Remember the old cliché, “Just when you think you’ve heard it all ...”? Well, you haven’t until you’ve heard this. I honestly thought the corporations that print today’s bibles had finally exhausted all of the possible “special editions.” I mean, what else is there after the “Left Handed, Near Sighted, Dyslexic with In-grown Toenail on the Right Big Toe, Giant Print, Red Letter Study Bible”? How about the “Poverty and Justice Bible”? The former is a joke; the latter is the real deal. But, frankly, I’m not sure which one is more ridiculous.
The Bible Society of the United Kingdom has announced its newest addition to avalanche of specialty Bibles we’ve seen in recent years. We’re told in their advertising that finally, after all these centuries and after all the previous special editions of the Bible, God’s real priorities are revealed. Forget about all those other Bibles and special editions—this one is “ground breaking.”
A headline on their Web site declares: “The Poverty and Justice Bible megaphones his voice as never before.” (Hmm—I never thought about God needing a megaphone, but evidently He does, and this Bible is it.) The hyperbole flows from the pen of the promoters: “The Poverty and Justice Bible. You know God cares for the poor. Now you can know how much.”
It is absolutely clear that God does care about the poor and so should we. Unfortunately, as you look deeper into the “Poverty and Justice Bible” (hereafter PJB), it is clear that the voice being “megaphoned” is less the voice of God than the theological and political left.
Even a cursory look at the list of people endorsing this new Bible reveals the agenda behind this it. The Emergents—a group many people categorize as part of the evangelical left—are represented by the likes of Rob Bell and the political left is represented by none other than Jim Wallis. Even Bono is cited as an inspiration and supporter. More than the endorsers, it’s the content that is most troubling.
The “Poverty and Justice Bible” emphasizes the “over 2,000 verses that spell out God’s attitude to poverty and justice.” A noble motive. However, as the old saying states, “The Devil is in the details.” The Web site for this new Bible proudly presents some of the study materials contained in this special edition. Each poverty passage has its own study guide complete with a “Discover,” “Dream” and “Do” portion. The editors tell us that these practical study guides will help us understand poverty and injustice from God’s viewpoint. As you read them, you quickly discover that these study guides are more from the viewpoint of Al Gore (cf. “An Inconvenient Truth”) than that of God. And illustrations? Absolutely!
Consider this disturbing example of what awaits you in the pages of the PJB. As you study Proverbs 14:9 you are challenged in the “Do” section of the study guide to, “Identify your ignorance and do something about it. Use the media to stretch your mind and make you wise. Seek out wise writers, respected reporters intelligent entertainers—and learn from them.” What? Use the media to “stretch your mind and make you wise”?
The Bible constantly warns us about the “wisdom of the world” (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:20ff.). And this new Bible tells you to get your wisdom from a secular media. Oh, and don’t forget the “intelligent entertainers.” It gets worse. When you study Romans 13:8-10, the “Discover” section of the study guide declares, “Paul was a great traveler. It is estimated that he traveled more than 10,000 miles during his ministry. I wonder, if he were alive today, would he be zooming around Turkey on the Asia Minor equivalent of EasyJet? Would he be insulating his tent and reducing his carbon footprint?” I’m not making this up. Do you remember the last time you closed your Bible and meditated on how much insulation Paul should have put in his tent?
In the next paragraph of this particular study guide we’re told that if we really love people as Paul did we would make sure that we don’t harm the environment. Page after page of “application” condemns chain saws, deforestation, clear cutting and all things not “green.”
Had enough? How about this “Dream” section of the guide for Matt. 5:13-16: “You’re at a job interview for becoming a human. You’re asked how you intend to make a difference to this world. What do you say?” (A job interview for becoming a human? Who wrote this stuff, Jay Leno?)
Wait, there’s more. When you turn in your new PJB to Amos 5:21-24 you will be challenged to a deeper walk with Christ when you read this “Do” portion of the study guide: “Cultivate a relationship with your garden (or window box). Show it you care.” Can somebody tell me how I show my window box I care?
To the committed Christian there is nothing more precious than the Bible because we understand it to be God’s word. When someone prostitutes this precious book for blatant political and ideological purposes everyone loses. Love the Bible, proclaim the Bible, study the Bible, memorize the Bible—but check your theological and political agendas at the door.