The Bible is hard to read. Really, really hard.
A good friend reminded me of this over dinner last week. We’ve never discussed religion in more than 20 years of acquaintance, so she surprised me with her account of trying to read the Bible cover to cover. “Genesis was OK,” she said, “but then I got into Exodus and couldn’t get out. All those begats.”
A lot of people hit a dead end with the “begats”—long genealogical lists in the form of “Abraham begat Isaac, who begat Jacob, who begat…” ad infinitum. Others lose it in the minute description of different types of sacrificial offerings in Leviticus. Some read the accounts of war and treachery and decide (understandably) that the Bible’s not for them.
So allow me to pique your interest by saying that the Bible is chock-full of wisdom we can use in our daily lives. That’s true not only of the “big” passages—the Golden Rule, Jesus’ admonition to love your enemies, etc.—but in the ridiculously obscure.
As Exhibit A, allow me to cite this passage from St. Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi:
I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I may be cheered by news of you. I have no one like him who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. All of them are seeking their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.
Maybe you’re thinking, who cares. No one could blame you. It’s about travel plans for an itinerant preacher 20 centuries ago.
But look more closely. I have no one like him who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. This is St. Paul we’re talking about—one of the towering figures in early Christendom, a person of extraordinary zeal and commitment. Wouldn’t he be surrounded with people of similar zeal? Or, at the very least, people who had learned to put others first, as Jesus directed?
Apparently not. In all his retinue, exactly one dude wasn’t looking out for himself.
Sounds like the human condition, doesn’t it? To quote Firesign Theatre, we’re all bozos on this bus. Even the “most evolved” have flaws and failings and shortcomings. We are all works in progress, and sometimes the progress doesn’t look like much. And if this is true of Paul’s inner circle—people ostensibly more mature than we are—maybe we can give ourselves more grace to be imperfect, to be bozos, to grow in God’s own good time.
The Bible is loaded with these tiny hidden gems. I’ll try to trot out more of them in the months to come.