Take It With You 06.26.2022
The story in Matthew 4:1-11 is quite the drama. If we were to write it out as a script to be played onstage or on screen, it would look something like this:
Devil: If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.
Jesus: It is written: “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”
Devil: If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down. For it is written:
“He will command his angels concerning you,
And they will lift you up in their hands,
So that you will not strike your foot against a stone.”
Jesus: It is also written: “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”
Devil: All this (showing Jesus “all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor”) I will give you, if you bow down and worship me.
Jesus: Away from me, Satan! For it is written: “Worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.”
Notice something interesting about all of the dialogue in this scene: both characters are quoting scripture. Of course, it is not surprising that the Son of God would use His Father’s words to resist the temptation being presented to Him by the devil. But it is unnerving to realize that God’s Holy word is being used by the devil to tempt the Son of God! Unfortunately, he is not the only one to do this: the pages of history, and even the pages of today’s news, are filled with people who use scripture to justify horrific acts and systems of oppression and violence.
Of course, we believe that “all scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17) But words that were written centuries ago, by various human authors and in various genres and styles, for various different audiences are open to interpretation, which means they can certainly be misinterpreted. This story is a prime example of how someone can twist and pervert the words of God to serve his own corrupt purposes.
So how can we be sure that we are interpreting scripture right? Or how can we be sure that the people we look to for instruction are doing so? These are tricky questions, and there is no answer key to the questions raised by the Bible. But the most important way to help ensure appropriate interpretation of scripture is through prayer and discerning the voice of the Holy Spirit; and by paying attention to the fruit of that interpretation. If living out the word of God in our lives does not produce love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, then maybe we need to reassess the interpretation we are working with. If living out scripture means that we are overlooking the image of God in our fellow people, then perhaps more prayer and discernment are called for.
Heavenly Father, thank You for Your Word, for giving us stories, proverbs, psalms, commandments, letters, prophecies that all come together to provide a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path. Help us to hear You still speaking to us through these ancient words. Help us to discern Your meaning and understand how those words should shape our words and actions in our day-to-day lives. Amen
~ Katie Herring