If your going to read the Bible, one of the most important things you hold onto is this: Every verse is not equally important. Within the economy of Scripture some verses, stories, characters, and teachings simply carry more weight than others do. The Bible isn’t flat, with every text on level ground. Rather, it is bumpy, with some texts rising above others.
At one point just before his death, Jesus levels some heavy words at the religious leaders of his day (Matthew 23). These leaders were hypocrites of the highest order. They loved honor and praise from their neighbors. They made a show at demonstrating how righteous they were. They demanded a high and exacting standard of religious practice on the people but failed to aspire to that standard themselves. They were more interested in converting people to their way of thinking than bringing them closer to God. And, Jesus says they, “give to God a tenth of mint, dill, and cumin, but you forget about the more important matters of the Law: justice, peace, and faith. You ought to give a tenth but without forgetting about those more important matters” (Matthew 23:23). They were so exacting in demanding the letter of God’s law, they missed the spirit of the law, supposing they were moral people because they gave exactingly while failing to lead lives of justice, peace, and mercy in their communities. They were bad neighbors but they gave at synagogue!
But, did you catch how Jesus describes justice, peace, and mercy? He calls them “more important matters.” These religious leaders gave priority to following tithing laws precisely and Jesus called them out for it. Why? Because tithing may be important but justice, peace, and mercy are more important. A flat reading of Scripture in which everything carries equal weight simply won’t do. It will inevitably lead to the sort of distortion Jesus addresses here.
Let me hit you with another example:
In his gospel, Matthew conveys Jesus’ basic teachings concerning the kingdom of God in what is called the Sermon on the Mount. This is Following Jesus 101 and we can say this because at the end Jesus compares those who do what he has taught (in the Sermon) to a wise builder who builds his house on a solid foundation. Do you see? For Jesus, the Sermon on the Mount is the foundation to other teachings. It is more fundamental.
The Bible is not a flat document.
What are we supposed to do with this as Bible readers? Over the next three posts, I want to lay out three of the most basic (and most important) implications of a weighted Bible. Until then, what do you think about the notion that the Bible isn’t a flat text? What are the implications of saying some texts carry more weight than others? What are some of the dangers of giving all texts the same weight?