Teaching the Bible—and what I mean is teaching people how to interpret the Bible—is dangerous business. Pay too much attention to details such as what the Bible actually says (as different from what people want it to say) or its historical context, and people retreat in droves, seeking instead to hunker down into the comfort of ignorance.
But, who can blame them, really? When almost all people hear today are shallow endorsements of how the Bible supports their message, what more can we expect from people with little genuine interest in knowing how to read a religious text, even one they claim to hold dearly (down to its leather cover and gold-dusted pages)?
Today, for example, as I read with interest Sheila Wray Gregoire’s assertion that “Your Husband Can’t Make You Happy,” she noted that instead of trying to fix one’s husband (which, let’s admit, they really all need!) women should pursue joy. This sounds like good advice and I’m not necessarily adverse to the idea that 1) I will be happier if I don’t spend my days trying to address all of Bryan’s issues; and 2) that it generally is a good idea to seek joy.
To buttress her point, however, Gregoire quotes PS 37.4, “Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (ESV). Taken entirely out of context, she uses this statement to support her idea and then moves on to her next point of taking responsibility for one’s happiness.
This is the kind of Bible teaching that not only is rampant among many Christians today, but it also does not take the Bible seriously, nor those who wrote it. If Gregoire had spent even a minimal amount of time with PS 37 she would see that the idea of delighting oneself in the LORD is tied directly to the idea of doing good, a contrast to those the Israelites were dealing with because of their consistent acts of injustice.
In other words, this Psalm has at its heart a context of doing justice; of living in the world as God’s ambassadors of responsible living. “Delighting in the LORD” was an encouragement to those who were discouraged by the injustices all around them, helping them not to become tired of doing good, of being justice-seekers. Its message is not some isolated statement about joy or happiness for an individual and yet this is the assumption put forward by Gregoire and accepted by Christians who have become accustomed to this kind of Bible usage.
For those seeking to dig deeper, to consider more seriously what the Bible might say to us today, we hope you will check out our book, If Eve Only Knew. In each chapter we not only provide an overview of some of the most common artifacts evangelical culture uses today, we delve into a more honest assessment of what the Bible actually says. It’s a prospect we think you will find delightfully rewarding, even joyful!