5 Ways We Misinterpret The Bible
What color is the infamous dress?
You either said:
- White and gold
- Black and blue
- Shades of gray (Ooh...scandalous!)
Which is actually right?
I think this is a good analogy for the idea that we all see different things when we read the Bible. We can all look at the same Biblical verse and think 7 billion different things about it.
Some of these variances are due to the Holy Spirit applying relevant truth to our unique lives, but the misinterpretations are due to our own biases when looking at the Word.
Every living person has biases, and I'd like to talk about 5 biases that I see in my own viewpoint.
1. The Sinful Bias
Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? -Matthew 7:3
Sometimes when we read Scripture, we can't see truth past the chunk of sin stuck in our spiritual eyes. I've heard this sentiment expressed when someone drowning in a secret sin says, "I used to hear God, but now I don't. I've lost all sense of direction in my life." I'm not saying that not hearing God is a 100% direct correlation to sin. I'm saying that I personally can attest that this happened to me.
I once had an affair with a married man. (I dread admitting that, so please spare me the shock and backlash.) During the affair, I still talked to God daily. I prayed. But I didn't hear God's voice the way I did before. I would read my Bible just to "check the box", but it wasn't fruitful. I wasn't growing. My journal during that dark era was filled with, "Are you there, God?" and a lot of doubt over His love for me. Something changed...I changed. I put some dude in the place of God in my life. I did whatever ole dude said, further separating me from The Lord's voice. When I would read Scripture about sexual immorality, I would skim past it. I would think "ah, okay...sure" and move on.
Only after I left that sinful relationship did I begin to hear God's voice clearly again.
The Sinful bias is at the top of my list because it's especially dangerous. It's the way our logic justifies our default (sinful) way of living. Jesus says:
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. -John 10:10
The thief (satan) has programmed our world into treating sin as the only way to live. Jesus destroys that logic and provides us THE BEST way of living: sin free, guilt free, and shame free!
Is there sin that you've been ignoring which has prevented you from clearly hearing the Lord?
2. The Cultural Bias
And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that He who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with Him. -Ephesians 6:9
That's hard to read, especially knowing it's from The Holy Word of God. I mean...really, God?! Telling us how to treat slaves? Isn't slavery wrong? Why don't you command believers to free slaves?
The Cultural bias works in two ways. Firstly, there is a cultural bias contained within the books of the Bible for the period in which they were written. The Old Testament speaks of families as if they all contain fathers who lead them, which isn't the norm in today's times. Secondly, there's the cultural bias of today's times which should be taken into account. The New Testament doesn't tell us how to behave on the internet with holiness, because that wouldn't have made any sense back then.
Think back to the previous Bible verse. As a global population, most of us have evolved enough to understand that enslaving humans is wrong. But that wasn't the state of the world during the time of the writing of Ephesians. So instructions on how to treat slaves were very relevant and were considered outlandish during those times, because slaves had no rights -- not even to be treated decently.
In other words, believers didn't justify poor behavior because of #Culture. They created a new culture: better, more godly, more loving.
In today's times, we can affirm that God places value on each person, not because of ethnic or national origin, but because we are all made in His image. Ere go, today, though you could find Scripture to defend your slave-owning, it is still wrong. It would be a sinful way of living in relation to today's culture.
Pause a moment and ponder what it would look like if we created a more loving culture amidst today's present culture.
3. The Ceiling Bias
God is limitless. We are not. If I asked you what is one thing that you want, you might respond with something like having your credit card debt paid, or even just a free meal at the local Ruth's Chris would be great.
We, as humans, think within our limited vision. Our limited idea of what life is about. We think constantly about ourselves, our life within the walls of our homes and workplaces, and occasionally about our friends, church, or the mall. We think very two-dimensionally. God does not.
The way we think about the following verse is within our limited vision, and you can tell because people use it to in correlation with: "I won a gift card!" or "I just got a 3% raise!".
The blessing of the LORD makes rich, and He adds no sorrow with it. -Proverbs 10:22
God can think about all you think about, both here and now, extended backwards into infinity and forwards into infinity and about all people at all times that currently and have ever and will ever exist. Exhausting, right? For us, most definitely!
But when we have a God with unlimited vision like that, it's hard for us to imagine how unlimited He really is.
So when we pray and seek truth in Scripture, it is with a bias of what's possible for us, at this time, within our own mental limitations.
