Knowledge vs. Human Nature: What We Know, What the Bible Teaches
Study this book of instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do. Joshua 1:8
One of the arguments that I hear concerning the validity of the Bible is that we know much more than the biblical authors did so it's unwise to read the Bible literally. The problem with that idea is that the Bible was never written for human knowledge but with godly wisdom. The Bible is not a textbook, it's a book that teaches us about human nature and its many failings. Human nature has not changed appreciably since scripture was written and won't until humans defeat sin and lead perfect lives allowing the Bible to remain relevant well into the future.
We may have more gadgets and technology, easier access to information, and more history to study, but we still carry the same behavioral traits as our ancestors. We lie, steal, cheat, and depend on our own knowledge to plan our futures. We are as selfish as Lot and as arrogant as the Israelites who believed they could function successfully without God.
Let's look at a couple of examples. We'll start with dysfunctional families. The families illustrated in the Bible could be our current families. We haven't lost the ability to do family poorly. We can start with the very first family. Out of jealousy, Cain killed Abel. And speaking of jealousy, Joseph's brothers were all jealous of him which got him a free trip to Egypt. But the brothers aren't totally to blame for their attitudes as Jacob favored Joseph over the others and showed his preference through special gifts to Rachel's firstborn son.
Perhaps the brothers might have acted differently if Jacob had treated them the same and if Joseph hadn't shown up to check on his brothers wearing his new coat and bragging about the dreams he had that represented himself as being superior to his brothers. The dysfunction of that family, as well as most families today, was shared by all the members of the family.
"The more things change, the more they stay the same." Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr (1849)
Favoring one child over another, jealousy, or pride caused more than one family in biblical times to run into problems, and I would guess that every one of us today could name a family (maybe even our own) that is dysfunctional as a result of one of the above-mentioned sins. I can personally name a few actions of family members that make our family no better than Jacob's. The Bible is relevant today as it chronicles behaviors that we still encounter today.
For instance, how are we different from the Pharisees who believed they knew better than Jesus how to worship and serve God. They took ten rules that God gave them and multiplied them into more laws than anyone could obey. They were more concerned that Jesus healed on the Sabbath which broke their laws than that Jesus was making peoples' lives better. When they confronted him about breaking the law concerning the Sabbath, he told them, "You hypocrites! Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie your ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water? Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?” Luke 13:15-16
The same thing is currently happening when we are more indignant over a mistreated animal than an aborted baby. Animals have been elevated to "family members" while a baby that is created at an inconvenient time, is nothing more than a lump of cells making our lives more difficult. The Pharisees offered their animals comfort on the Sabbath, yet had no mercy for the woman being bound by Satan for another day.
Let's take a minute and review the relationships between the Jews and the Samaritans. They had been treated so poorly that the Samaritans did not want Jesus to come into their town. They may not have looked down on the Jews but they certainly didn't want anything to do with them. The disciples' response, "When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” Luke 9:54. The Samaritans were loved by God as deeply as the Jews, that love though was not shared by the Jews.
We aren't any different today. We still categorize people by what they think, rather than who they are. This explains why there are 45,000 Christian denominations today. Each denomination believes itself to be right about God and all others woefully wrong. Pride keeps us from listening to anothers' ideas and engaging in conversation, We are still struggling with that "love your neighbor" command that Jesus gave his disciples.
Every time I read the Bible, I learn more about myself. Though thousands of years old, the Bible still teaches me how to be a better person. It helps me know the mind of Jesus, how to love others, and how to love myself. It keeps me centered on the One who loves me even when I don't deserve that love. The Bible gives me hope if God could love David, Paul, Jacob, Zaccheous, and Mary Magdeline, (to name a few) he can love me.
A ship, sailing past a desert island, spots a man who has been stranded there for several years. The captain goes ashore to rescue the man and notices three huts. “What’s the first hut for?” he asks. “That’s my house,” says the castaway. “What’s the second hut for?” “That’s my church.” “And the third hut?” “Oh, that?” sniffs the castaway. “That’s the church I used to go to.”