It’s pretty typical of the tradition in which I was raised to cherry-pick scripture. I’m guilty of this myself, often finding favorite quotes when reading a book. Many evangelical sermons are based on small passages, which is neither good or bad. Sometimes it’s enlightening to “read around” the sermon text for context, and it gives me a way to occupy my mind if the service goes long.
Unfortunately, scripture quotes from Dr. Jeffress automatically come loaded with political baggage and scream of “cherry-picking” to make a point. I find myself needing to read the chapter around anything that Jeffress says to get the context, especially a passage like James 1:22, that is pretty straightforward. In response to seeing this verse tweeted, I can almost hear God saying with a chuckle, “Well duh, who’d a thought it.”
As I read the first chapter of James, verses 9-11 jumped out at me since they reference earthly wealth in a way that seems to contrast with Dr. Jeffress and political leaders.
9 Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position.10 But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower. 11 For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business.
This was a pretty blunt reminder that none of us really hold power and that God views the least of us humans as valuable. We should view those in humble circumstances as being of great value in the eyes of the Creator of the Universe.
Then verses 26-27 hit me like a brick.
26 Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. 27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
I’m rightly convicted by these verses and thankful for that. They’re instructive in my life, and I fall very short. Sadly, those in power are not likely to be influenced by the words that form a context for their cherry-picked tweets.
Note of thanks: I want to thank Dr. Robert Jeffress and Paula White-Cain for making me question their conclusions and declarations. Though I have little in common with their beliefs, they compel me to search religious texts for answers and clearer understanding, so I guess that’s a good thing.