At one of my recent bible studies (yes, I go to a few, and yes, you’re right, they probably aren’t working), someone asked why the Bible wasn’t more specific. He was asking why Jesus spoke in parables and couldn’t just come right out and tell us what we were supposed to do in all the situations that we face.
Here’s my thought. The Bible is like an onion (and Shrek). It has layers. The deeper you go with an onion, the stronger it is. The deeper you go with the Bible, the stronger it gets. If you work with an onion, cutting it or peeling it, it affects you and everyone around you. If you work with the Bible, reading it and deciphering it, it also affects you and those around you. When I’ve been cooking with onions, my whole family knows it. When I’ve spent time with the Bible, (I hope) everyone knows it too.
So why isn’t the Bible a little more specific. Now I’m not a theologian and I don’t play one on TV, so please don’t take my message to your Sunday School teacher and tell him/her, “Rebecca said the Bible is an onion–stinky, slimy, and great on a burger.” No, please don’t say that. And don’t say the Bible is like Shrek either. I’m trying to make a point, and S, I’m talking specifically to you!
The Bible was written for all times. Can you imagine James or Matthew sitting down and writing, “Now, when you have to deal with a crappy boss at work who wants you to work overtime without pay and to make the computers round everyone’s salary down by 1¢ (see Superman III), Jesus wants you to do ‘this’.”
- Number 1, I don’t think it would have made it past King James when he was picking out books for the Bible.
- Number 2, can you imagine how BIG it would have needed to be to cover everything that everyone might face?
Instead, Mark (10:19) writes “You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.'” That probably covers the whole stealing and cheating thing.
Also, remember how, when we were young and just learning to read? Books were very simple and very specific. Not a lot was left to the imagination because we were young and just couldn’t comprehend some of the nuances of a more advanced story line. Could you imagine reading those books now? Sure they are easy to read–but do they hold your interest? Do you want to return to them, day after day for comfort and guidance? Or, as you’ve grown older, and more mature, do you desire information that is more theoretical, more challenging, books that make you want to grow and advance as an individual. Well, if the Bible were brought down to such an elementary level, void of any sort of mystery, would we still be so quick to turn to it for guidance?
Think about how relevant the Bible is for every age. Children can embrace the stories and learn to love an open and gentle God.
16And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.(Mark 10:16)
Teens and young adults can read about struggles with stress, violence and poverty, challenging them to strive to make a difference in today’s society and lifting them up.
“Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” (Matthew 6:27)
“but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” But Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they went to another village.” (Luke 9:53-56).
“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:36-37)
Parents can look to the Bible for guidance in raising their children and having a successful marriage (and I don’t necessarily mean the whole ‘obey’ part–I spoke about that before: “Today’s 15 minutes brought to you by the word…” and I won’t go into how the Bible allows us to spank our children (because if we want to be literal with the Bible, believe me, God will let us be literal and we will likely regret it). But the Bible tells us how we should treat our children and our spouses–even though it doesn’t specifically reference the whole, “taking out the trash or whose turn it is to empty the dishwasher.” It tells us: “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.” (Exodus 20:12). Wait, maybe that is telling my daughter the consequences of not emptying the dishwasher. Personally, I think Colossians 3:19-21 made it pretty clear with:
A husband must love his wife and not abuse her. Children must always obey their parents. This pleases the Lord. Parents, don’t be hard on your children. If you are, they might give up.
The nice thing about the Bible and its many layers is that we find what we need to give us comfort at any time in our lives. Now I know a lot of people abuse the Bible in this respect. They pick out one verse and claim it is the definition and undeniable fact about whatever point they are trying to make. They think they can place their finger on a random scripture in the Bible and argue that is God’s message to them. The Bible, while it may be an onion, is NOT a Magic 8 ball. We cannot go to it for a peek into our future. We can’t randomly select scripture to support our cause and then claim “ask again later” is okay when our finger doesn’t land on what we want the Bible to say.
While it sometimes would be nice to have some concrete, specific action-items laid out for all of us OCD personalities (I’m looking at YOU, T and H), I enjoy the fact that the Bible never gets old for me. I never reach the end of the onion and a scripture verse that frustrates me at one point in my life, often brings me comfort at another point.
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1