Yours, Mine, Theirs: Rightly Dividing the Truth
When my husband was a boy, he and his brother often opened Christmas gifts with their cousins. Giddy with excitement, they tore into boxes with their initials on them and, holding their take high, thanked the givers for what they’d gotten.
At least, that’s how it happened early on.
“Oh, wait!” an aunt or uncle would say. “That gift isn’t yours! That one was supposed to be for your brother (or cousin). It’s his. So sorry! I must have marked it wrong.”
Laughing if the gift was a sweater and holding a smile in place by sheer will if the gift was a toy, they’d turn it over to the rightful owner and move on to the next gift.
It didn’t take the boys long to learn that tags could not be trusted, and they began to open their gifts with a bit more caution, trying not to become emotionally invested until they knew for sure which gifts were theirs and which belonged to their cousins.
At the start of this new year, it seems that many have resolved to read their Bible more. With every drag of my finger, a new ‘Bible verse’ pops up on my feed, stylized and pretty, complete with seriffed font and a Bible reference bow to tie it up tight, each a gift from those posting to those scrolling.
While I appreciate the sentiment and motivation behind these posts, I can’t help but wonder whether some of them are at least partly to blame for the skepticism some feel toward Christianity, the Bible, and God Himself.
Many of these inspirational posts are not Bible verses at all, but homespun and incorrect interpretations and/or paraphrases of Scripture masquerading as truth, attached Bible references completing their disguise.
Some are actual Bible verses that have been taken out of context, context that is necessary for their correct interpretation and application.
Others are actual Bible verses, usually promises of some kind, intended for a very specific and limited audience and not for all of mankind.
Rather than leading the lost to salvation or the saved into deeper intimacy with God, posts like these can mislead, hinder, and confuse the work of the Holy Spirit Whose job it is to convict hearts of sin, reveal the Truth of the Gospel, and draw hearts to salvation through Jesus Christ and intimacy with the Father.
Let me explain.
When reading such posts, those who are numb to the Holy Spirit, for whatever reason, open what they are given, toss aside what they don’t like, and cling to what makes them feel better, in some cases, believing things that aren’t true and, in other cases, claiming promises that don’t belong to them, making it more difficult for the Holy Spirit to convict and direct.
Those who are sensitive to the Holy Spirit, whether they be lost seekers being drawn by the Spirit or believers, open what they are given, but, try as they might, are unable to find encouragement and joy in it. The Holy Spirit, Who testifies to the Gospel, helps us discern right from wrong, and guides us into all truth, won’t let them. These people know what they’ve been handed is not for them. Uneasy, they hesitate to trust and accept. Some grow skeptical of Scripture in general, the very tool by which the Holy Spirit would lead them to and deepen their faith.
Knowing how God feels about those who cause others to stumble (Luke 17:2), surely none of us would do so on purpose. So why? Why in the world do we twist, mutilate, and misuse God’s Word?
- Some of us are gullible. Either lost or immature in our faith, we lack or neglect to apply discernment. Believing anything and everything that sounds biblical or churchy or makes us feel something we interpret to be positive, we pass it on and, unwittingly, become a stumbling block.
- Some of us are lazy. We know that we should check everything against Scripture, evaluating not only content, but the importance of context and audience, especially before passing it on with a label that reads ‘To: Everyone,’ but that takes too long. If it sounds right or even pretty close to what we think we’ve heard or read before, we neglect our responsibility to rightly divide the Word of Truth and allow potentially damaging half-truth—which is falsehood—to slip through our fingers, underestimating the damage it could do.
- Some of us are arrogant. Overconfident in our ability to interpret and paraphrase Scripture or deciding in our own wisdom that a personal Word from the Lord specific to a particular circumstance or situation we are going through must be applicable and heard by the masses, we spit out half-chewed human wisdom for others to swallow, label it ‘From: God’ by adding a reference and leaving our own name off, and so join the ranks of the Serpent.
- Some of us know exactly what we’re doing, but lack faith in the Holy Sprit’s ability to do His job. We dilute and decorate the Truth in an effort to make the Gospel, God, Jesus, and the Bible more accessible and attractive to others and inadvertently put ourselves square in the way of those who need to find Jesus.
So, should we just stop posting?
Not at all!
We just have to make sure that what we post is, in fact, the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
- Before posting or reposting anything, check it against Scripture. Don’t rely on memory or trust others to do it for you.
- Don’t post anything that doesn’t match up with Scripture exactly, and call others on it when they do.
- When context is crucial to accurate interpretation and application of a particular verse, either include that context or don’t post at all.
- When quoting Scripture directly, use quotation marks. When paraphrasing, say so!
- When posting Scripture intended for a specific audience, such as obedient Christ-followers only, indicate that audience so others don’t walk away thinking they own something they don’t.
Brothers and sisters, God’s Word is a gift worth giving, a gift you must give. Just be sure to check the content and get your labels right before passing it out so what’s yours and mine may one day be theirs!