A while ago I posted about the importance of not quoting random verses out of context. When I was reading a book about evangelism earlier this week I was therefore pleased to note that an entire chapter had been included about the importance of context when understanding the Bible.
But I actually disagree with the extent to which the authors take their argument.
Here’s the problem: I think that, as Christians, we’re all tempted to take Bible reading to one extreme or the other. One is to randomly quote our favourite verses to justify whatever doctrine we choose to have that day, but the other is to do exactly the same through over-using the ‘context’ card.
Here’s what that looks like in practice. The book I was reading took Jesus’ observation of the widow who gave all she earned from Mark 12, and said that this isn’t talking about giving money at all! Instead, it’s telling the Pharisees not to judge widows.
Now, I don’t disagree that Jesus had an issue with the Pharisees’ judgmental attitude, but this short account is so clearly about the heart of giving that I think it’s intentionally missing the point to take away from that! The authors are over-using context for the sake of the doctrine they’re trying to promote (however good that may be). To prove it, here are Jesus’ words regarding the widow’s gift:
And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.” (Mark 12:43-44)
It would appear that the authors are disagreeing with Jesus’ own interpretation of the events, and that has a sort of alarm bell sound to it, doesn’t it?
I suppose I have to reach the same conclusion here as I did with my earlier post, so I’ll just quote myself:
How about we treat the Bible the way it should be treated? …how about we read it, study it, and apply its lessons.