Are there dreams/ideas/business opportunities from God that you've been ignoring because you can't figure out how they could possibly work out?
4. The My-Will-Be-Done Bias
Not "Thy will be done, Lord". MY WILL BE DONE. This bias causes us to interpret Scripture in a way that confirms our own way of thinking, flawed as it may be.
People often justify sexing around (you don't actually sleep, right??) by saying, "The times have changed". Yes, that's true. But purity has not. God has a BEST WAY for purity even when times change. The applied definition changes, but purity doesn't conform to your desires. Our desires must conform to God's desires. In a life where My Will constantly opposes God's Will, who will I ultimately serve: God or myself?
I've been asked by numerous people if there is a Bible verse that explicitly states, "Thou shall not have sex with your boyfriend/girlfriend". No, there isn't. What the Bible does say is:
But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. -1 Corinthians 7:2
Note: The Bible doesn't say to avoid sexual immorality by only sleeping with the one bf/gf you have...until you have another...and another...and another.
Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed. -Genesis 2:24-25
What I've found in studying the Bible as a whole is that sex=marriage. Because of the cultural context of the Bible, it is never explicitly stated, "Don't have sex before marriage" or "Don't sleep around with more than one person at a time" or "You can do other sexual things, but don't do The Deed". No, it doesn't say that explicitly, nor would anyone in that time think like that. But if you get in The Word and ask the Holy Spirit to interpret it truthfully and wholly, you will come to the knowledge that sex outside of marriage is in fact a sin...and it's not even good for you! Let's quit talking about this like God is a mean control freak who wants us not to have fun in the bedroom. No, there are a litany of reasons why it's best to save sex for marriage, such as avoiding unwanted pregnancies and STD's, but we want to hound the question, "Is it technically wrong in the Bible?" What a foolish way of thinking... Instead, let's ask ourselves:
Is this thing that I want the same thing that my loving, all-knowing God wants for me?
5. The Need-To-Be-Right Bias
This one differs from the previous in that the My-Will-Be-Done bias opposes the rightness of God, whereas the Need-To-Be-Right bias opposes whomever is opposing you. This could also be called the Dig-In-Your-Heels bias, or the Icarus bias, or the inflated ego bias. It happens when your ego gets so big it plugs your ears from listening to anyone else's opinion.
For example, The Viral Dress of 2015. Is it white-and-gold or black-and-blue? When this deep, philosophical question first hit the internet, it was kinda funny. People joked with each other about color blindness...then stupidness...and then it went really downhill from there. Within a week, the jokes turned into really aggressive need-to-be-right full-out internet drop-kicking, and the only way it stopped was by the "weaker" (read: wiser) person bowing out or in a total K-O... A Knock-Out of any chance that the dueling idiots would be decent friends or even cordial acquaintances again.
And since The Viral Dress of 2015, we've really evolved, right? Right?!
How many memes have I seen from personal accounts either attacking or defending Melania Trump for her army jacket. I'm not attacking or defending her. I'm of the belief that it is completely wasted energy and the stupid devil is dancing around ecstatic that he's wasted your precious energy and time on this crap.
With that much energy devoted toward your spiritual life, what could you accomplish?? A lot more than you did by internet trolling over "a good cause".
Butttt... you needed to be right. Why? Because pride. Pride gets in the way of how we think at all times of our day, including when we read Scripture. We pridefully see ourselves as the Ruth type -- so loyal. How about the harlot in John 8? Nah...that's definitely someone else.
Yikes!!! We need to peel back the pride from our minds and say, "God, fix me. I'm the harlot. I'm the one throwing my heart around at people and things that don't matter."
I'm not at all decrying just causes and rallying behind them. If it's truly important to you, do more than internet troll. Please, by all means change the world. Trolling will never be a part of positive world change.
Is there an issue that has taken up your mental energy and diverted your attention from God's will for your life?
If you remember one thing from this post, please remember this. This isn't a clever list of how our minds play tricks on us. I didn't cap this list at "5" because it's a catchy number for a blog post. This was revealed to me by the Lord God during our normal time of revelatory talk...as in He woke me up in the middle of the night to write this down and examine my own heart against His truth.
This post should point you to knowing how much we so desperately need the Holy Spirit of the Living God living within us to rightfully interpret His Word.
In my next post, I'll discuss how we can overcome these biases with the help of the Holy Spirit, in prayer, and through The Word itself.
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