Staying Balanced

By David Servant

It is possible, of course, to make the Bible say anything you want it to say, and that is something that is quite common in Christian circles. All that is necessary is to find a verse that seems to support your point, and then ignore its context—either its immediate context (of the surrounding verses), or its larger context within its passage, chapter, book or Testament.

Examples of this error are endless. Here’s one you’ve no doubt heard: Jesus said in His Sermon on the Mount: “Do not judge so that you will not be judged” (Matt. 7:1). If that was the only verse in the Bible, we might conclude that Christians should never make a judgment about anyone. And that is what some professing Christians actually think. (I’ve even heard some claim that no Christian can serve on a jury, or earn a living as a judge.)

But, seconds later, Jesus told His followers how they could recognize false prophets, “You will know them by their fruits” (Matt. 7:16, 20). Obviously, Jesus wants us to judge people by their fruits to determine if they are false prophets. So, His commandment, “Do not judge,” must mean something other than, “Do not judge people by their fruit.” (And if we read the context, we know exactly what Jesus was talking about. I’ll leave you to figure it out by yourself.)

Here’s another example of the same error derived from the same sermon. Jesus said, “When you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing” (Matt. 6:3). So, some professing Christians conclude that it is wrong to ever let anyone know about any good thing you have done. (I frequently receive that criticism regarding my ministry reports.) But seconds earlier, Jesus said, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16). So, there must be some balance of those two commandments found in the same sermon. (Again, I’ll leave you to figure it out by yourself.)

Another imbalance that is too common among Christians is the flawed evaluation of any Scripture’s relative importance. Although all Scripture is important, some parts are much more important than other parts. Jesus said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others. You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!” (Matt. 23:-24, emphasis added). Some things in Scripture are more weighty than other things.

We perhaps could say it this way: What is imbalanced in Scripture should not be balanced by Christians. Let’s keep the main thing the main thing. Wise believers don’t waste their time arguing over how many demons can dance on the head of a pin. Neither do they obsess about any other theological minutiae.

Satan loves to promote Scripture in an imbalanced way, and he often succeeds in duping Christians in that regard, which is one reason why there are so many doctrinal divisions in the body of Christ. The devil even tried to fool Jesus by that means during His temptation. Remember, the devil quoted the Bible to Jesus. Jesus, however, responded with balance, saying, “On the other hand, it is written…” (Matt 4:7).

We need to always think of what the Bible says “on the other hand.” There are too many one-handed folks who are promoting a lop-sided theology with their two or three proof texts. Those of us who have been around for a few decades often think to ourselves, “I could actually do a better job than you in defending your unbalanced theology, because I know even more scriptures that you could add to your list of proof-texts. But the reason I don’t join you in your lop-sided theology is because I also happen to know all the scriptures that bring some balance to your gross imbalance!”

One other odd imbalance is a fixation on peripherals and what is really of little importance. The focus of New Testament teaching is not on the most accurate Bible translation, the proper baptismal formula, the avoidance of Christmas trees, or the many issues over which violent Facebook wars are often fought. Our focus should be loving God and neighbor. Those are, according to Jesus, very important. In Paul’s time, some believers were focused on hot debates about circumcision. Paul, however, knew what was important: “Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but what matters is the keeping of the commandments of God” (1 Cor. 7:19). Amen.