We think we know what the Bible says, or what it means, but sometimes we are way off base.
One days some Sadducees came and they were asking Jesus about some minute part of the law and how it would pan out under an incredibly specific circumstance. It was a tricky question, and they more than likely thought they would trick Jesus into saying something they could discredit. But Jesus gave them an entirely different answer than they were expecting, something much deeper and broader than they really wanted. In fact, he told them they were way off base, wrong actually, and that the question itself wasn’t even correct. Then Matthew 22:33 tells us “And when the crowd heard it, they were astounded at his teaching.”
The crowd was astounded for a couple of reasons. They were not used to hearing any small town rabbi argue that the Sadducees were wrong about the law. Also, what Jesus was telling them was a whole different take, not just on the specifics of the law, but the implications of the law in their own daily lives. They had never before thought about the law the way Jesus talked about it. They were not sure that Jesus was correct.
It’s often quite disturbing to hear a whole new take on the law, and that is what Jesus gave them. It probably shook them up, rattled their nerves, and rolled them into a whole new perspective, or inspired them to run back and hide in what they thought they knew before.
I am constantly surprised by new perspectives. Yes, I dismiss some of them. But others shake me up, rattle my nerves, and roll me into a new perspective.