Do we read the Scriptures?
Do we know how to read the Scriptures?
Can we read them without inserting our own personal commentaries that add to, subtract from, and “improve” upon what the original authors meant?
I can only speak from what see and what I know, but it’s my opinion that many people who believe in Jesus, don’t believe in His words.
We want to believe that He died and rose again, but we act like He didn’t mean most of what He said.
Why do we improve Jesus’ teaching? Who do we think we are? We soften Jesus warnings, and wuss-ify the gospel.
Jesus always drew a crowd. His sermons weren’t safe. Put yourself in Matthew Chapters 4-6. In Matthew Chapter 4, Jesus comes barreling out of the wilderness after defeating the Devil in the desert. He starts speaking about His kingdom, and He heals everyone who comes to Him. The crowds could not get enough of Him. They followed Him everywhere.
The multitudes, who were healed by His hands, sat and listened as He opened His mouth.
Jesus says things like,
- Blessed who are humble, for the whole earth will be theirs. (Matt 5:5)
- Persecuted people will be blessed because the kingdom of heaven belongs to them. (Matt 5:10)
- If you call someone a fool, you will be in danger of the fire of hell. (Matt 5:22)
- when you are offering your gift to God and remember that someone has something against you. leave immediately and go make it right. (Matt 5:23-24)
- anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Matt 5:28)
and His heart warming
- “If your right eye causes you to sin, take it out and throw it away. It is better to lose one part of your body than to have your whole body thrown into hell. If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.” (Matt 5:29-30)
What are we supposed to do with this stuff?
I read through these passages with a group of friends. We are trying something new. We are reading the bible and taking it for what it says. It’s been challenging, and heart wrenching.
When we got to verses 23-24, We stopped, and I asked my friend what Jesus was saying. My friend is a man who loves God and has committed his life to serving Him. My friend replied, “I think it means that we should make sure our hearts are right before we offer our worship to God.”
I looked at the verses, and with a mixture of love and sarcasm replied, “The word heart isn’t even in the verse,” We sat there in silence for a few seconds as we looked at what it said. It actually says that if someone has issues with us, then we have to go that person. It has nothing to do with our hearts. It has to do with them. When people are upset with us it’s our duty to go to them, regardless of whether or not we have a problem.
Why do we do that? Why do our minds insert words into verses?
Things got even more interesting when we got to the part about eye gouging and hand chopping.
“Are we really supposed to do that?” Our group was struggling with this one. We wanted to take Jesus at His word, but come on. This one is tough.
In my best nurturing voice, I relayed the story of Aldo Bianchini, who ripped out his eyes during mass at St. Andrea’s in Viareggio on Sunday, October 2nd. He literally did what Jesus commanded. Is that what we should do? I feared that our little bible reading experiment was about to turn ugly. Was someone going to do this? Should they?
We read the verses a few times in different versions, and it seemed pretty clear. If your eyes are causing your to sin, get rid of them. We talked, laughed, and grew nervous as we discussed the idea of believing in Jesus, but not what He says.
We went through a list of reasons, why Jesus didn’t mean what He said. Because we know better than Him.
We put the story in perspective.
Imagine if Jesus just healed your son, and then He looks you in the eye and says, “If your eyes cause you to sin RIP THEM OUT.” Imagine if you were just cleansed of Leprosy, and He says, “if your hand causes you to sin CUT IT OFF.” I don’t think you’d be questioning His intent. I think you’d probably have said the Aramaic equivalent to, “Yes, Sir”
I panicked. Was I encouraging people to start ripping out their eyes? This was about to turn ugly, maybe we would be the next crazys saying “God told us to do it.”
We thought about the first disciples. They weren’t blind men with stumps. They never actually did this. What was He saying?
One person in our group had never read these verses before. The rest of us had already been inoculated and were having a hard time separating what Jesus said from what we wanted Him to be saying. We turned to her.
I asked, “How did these verses make you feel? What was the first thing that came to your mind when you read these verses?”
She said, “I really don’t want to sin.”
Maybe that’s what Jesus was trying to say. Maybe He wants us to avoid sin at all costs, even if it took our eyes.
We ended up wanting to avoid sin. If you are willing to rip your eyes out, you’ll do anything to avoid sin. Ripping out your eyes should be your last resort.
We figured it would be easier to:
- cancel your Internet,
- destroy your computer,
- sell your TV,
- get an accountability partner,
- attend counseling,
- join support group
- or become a monk
then it would be gouge out our own eyes. Before you rip out your eyes, exhaust every option, but get sin out of your life.
These verses end with Jesus teaching about prayer. Suddenly, praying for deliverance from temptation seems a lot more important. How would life be different if we actually just did what Jesus taught?
Why do we tolerate sin in our lives? Why do we honor Jesus’ teaching on forgiveness, but reject His teaching on sin? Don’t we need both?
Read the scriptures for what they are.
Don’t add words.
Don’t remove words.
Don’t try and cover for Christ.
Put His Words in the correct setting.
See how others have reacted to and interpreted these verses.
Ask for His Spirit’s wisdom.
- Man Gouges Out His Eyes During Mass [Horrible] (gawker.com)