Reading Bible

Bible is a font of wisdom.

If you’re like most, you may be acquainted with a few commonly cited, feel-good verses. These are the ones that seem empty, clichéd, irrelevant, or downright wrong. You may even think that the Bible has nothing real to say about our contemporary world.

You’d be wrong.

Scripture is so often taken out of context that it has lost its impact for many readers and listeners. We’re told that “God won’t tempt us beyond what we can bear,” or that you can “Do all things,” if you simply believe, or even that God will shower us with money if we’re good. Such interpretations warp the Bible’s original meanings, and result in trite sayings that seem to promise a perfect life for believers.

But when our life experiences contradict scripture, we become disillusioned. We stop believing that there is a depth of wisdom beneath the ink and paper. We stop believing that the Bible can change our lives

But the Bible isn’t the Bible that many make it out to be. It is rife with teachings that show us how to best live, how to treat others, and what to expect out of life. Let’s take a look at a few verses that will challenge you, encourage you, and change your world.

James 1:2-4

This verse contains a life-changing truth: we must accept the reality of suffering, but in that suffering we can grow stronger.

 “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

James is telling his readers—the “twelve tribes scattered abroad”—that their suffering is not useless. If we make good decisions in the face of suffering, we actually gain from it. Many people feel that the suffering humanity endures is useless, but it is a life-changing experience to become not only able to accept suffering as a part of life, but to realize that it can be good for us.

Scripture never tells us that we will avoid suffering—not even the most devout. But it does give us the mental tools to cope with our reality.

Jeremiah 22:3

Think the Bible is the ultimate tool of social injustice? Think again.

“This is what the LORD says: Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place.”

Jeremiah, son of Hilkiah, prophet of God, shows us what the Bible really teaches about oppression. This isn’t just a Bible verse. It’s a lesson on how to live.

When we do what is just, as Jeremiah writes, when we rescue the fallen and the downtrodden, we make the world a better place for all of us.

When we internalize this wisdom—which is one of the themes that run throughout the entire Bible—we not only change our world, but the world around us.

That’s no small thing.

John 8:1-11

John 8:1-11 includes a lesson directly from Christ, Himself, when he came upon a group of teachers of the religious law of the time that were about to stone a woman for adultery.

When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

“No one, sir,” she said.

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

Why is this life-changing? Because it shows us something vital: God is not religion. Christ shattered the religious and social conventions of his time when He saved this woman. Contrary to popular belief, scripture advises against passing judgment on others.

When Christ, Himself, did not pass judgment on this woman, how much less a right do humans have to judge one another?

At its core, this verse teaches us not to fear breaking religious and social norms when we’re doing good in the world. That’s a lesson we could all use—one that produces heroes. If your church, peer group, or even religion as a whole, encourages passing judgment and engaging in unkind acts, it’s time to do as Christ did and show them the error of their ways.

Matthew 23:12

When Christ put the law-loving Pharisees in their place, he gave them an important bit of wisdom.

“Whoever is the greatest should be the servant of the others. If you put yourself above others, you will be put down. But if you humble yourself, you will be honored.”

Arrogance has been the downfall of so many over the course of history—you’d think we’d have learned our lesson by now.

But we haven’t.

Take this verse to heart—it’s not just a platitude. It’s showing you how the world works.

When we arrogantly put ourselves above others, we often think we’re gathering respect. We’re not.

We’re gathering resentment. And when it builds enough, that resentment can come crashing down upon our heads in a wave of vengeance.

The simple truth is that the world works better when humanity works together, rather than constantly striving for power.

A Metanarrative of Relationships

True wisdom is always consistent with the two overarching themes of the Bible—respect for all people, and reverence to God. Together, these qualities show humanity how to succeed.

Scripture acknowledges that this isn’t easy. In fact, it shows us just how impossible it can be. But when we read the Bible carefully, when we take the time to understand its words and contexts, the path to a better world, and a changed life, is revealed to us.

That is a part of the purpose of the Bible. And in it, it succeeds beautifully for those who take the time to listen.

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