Every summer we bring you a message series that specifically deals with a theme from the Bible. And so we begin our new message series for the last part of the summer that we’re calling Bible Oddities: Common Misinterpretations of the Bible.
This series takes a look at some of the most often misinterpreted passages in the Bible. The order of passages we shall be treating will in no way reflect any sort of ranking, but will be entirely arbitrary, relating only to the order which we will be discussing them over the next four weeks.
Unfortunately, there are many erroneous beliefs about God and Christianity that have snuck their way into modern Church culture. These popular phrases or ways of thinking are in direct conflict with what scripture actually teaches. In fact, there are various and wrong interpretations of the Bible in most cases.
This week, we take a look at the first very common misinterpretation: “God helps those who help themselves.” This phrase appears nowhere in Scripture. In fact, the message of the Gospel is in stark contrast to this idea. In Matthew 6:33, for example, Jesus advises his disciples to “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.” Jesus therefore calls us to seek after the kingdom of God first, not ourselves and promises that, if we do, everything else in life will fall in place.
Our modern culture idolizes self-sufficiency. Look out for yourself first. Focus on your needs before anyone else’s need. If you’re in an airplane, you are advised to wear your oxygen mask first before helping another person in case of loss of pressure. In that case, it is right. But God’s plan for our lives is the exact opposite. Focus on the kingdom of God first, and God will take care of your necessities. After all, following Jesus is about living a selfless life.
The man in the gospel today was a selfish and proud man, he thought only of himself and so God demanded his life because he was a fool. His priority was himself and not about God or his neighbor. But if we focus on seeking God, there will be nothing in life we need to worry about. Therefore, our relationship with God needs to be our top priority.
Success magazine once published an article on the three mistakes most people make when setting priorities: (1) They don’t think about it; (2) They make it too complicated; and (3) They don’t live their priorities. Seeking first the kingdom of God is a pretty simple priority, but it is difficult to live this priority out.
Nevertheless, Jesus is inviting you to overcome pride and selfishness and stop helping yourself first, but make him the first priority in your life. If you do, he will grant you your heart’s desires.
--Fr. Celestine Tyowua, Parochial Vicar
Father Roger Gustafson