My Three Favorite Scriptures that Aren’t in the Bible
This is a confession. In my unspoken desire to live with one foot in God’s kingdom and one in my own, I can find clever ways to make scripture fit my own perspectives. My eyes can read the clear intention in God’s word and yet my spirit can pursue an alternative translation. Call it the RRV; the Rodin Revised Version. Here are three examples. See if you aren’t reading your own ‘revised version’ for these as well.
In the RRV, Jesus promises, “Be thou productive unto death, and I will give you a crown of life.”
Did you catch it? In Revelation 2:10, Jesus promises the congregation in Smyrna that if they will be faithful to the end, they will receive the victor’s crown. That’s what He asks of you and me. Faithfulness. To know His will and do it without question. To be obedient. To trust His leading and leave the outcomes to Him. To seek Him first. Faithfulness. Nothing more, nothing less. That is the heart of a steward; know the will of the true Owner and do it unquestioningly.
But somehow, that’s not enough. Simple faithfulness flies in the face of the world’s quest for self-value based on performance and growth as the driving metrics for success. Social media tells us our score, if we’re ahead or behind everyone else in the productivity contest. The same drive to produce has made its way into the body of Christ. It shows up as success based on the size of your church, the increase in your fundraising, the largesse of your reputation and the expanse of your programs. Success as productivity drives us to work and strive and labor to achieve ‘enough’. Enough of what we don’t even know, except it is more than we have now. And as the treadmill speeds up and we pursue an unreachable star, the devil gives off a satisfied laugh. Why? He’s managed to get us to forget that God’s measurement of success is radically different. It is oriented on a new heading and comes with a fundamentally new set of rules. It calls us to Christ with childlike obedience. It sets us free. Its name is faithfulness.
In the RRV, Paul warns, “The lack of money is the root of all evil.”
Of course, Paul warns Timothy that it is the love of money that takes hold in us like the root of nasty weed (1 Timothy 6:10). If we believed it, we would treat money and our attitudes toward it with ardent vigilance. We would keep it at arms-length and watch for even the slightest signs of its luring us to its loyalty. We would be careful to remain open handed regarding it, never hoarding it and giving it away at every opportunity. If we believed the warning, we would be on guard, alert, never trusting it and always wary of its deceptive attraction.
That, however, is not convenient. It runs counter to our culture that hungers for wealth like starving dogs to a fresh carcass. The passion for money and its power surges in every sector of our society. Even inside the church. Even in me. When money brings us security and its pursuit dominates our time and attention, we have believed the RRV version to our own detriment. Down this path there is nothing but pain and disappointment awaiting us. Stewards remain detached from money’s allures. Will we forsake its call and love only one master?
In the RRV, Solomon urges us, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, if it aligns with your own understanding.”
This may be the hardest verse of all. I struggle with trusting God when His ways make no sense and His timing just doesn’t work for my plans. How can we trust when our reasonable assessments of our needs seem contradictory to God’s sometimes bizarre ways of meeting them? Solomon suggests that these two sentiments are actually the norm. Trust God when it doesn’t make sense. Trust when we don’t understand. Trust when we’re tired of waiting. Trust when He just doesn’t seem to care to even show up. Trust.
I like my version better. I want God’s way to make sense. Why shouldn’t it? I want His timing to align with my carefully crafted roadmap for my life. What’s wrong with that? Why is unquestionable trust so important? Well, because that’s why they call it ‘trust’. If the verse begins, “trust in the Lord with all your heart…” it leaves no room for qualifications. Trust always. Trust first. Trust last. Trust completely. There is no wriggle room in which we can insert our own criterions. It’s a hard lesson that seems, at least in my life, to need relearning almost daily, but that is the journey of the faithful steward.
Will we read scripture for its challenges and promises, or will our actions belie an adjustment to God’s word to more align with our ways, our sensibilities, and our wisdom?
Which version are you living by?