A controversial Christian speaker was once fielding questions following a presentation when someone shouted out, “How do you reconcile that with with Matthew 16:5?” Since he had not memorized the entire Bible at that point in his life, he had no clue what that verse said. So, without missing a beat, he shouted back, “ With James 6:22!” Then he moved on to the next question.
There is, of course, no chapter six in the book of James. For some reason, however, it seemed to satisfy the shouter of the question. At least it shut him up.
“People who know Scripture can be a pain.”
People who know a little something about Scripture can really be a pain sometimes. In fact, they can be downright haughty. I have to give them this, though; they know a little something about the Bible.
It’s incredible to me how slight people’s knowledge of Scripture can be. I’m speaking here of people who have called themselves Christian for years. To hear them talk, you’d think they were experts in the canon—until they begin to quote verses.
I love it when someone says, “Well, you know…the Bible says that cleanliness is next to godliness.” I love it because I’ve come to the point that I have a stock follow-up prepared for these occasions. When I hear that stated, I immediately say, “Yeah. That’s Hezekiah 16:32 if I’m not mistaken.” If I’m in the right crowd (or maybe the wrong one), they all buy it.
Hezekiah 16:32 says…
As you may know (or at least have guessed), there is no Hezekiah 16:32. As a matter of fact, there is no book of Hezekiah in all of Scripture. You have to admit, though, it really sounds good. And sometimes that’s all we want. We just want to sound good.
I realize that, as a preacher of some forty years, I should probably have a better handle on the canon than most laity. I have to tell you, however, there are some lay folks that can run rings around me when it comes to their knowledge of Scripture. I applaud them for that and wonder why so many others are clueless when it comes to knowing and understanding the Bible.
And there’s another pet peeve of mine (and probably many others). There are a lot of people who have a real good handle on the Bible, but they use it in grossly unsuitable ways. They can quote you chapter and verse, but they can’t tell you who said it, why it was said, to whom it was said, (and most importantly) what it means for us in our day and setting. It can make for some really odd conversations and a slew of awkward moments. Inevitably, massive arguments ensue.
“We need to know the Word.”
It would behoove us to understand what we’re reading when we delve into Scripture. That’s why we have Bible studies. It’s not enough to know the words. We also need to know the Word. The truth can set you free. Please don’t play fast and loose with it.
[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and is currently the pastor of Smith Chapel, in Great Falls, VA.]