If you’ve ever gone trick-or-treating, opened a Christmas stocking, or discovered a treat-laden basket on Easter morning, you’ll know all about the candy hierarchy. When the dust settles and the initial festivities are over, instinct kicks in. So you choose your spot: safe and secluded. Away from prying eyes and sticky fingers; this isn’t a game. After taking a brief moment to admire the single glorious pile of sweets . . . it begins. The sorting. One by one pieces of candy are strategically separated into multiple piles as determined by their quality. Twix? You’re going in the good pile. One of those orange or brown wrapped peanut-butter-like candies? Why do you even exist? Into the lesser pile with you. Then there’s the middle. The kind of candy that isn’t really great, but it isn’t bad enough to toss. It’s just kind of there. For me Laffy Taffy was a solid middle candy. What made Laffy Taffy notable to me, (besides the banana flavored option,) was each piece was wrapped in what many consider the worst jokes ever written. Jokes like, “What do you call a cow with no legs? — Ground Beef.” Or “What’s brown and sticky? — A stick!” Horrible. But I digress.
We naturally assign value to all sorts of things, such as products, information, or even our relationships with other people. And though your discernment may or may not be a conscious effort, what you might not realize is by taking a casual attitude towards what you know or what you believe to be true, you could create disastrous results when it comes to communicating biblical truths.
Oftentimes they are innocent bits of information and thoughts passed around through e-mails (fwd: fwd: fwd: fwd:) that make their way into our conversations or Sunday School classes, or are phrases that have seemingly always existed. They are dangerous because most people aren’t going to take the time to research their validity because they have an air of truth to them; they sound correct. So we repeat them. They satisfy our desire for knowledge in the same way fast food satisfies our desire for food. Sure it’ll fill you up to a point, but you sacrifice proper nutrition for that quick shot of dopamine.
The number of misconceptions and inaccuracies passed around are far too numerous to detail here, but it’s worth going through a couple of them. I say that because in this era of easy information, chances are if you share a fact with someone who has grown up with Google on their phone, they’re probably going to research it. And if you pass along inaccurate bible-flavored facts to such a person, you risk embarrassing yourself, at best, and at worst discrediting, in that person’s eyes, both yourself and scripture. Lazy intellectualism has a cost.
A less serious example is one that happened to me recently, where in the middle of a conversation an individual suggested that the Titanic was built to the same dimensions as Noah’s Ark. I was skeptical, but I didn’t know for sure. So I Googled. And while the cubit, (the measurement used in Genesis 6:15 which is defined as the length of your forearm from your elbow to the tip of your middle finger,) may be subjective, it is safe to say that the approximately 157.35m x 26.2m Ark is nowhere near the size of the 269.1m x 28.2m Titanic. (Unless Genesis is missing certain facts.) This is a careless error, something easily debunked.
A little more damaging is the commonly used phrase, “God helps those who help themselves.” According to research conducted by the Barna Group, “82% of Americans (and a majority of evangelicals,)” believe this to be a biblical quotation. It’s no surprise, considering how our culture is extremely individual-focused, and is more apt to support a person who is willing to work hard and get their hands dirty. (And if we feel that way, then certainly God must too, right? Right?) The reality is this phrase is not only nowhere in the Bible, but is contrary to everything scripture has to say about grace. The idea that “God helps those who help themselves” originates in Greek tragedies (Sophocles,), and experienced a modern resurgence in both the 1600’s (Algernon Sidney) and the 1700’s (Benjamin Franklin.) It sounds good. It feels good. It’s easy to say. But it has no nutritional value whatsoever and only serves to skew one’s understanding of the Gospel.
Studying scripture is difficult, and takes time and a willingness to grow and learn. Being biblically literate gives you what is required to properly discern the good information from the bad. When it comes to communicating biblical truths, don’t draw from the lesser pile, and even pass over the middle, mediocre pile. Stick to top shelf facts and toss out the rest.
As always, you give me something to think about. Very good.