A few weeks ago, I began teaching a course at church I’ve titled, “Break It Like Jesus”. In this class, we’ve been spending time exploring the Sermon on the Mount. More specifically, we’ve been looking for some of the ritualistic tendencies of the Pharisees that Jesus attempts to foil. Before we begin looking at some of these ritualistic tendencies, let’s first create a working definition for ritualism.
Ritualism: Regular observance of a ritual or tradition without regard to it’s function.
Ritualism is something done without remembering why it’s done. This is what Jesus does in the Sermon on the Mount. He strips things back, and peels back several layers in order to uncover function, and essentially break the ritualistic tendency. After reading through the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7, one can easily see that there were several things that early Christians and Jews were practicing ritualistically. Unfortunately, we see the same thing today.
Right away, Jesus gets into a discussion on anger, lust, divorce, oaths, retaliation, and loving your enemies. In these 6 passages (Mt. 5:21-26, 27-30, 31-32, 33-37, 38-42, 43-48) we find that they begin with the same language. Jesus says, “you have heard that it was said,” or, “it was also said.” He points out what they’re interpretation of scripture was in those days, and then corrects there interpretation. Simply put, Jesus points to their ritualistic use of scripture. In Jesus’ time, the Pharisees and religious leaders were using scripture to support their own methods and ideas. They would ritualistically use scripture (or misuse it). We do the same today. Don’t believe me? Here’s a few of the most commonly misused Bible verses of our time…
“Judge not, that you be not judged.” -Matthew 7:1
According to the world, we should just sit back and let believers and non-believers do whatever makes them happy. The world tells us that if we judge, if we throw out the sin word, if we point out wrongdoing, we’ll be judged as well. Unfortunately, as Christians we’re not supposed to let brothers and sisters in Christ do whatever makes them happy. Instead, we need to stick together in order to encourage each other in our walk with Christ. We’re called by Jesus to lovingly and respectfully approach fellow believers who are in sin, but we can’t forget about our own.
“I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” -Philippians 4:13
Apparently, according to Paul, if we know Jesus we can score touchdowns, hit a homer, score goals, and the like. While this verse doesn’t say that we can do feats of athletic accomplishments with Christ, it does suggest that we can overcome and persevere through times of tribulation and persecution with Jesus. That’s a promise we should cling to! Unfortunately, that’s not how this particular verse is often portrayed.
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” -Jeremiah 29:11
Woke up on the wrong side of the bed? Have a bad hair day? Money a bit tight? Don’t worry. Relax! Apparently, according to Jeremiah God is going to prosper or welfare you. NOT! That is, unless you’re exiled Israel wanting to return to the promised land, because that’s who this verse is really for.
We could go on all day. There are an innumerable amount of verses that are abused and misused in today’s world. The truth of the Gospel can only be interpreted one way, yet we often bring our own interpretations and opinions into account when reading scripture. It’s time we just let Jesus speak for himself. What are some verses that you’ve seen abused and misused recently?
(Photo by Flickr User: Steve Snodgrass)
Have a misused Bible verse? Share it in the comments below!