Take a look. This is what it looks like when my dog eats. It’s not that she’s “messy”. It’s not that she eats so voraciously that food goes flying (although I have seen a lot of dogs who do eat that way). No, this is not haphazard fallout. This is intentional displacement, the result of deliberate picking and choosing and discarding.
Sweet Pea (that’s her name) only wants to eat the “good” stuff – and dry dog food has never been “the good stuff” in her humble opinion. She loves crazy things, like carrots and cucumbers and onions and lettuce (I should have just said salad; that would have been more efficient). Right now she’s on a diet (she’s 15, old age is a killer for a girlish figure…) so she gets carrots and cucumbers with her dog food. She cannot WAIT to eat her veggies, but she has no use for her dog food (odd, right?!). The vet said she needs the dog food, however, for protein, etc. So I give it to her, and THIS is what happens.
I watch her take a tiny bite, taste it, roll it around in her mouth a second, and then, if it’s dog food, she steps to the side and spits it out on the ground, very carefully outside of the bowl. She’s smart that way. She doesn’t want to make the same mistake twice. She wants an uncontaminated bowl full of only the good stuff (cucumbers first, then carrots, then if she’s still starving, she’ll eat the dog food). So she goes in again, for another cautious bite…and this one is good. This one she eats.
Every time I see the mess she has intentionally left behind, the unsavory pieces laid out on the floor and some left in the bowl if she feels she’s gotten all that’s good out of it, it occurs to me that this is how a lot of people (and definitely I can be one of them) read the Bible. They only read “the good stuff”.
I don’t want to be pointing fingers here. I do think there are those who are heinously, shamelessly guilty of this. That is a rampant problem, to be sure. But I also think we all need to recognize that it’s a temptation for ALL of us. It’s not just something “they” do, those false prophets, those immature believers, or those who use certain verses to excuse their unbelief… It’s not just a problem “they” have; it’s MY problem too, just as it is YOUR problem. Maybe not all the time, and maybe not in obvious ways, but nonetheless, we are all tempted to do this from time to time; and the less we are aware of the temptation, the easier it is to fall prey to it, the better the trap in the first place.
We all have our bias. We all have a “taste” for certain things. It seems odd that my dog prefers veggies to dog food, but she does. It may also seem odd to a “grace” person that someone would prefer the law, but those people are out there. My dear friend is that way. She grew up in a family that had no boundaries, so she rejoiced when she found God – because she also found some rules and she has been desperate almost all her life for the security of boundaries and rules. I have friends on the other end of that spectrum too, friends who grew up with boundaries that made them long for freedom, so they thrive on grace.
Grace versus law isn’t the only bias we carry into the scriptures by any means. There’s a prosperity bias and a poverty bias, love and justice, predestination and free will, etc. etc. etc.
The thing is, when Sweet Pea only eats part of her food, she is missing out on the health and balance she needs from ALL of her food. Not only that, but she is also making a mess of things. The same is true of us when we approach scripture with a “taste and see” mentality. When we choose to only ingest the parts that appeal to us, we end up unbalanced and unhealthy in ways that affect our spiritual and emotional health and those in turn effect our relationships and our physical health…so basically – our whole lives are effected…and that makes a mess.
So here’s my challenge to myself…and to you as well. I’m going to ask the Holy Spirit to show me my biases. I am going to ask Him to help me see my blind spots, and the food on the floor–the food I’ve spit out or picked around because it didn’t taste good to me.
I’m going to pay more attention as I read to what kinds of things I am drawn toward, and what kinds of things I’m not, and then I’m going to ask God to show me “Why?”. Why do certain things appeal while others don’t? Is it because some things speak to my current situation? (And that may be OK.) Or is it because some things are unpleasant? Or is it maybe that I can’t believe some things, because I don’t feel worthy or they are too good to hope for, or I’m afraid to get my hopes up and be disappointed?
I’m going to ask God to show me the mess I’ve made because I’ve spit out the unsavory parts, and ask Him to help me clean it up. How has my picking and choosing affected my emotional, spiritual, relational and physical health?
And I’m definitely going to be asking God to help me develop a taste for the parts I find unsavory. I’m going to ask Him to help me love ALL of His Word.
You know, I love steak about as much as I love salad and veggies, about as much as I love dessert. They all taste different and they all go down differently and I may crave one more than another at different times, based on what my body needs at the time…but I love and enjoy them all. Scripture is a lot like that. Some parts are more like dessert, some are meat, and others are more like vegetables. The Psalms, Proverbs, the Prophets, the Gospels, the Epistles, the History and the Law…they all “taste” different. They all go down a little differently, and we will certainly find that our spirit will have more need of one or the other at various times. But ALL are good and rich. ALL have value. ALL are God’s Word and we must be on guard against the temptation to pick and choose, for when we do so, we set ourselves above Him–and that is unhealthy and messy (to put it mildly).
16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God[a] may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17
103 How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth! 104 Through thy precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate every false way. 105 Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. Psalm 119:103-104
“‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Matthew 4:4