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Who Do You Think You Are?
by Wayne Blank
I'm not judging any of those people, nor am I putting them down (though most of them would surely deserve it) when I say that I don't believe their claims. I believe that they are, at the least, simply deluding themselves (and far more serious, they're attempting to delude as many others as they can), something that humans, all humans, have a natural tendency to do - whether in religion or anything else in life. Most don't go as far as to use God's Word as the "special people" do, but millions do interpret the Bible to suit themselves. After all, true repentance (actually obeying the Word of God without the corruption of self-serving interpretation) is not an easy task for most of us who must struggle to overcome bad habits and sinful ways, while there's "nothing to it" for those who are already come-as-you-are "perfect in God's eyes" - when in fact they're nothing more than egotistically "perfect in their own eyes." (see I Did It My Way...)
Over the centuries since The Bible was written, humans have, for a variety of reasons, usually well-meaning and honest, but sometimes not, applied their personal interpretation of their "favorite parts" of the Bible to their own time and circumstances, far removed from what is truly found in God's Word. Some even today see the ultimate fulfillment of Biblical Scriptures taking place, not coincidentally, where they themselves just happen to be. They deny what the Bible plainly says, and shape the Sacred Scriptures for their own self-accommodating purposes, using them as a means of glorifying or justifying themselves, rather than The Creator, by Whom, and for Whose purposes, they were written.
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. After one has "been around a while," it's very easy to do deliberately (something that I always do keep in mind to not let happen as Daily Bible Study is written each day), especially if one has an "agenda," 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?