The Common Misconception
There is a common misconception about the Bible, and it has become popular in the Evangelicalism. It is a misconception that is polluting churches all across America. So, what is this misconception? The misconception is that the Bible is about you. Many pastors preach as though the Bible is a self-help book. Chris Rosebrough’s podcast “Fighting for the Faith” highlighted this common misconception.
Rosebrough was reviewing a sermon by Chris Hodges, pastor of the Church by the Highlands in Birmingham, Alabama. The sermon is entitled, “Soul-Therapy: Insecurity”. In his sermon, Hodges talks about how insecure people are, himself included. At one point, he uses the story of Gideon’s call to lead Israel to freedom in Judges 6 to tell his congregation that they have a warrior inside them. So, what’s the problem with this? Well, Gideon didn’t have a warrior inside of him. In fact, Gideon was weak, insecure, and unfaithful to God. Here is what Judges 6: 11-18 says:
11 Now the angel of the LORD came and sat under the terebinth at Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, while his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the winepress to hide it from the Midianites. 12 And the angel of the LORD appeared to him and said to him, ‘The LORD is with you, O mighty man of valor.’ 13 And Gideon said to him, ‘Please, sir, if the LORD is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all his wonderful deeds that our fathers recounted to us, saying, “Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt?” But now the LORD has forsaken us and given us into the hand of Midian.’ 14 And the LORD turned to him and said, ‘Go in this might of yours and save Israel from the hand of Midian; do not I send you?’ 15 And he said to him, ‘Please, Lord, how can I save Israel? Behold, my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.’ 16 And the LORD said to him, ‘But I will be with you, and you shall strike the Midianites as one man.’ 17 And he said to him, ‘If now I have found favor in your eyes, then show me a sign that it is you who speaks with me. 18 Please do not depart from here until I come to you and bring out my present and set it before you.’ And he said, ‘I will stay till you return.’ -ESV
The amazing part of this passage is that God didn’t choose Gideon because there was a warrior inside of him. God chose Gideon for the polar opposite reason. In verse 14 the angel of the LORD, commentators say this was pre-incarnated Jesus, tells him that Gideon will save Israel from the people of Midian. Gideon’s response sheds light on Hodges misconception when Gideon says, “Please, Lord, how can I save Israel? Behold, my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.” Not only was Gideon part of the weakest clan, he was the weakest man in his household. Does it sound like Gideon had a hidden warrior inside of him? Or, does it sound like Gideon was a weak and scared person? The text suggests that he was the latter. As if that isn’t bad enough, Gideon wasn’t even a faithful Jew.
In verse 13 Gideon says, “Please, sir, if the LORD is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all his wonderful deeds that our fathers recounted to us, saying, ‘Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the LORD has forsaken us and given us into the hand of Midian.” Gideon was a man who didn’t trust the stories about God’s mighty works in the past. He questions the angel of the LORD, and within the questions he is enunciating his disbelief. Essentially, Gideon is a nominal Jew. His faith wasn’t an essential part of his life, it was only an artifact of his nationality. So, does Gideon sound like a warrior of faith? Or, was Gideon the last person anyone would pick to lead a nation of faith to freedom? The text suggests that the latter is a more faithful representation of the calling of Gideon.
So, what am I getting at? My aim of this post isn’t to tell you how great you are, because you aren’t. In fact, what every story in the Bible reflects is the utter incapability of man to do anything godly, righteous, or good without God. Scripture is not about you, it is about God. The Bible is about God’s amazing works throughout history, not about man’s. These amazing works show us the awesomeness of the Creator of the universe. We see God’s awesomeness in the story of Gideon’s calling.
God called a weak and unfaithful person to achieve his will. That is not a story about Gideon’s greatness, but rather, it is a story about God’s power to use weak people to achieve God’s glory. When we abuse the Bible like Hodges did with his misconception, we miss out on Scripture’s depiction of God’s glory. The truths found in Scripture are about the Truth himself. Scripture is not about you.
The moment we treat the Word of God like a self-help book is the moment we forsake the God the Bible represents. Don’t fall for self-help misconceptions that preachers like Chris Hodges espouse because you will miss out on the glory of God.
Thanks for reading.