Getting More Honest with the Bible

BY 30 HOUR FAMINE TEAM

By Jake Kircher

One of the things that I have loved about the 30 Hour Famine is the chance to engage students with the Bible. This is especially true when it comes to what the scriptures have to say about social justice, helping the poor, and feeding the hungry. It’s so important to help our students understand the importance of God’s Word and how it can help us to live the best life possible. However, I’m also learning that to do that, we need to get more honest about the Bible. Here’s what I mean by that:

In our “I want it now” and “quick and easy” culture, we often apply these same philosophies to faith and to reading the Bible. We say things like, “Just read the Bible and do what it says,” making scripture seem easy and self-explanatory. For many of us, especially those working within certain denominations, we have quick answers to the many questions that teens ask about the Bible and present our “clear” interpretations of it.

But the fact of the matter is that the deeper that you get in to the Bible and the more closely you read it, you quickly realize that it’s not that easy. On top of that, when we present it like an easy button, we actually set teens up for failure later.

There are lots and lot of questions to be explored in the Bible. Some of them are popular, like, how do we reconcile the angry, “kill everyone” God in the Old Testament to the loving, sacrificial God of the New Testament? How do we deal with the miraculous? Or, are the Bible and science incompatible?

But others are much more below the surface and can easily be missed when we just teach teens to “read the Bible and do what it says.” What do you do when history or archeology disagree with an account in Scripture (see Luke 2:1-7)? What do we do with translation problems where there is lots of disagreement over the meaning of a word? What do we do when there is evidence that scribes later changed the original language in a text (see Mark 1:40-44)? How do we handle apparent contradictions in the Gospel accounts? And how do we understand the context of what we’re reading so we know we are applying it to our lives accurately (see 1 Corinthians 14:34-35)?

It’s questions like these and not being honest about them that can set our teens up for failure later: If they don’t know how to critically think through these issues, it’s easy for them to either embrace fear and ignore important questions like this (which then leads to spiritual isolation as they only surround themselves with other people who think like them) or they embrace cynicism and walk away from their faith all together.

Dr. Peter Enns shares that “the Jews viewed the Bible as a problem, as an ongoing discussion to enter in to.” Our job as youth workers needs to be inviting our students in to that conversation. We need to teach them how to read the Bible and how to get below the surface. We need to point them to resources (there are tons available online) they can use to better understand and explore Scripture. And we have to be honest that the Bible isn’t always easy and that the difficulties aren’t something to be afraid of or cynical of, but can actually lead to a deeper and more meaningful faith.