Picking and Choosing

Posted: April 13, 2012 in QT's
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Our lives are filled with choices. Where to eat? Where to live? What car to drive? What career path to follow? Who to hang out with?… From ordinary and insignificant to huge and life-changing we are faced with choices, and we like it. We want what we want and we feel entitled to whatever we want. We are the products of a consumer based society.  In short, we pick and choose whatever suits us. We do it when we’re staring at the buffet and we do it when we’re staring at the Bible, often times with about as much thought.

I know that sounds pretty harsh but think about it. Take a moment to think of a favorite verse of Scripture…

I bet it has something to do with being blessed, or being forgiven, or being promised something. I do it too. A favorite passage of mine is Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” When was the last time you heard someone say, “Man, I love those passages in the Bible about your sin finding you out and the sins of the fathers being visited on the children for three and four generations, yeah I love that.” That would be weird. It’s natural for us to be drawn to the passages that encourage us and give us hope and there’s nothing wrong with that. What we have to be careful about is picking and choosing which passages are true or false and/or which passages we will take to heart and which ones we will conveniently forget about.

For instance, when it comes to Old Testament passages we often want to claim that we live by grace and that we’re not under the law, therefore many of those passages don’t pertain to us. Here’s where we need to understand a few basic principles of good Bible study.

First, we need to understand that every verse of the Bible was written in a particular context. Each verse is part of a larger body of work, namely the book it’s found within. The books of the Bible were written by men who lived in a particular time and place. Each book was also written with a particular audience in mind and for a particular reason. Specific words were written to specific people.

Secondly we need to remember that each of these writers was inspired by God who saw beyond their time and circumstance. God knew that people would come to the Bible for guidance and help hundreds and thousands of years after the words were written and from various cultures and places in the world. There are principles behind the specific words that were written to specific people.

Thirdly, we need to learn how to discern between the two and apply God’s word to our lives. Let me give you some examples, starting with the New Testament because it’s easier. Let’s look at 1John 2:15-17.

“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and  the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.”

In this passage the apostle John is writing to fellow believers and is warning them not to be enamored with the things of the world. The things of the world are temporary and they are contrary to the things of God. Rather, let the things of God have your attention, and your heart. This passage was written directly to Christians in a specific place and time but it is just as true and applicable to believers today.

Now let’s take a look at Deuteronomy 23:19-20, an Old Testament passage that may not be so easy.

“You shall not charge interest on loans to your brother, interest on money, interest on food, interest on anything that is lent for interest. You may charge a foreigner interest, but you may not charge your brother interest, that the LORD your God may bless you in all that you undertake in the land that you are entering to take possession of it.”

This was a command from God, given through Moses directly to the Hebrew people. They were a new nation on their way to possess a new land and they were under a covenant with God. God had promised to bless them if they followed His ways and they agreed. This passage is a direct command for the people of Israel to not charge interest to each other.

Pretty cut and dried for Israel but what about us? Does this passage have any application to me, an American Christian living in the 21st Century? I believe it does. What we have to do is look at the principle behind the command. Why did God give this command in the first place? What purpose did it serve?

God gave the command because He wanted His people to be different. They weren’t to treat each other the way other people treated each other. If their brother had a need then they should meet that need without taking advantage of their brother. Remember, God wanted all the other nations of the world to look at Israel and understand what it meant to belong to God. They were supposed to be a witness and testimony of His goodness to the rest of the world. So what does this mean to us? Well, as Christians we are in a covenant relationship with God through Christ. His law is written on our hearts. He wants us to to treat each other with kindness, love, and respect and not to take advantage of each other. We are to be a testimony of God’s goodness and grace to an unbelieving world. If it was wrong for a Jew to charge interest to another Jew then it stands to reason, based on the principle behind the command, that it’s wrong for Christians to charge interest to each other. If our brother has a need that we can meet, then we should meet it with no thought of making a profit. We certainly see this principle at work in the early church in Acts 2:45.

“And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.”

These are just some examples, there are certainly many more passages like the ones above. When it comes to God’s word we should be very careful about picking and choosing. We shouldn’t approach it as if it were a buffet where we can take what we like from it and leave the rest. When it comes to God’s word, choose all of it, and be blessed.

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