Text, Taken Out of Context, is Pretext
By Ed Delph
May 15, 2017
We live in a world today that routinely takes a part of a story and makes it the whole story. One sound bite of a whole paragraph or speech is not the whole story. Most focus on their own views or agenda and then call it news or truth. These half-truth words have created half-false worlds for all of us to live in.
I call this ‘truth decay.’ Hopefully, this buffoonery will end soon. Maybe then we can get to the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. I know what you’re thinking, “Good luck on that one!”
Unfortunately, this happens when people read the Bible too. God’s people embrace one part of a Bible verse or Bible story and give what God is saying a whole new meaning, their meaning. Remember, a text, taken out of context, is pretext. The whole truth is in the whole council of God's word, not just a sound bite of the Bible. Let me illustrate with two short stories from the internet.
Ten years out of high school, Tom ran into his old classmate Fred, once informally voted ‘least likely to succeed.’ But Fred was driving a $70,000 car and sporting an imported suit. “Fred!” said Tom, “You’re sure looking prosperous. How did you do it?”
“It’s the easiest thing, Tom. My grandmother left me a little inheritance and the Lord guided me to turn it into a lot of money. I just took a Bible, flipped it open at random and put my finger down on the page. It landed on the word ‘oil’ so I invested in an oil well and money started rolling in. Then I went back to the Bible, flipped it open again, and this time my finger came down on the word ‘gold’ so I bought a bunch of gold coins. I doubled my money in a year. It’s really been amazing!”
Tom congratulated him and hurried home to pick up his Bible. “If it works for dumb old Fred, it has got work for me,” he thought. He flipped open his Bible, plopped his finger down on the page, and looked down to read it. It read, ‘Chapter 11.’
Here’s another example. A man was depressed and opened the Bible randomly to a page to see what God would say to him. He came across the verse, “And Judas hung himself…” Horrified, he opened the Bible again at random and saw yet another phrase, “Go and do likewise.” Dejected, he opened the Bible again one final time and came to the verse, “What you must do, do quickly.”
Get the message? Whether in the Bible or any other area of life…text, taken out of context, is pretext. It’s not the whole truth understood in context. Don’t fall for it.
There’s a strategy in the Bible that can us set free from the text, taken out of context, is pretext syndrome. I call it "How to Get a Firm Grasp on God’s Word."
God uses a metaphor for the Bible, calling the Bible a sword. If we hold a sword with just one finger, we will drop it. We don’t have a firm grasp. But, if we hold the sword with all four fingers and our thumb, squeezing tightly on the handle, we have a firm grasp on God’s whole word, taken in context.
How do we grasp the Word of God? Use your fingers and thumb. First, we need to hear God’s word. Luke 8:15. Churches help you in this. Secondly, read the word of God for yourself. Having a sword and using a sword accurately are two different things. 1 Timothy 4:13. Thirdly, study the word of God. Do a Bible study. 2 Timothy 2:15. Fourthly, meditate on the word of God. Learn to listen to God. He wants to speak to us today and give us wisdom. Psalm 119:15. Lastly, memorize the word of God. Psalm 119:16.
When you hear, read, study, meditate, and memorize the Word of God, you have a firm grasp on the sword. You will know when you or someone you are listening to is using a Bible text out of context. You will receive discernment, telling you the whole truth. Whether in church or the world, the worst thing about being deceived is you’re deceived.
Here’s the takeaway. When we speak the whole counsel of God’s word, we are creating God’s world, not someone else’s world. Believe me, you want God’s world.
Ed Delph May 15, 2017 CCC
Ed Delph is a leader in church-community connections.
Visit Ed Delph's website at www.nationstrategy.com