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by Wayne Blank
It has been suggested that "the Bible can be made to say almost anything" if one decides to do so, and I would agree with that. It's very easy to do deliberately, and probably just as easy to do without even realizing it. For the sake of illustration, here's a little example, based on three hypothetical people, one rich, one poor and one middle class, each claiming to be "righteous" in God's sight because of their personal economic situation in life:
Person 1: "I'm the righteous one in God's sight because I'm poor. Here's my proof:"
"Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you that hunger now, for you shall be satisfied. "Blessed are you that weep now, for you shall laugh. Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you and revile you, and cast out your name as evil, on account of the Son of man!" (Luke 6:20-22 RSV)
Person 2: "I'm the righteous one in God's sight because I'm middle class. Here's my proof:"
"give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, "Who is The Lord?" or lest I be poor, and steal, and profane the name of my God." (Proverbs 30:8-9 RSV)
Person 3: "I'm the righteous one in God's sight because I'm wealthy. Here's my proof:"
"Blessed is the man who fears The Lord, who greatly delights in his commandments! His descendants will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed. Wealth and riches are in his house; and his righteousness endures for ever." (Psalm 112:1-3 RSV)
Although these examples may lead some to believe that the Bible contradicts itself, it really doesn't because each example is based foremost on behavior (i.e. the italicized words in the Scripture examples), not the economic situation of the individual. There are righteous and wicked among the poor, there are righteous and wicked among the middle class, and there are righteous and wicked among the rich.
An example of that is the parable of "Lazarus and the rich man" (Luke 16:19-31) in which the poor beggar Lazarus watched the cruel and unrighteous rich man burn, while Lazarus was in the bosom of kind and righteous Abraham - and yet during his lifetime, Abraham was himself very wealthy, having tons of gold and hundreds of servants (Genesis 13:2, 14:14). It's the behavior that matters in God's sight, "for The Lord sees not as man sees; man looks on the outward appearance, but The Lord looks on the heart." (1 Samuel 16:7 RSV)
Humans are naturally biased; everyone, everywhere, like siblings desperately seeking the attention and love of a parent, wants to believe that they're special in God's sight (and in one way, each individual is), but when it comes to reading The Bible, all of the Bible (see 52-Week Bible Reading Plan), not just our "favorite" parts, the less that we can make of ourselves, and the more that we can make of God's word, the closer to the Truth, God's Truth, we will be.
Fact Finder: Does personal interpretation have any rightful place in understanding The Bible?