Was the Bible Written to Me? A Bothersome Question.

Let’s be clear to who and what the “Me” (Don) is referring:

  • 1st World
  • American
  • Male
  • Affluent
  • Caucasian/Anglo
  • Straight
  • Educated
  • Able Bodied

I’m certain we could add to that list…but what this list does indeed point to is a great deal of privilege, power, and control over my environment.

Was the bible written to a people of privilege?
Was the bible written to a people in power?
Was the bible written to a people in control of their environment?

It was not! This isn’t even debatable. The bible was written to a people who historically experienced the exact opposite identifiers.

So what’s the danger of assuming the bible is written to me?

When we accept the bible was not written to ‘me,’ then our perspective changes the way we read verses — like this one: “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.” [Jeremiah 29.11]

Below are a couple more verses that I am going to attempt to show how depending on your station in life the verse can be read differently…the “Me” sections are (upon reflection) how I, personally, had read or been taught the verse. I’d encourage you to read both verses and before reading the “Me” section — reflect on how you’ve understood or have been taught the verse. I’ve then included how the intended audience most likely absorbed the same verse.

Let’s look at the impact of a couple favorite verses:

 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” – Philippians 4.13

Me:

I view all the things around me that make me who I am and assume it has something to do with my connection to G_d — and assume that others that don’t experience the same privilege/experience are NOT trusting/faithful enough. I also assume that G_d approves of all that I’ve done because G_d strengthened me to do it. This allows me to float through life without any real significant self-inventory beyond a surface level evaluation every now and again that gets me teary for a moment and reinforces my convictions of my own righteousness.

Intended Audience:

I can survive the persecution that is imminent. G_d will strengthen me so I can endure and continue fighting against the oppressor.

 

“If G_d is for us, who is against us?” – Romans 8.31

Me:

I can wear my Christian views on my sleeve. I can flaunt my faith, wag fingers, and share the “Gospel”…and if anyone is upset — well, G_d is for me, so meh. Anybody that is offended or angered by our behavior should be disregarded because they are inconsequential — for G_d is for us.

**This allowed me to be self-righteous and condescending to those who were not a member of the faithful or who had terrible things going on in their life — because if G_d was for them, that stuff wouldn’t be happening to them.**

Intended Audience:

Whatever terrible thing I go through in this life — even torture, being stripped of everything I have, or death — is NOT an indication of G_d’s lack of love for me. G_d continues to stand by me and my endurance, no matter how difficult, my suffering will ultimately be for the sake of others…be encouraged.

**I’d also argue that the intended audience wouldn’t pluck this verse out of the middle of the letter. They’d read as well as experience the sobering verses following:

“Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all day long;
    we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.”

 

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

These weren’t spiritual concepts they were facing – these were the physical reality that was imminent if they continued to declare Jesus “LORD” – because this would be saying that Caesar was NOT.**


 

These are just a couple verses that quickly take on different meanings depending on the lens you’re wearing when reading them. I think it is a very dangerous thing that the majority of our teaching surrounding the Scripture assumes that the bible is written to us. (“Us” meaning those outside of the original intended audience.)

Does this mean that we shouldn’t read the bible? Of course that is not what I’m saying. What I am saying is that when we read the bible we must remember that most of us sit closer to the Throne of Caesar or Pharaoh than we do to the Seat of Moses and the Israelites. When we recognize that and begin to read the Text through a lens that critiques our power and privilege and therefore the power structures that benefit us, we begin to see the true power and promise of G_d to the marginalized, poor, and oppressed. We are left to deal with how we can use our own privilege and power to dismantle the power structures that benefit us to the detriment of those around us…This will be the offense of the Gospel! 

The offense of the Gospel in the lives of the oppressed and marginalized (audience) is that they continue to hope and persevere — even in the face of death, torture, and oppression, they go on fighting against power structures in the Name of G_d.


 

A large portion of us have been raised only hearing the bible through the lens of “Me” (**see the list at the top of the post) – sometimes it is through that lens even if your pastor doesn’t resemble the list above…because our seminaries, scholarship, books, and public teachers were shaped by that lens, and so it was passed on. We must begin to think differently, or Christendom will continue to become more in the image of privilege and power than that of an uneducated impoverished Jewish bastard in the throes of captivity.

So the Bible might not be written to me, but it most certainly has been written for me. [edit: I added this line because as much as I meant the title to be provocative, I want to be clear that the bible is for everyone and everyone can learn from the bible; however, when we don’t go through the hard work of understanding the people it was first written to, we truly miss the point.]

What are your thoughts? What other verses can you think of?

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