Wednesday, May 20, 2009


We were discussing how Jesus healed the man with the withered hand. Three characters interact in the story: Jesus, his critics, and the handicapped soul. Jesus is angry and active; the Pharisees suspicious and passive; the handicapped is desperate and obedient. Jesus, of course, is the hero, but each character vies for our affections. We know them by their actions. Pharisees: watch, accuse, question, go silent, go home, and conspire for a kill. Handicapped soul: rises, comes forward, stretches and receives. Jesus: speaks, asks, surveys, emotes, and heals.

We should find ourselves in these characters as we read God’s Word, but too often we don’t. The reason is simple: We introduce a fourth character, namely ourselves. With our own context and verbs we harass the text: read, analyze, diagram, expose, and apply. We don’t find ourselves in the man or the critic or the Christ. We find ourselves in a living room, above the passage with our Bible study methods. And the central question is “What did you get out of this story?”

“I got this…” one starts.

“I got that…” another adds.

We circle the room with our gets and gots, treating this story of Jesus as a product that we could buy or rent for a few dollars. Perhaps this is just vernacular, a way of saying, “What is God teaching you? How do you observe/experience/obey Him in this story?” But these questions are as mute as the kill-a-life-but-keep-the-law Pharisees.

No, the word was get, as in take, consume, pull from. The verb reduces the Bible to a commodity. Eugene Peterson addresses this Western approach to the Christian life in his book, The Jesus Way. He writes, “My concern is that the prominence of the way in our Scriptures…has been transferred in contemporary life into ways of getting money, getting jobs, and getting power” (pg. 38).

I felt God moving me to address this language in our Bible study. The company was mostly unfamiliar, but house church gatherings promise a voice to everyone present. “I want to challenge our language for studying the Bible,” I began. The room was quiet. I pointed out and corrected the language of reading-to-get, and offered an alternative.

“We enter into the text as a participant, not a consumer. This is God’s story to tell, not ours simply to take from.”

Perhaps this is just clever wordplay, but I would argue otherwise. The words we employ both reflect and shape our thinking. Approaching the Bible as an entrance, not a fuel stop, might help reform our withered reading.

Rise up. Come forward. Stretch out your hand.

1 comment:

willtolive said...

Well put, Spranky!

Now, let's go back to Glacier for another week!