Bible Memes You Never See

I’m thinking of publishing a new Scripture translation. I’m going to call it The Meme Bible.

Meme – a humorous image, video, piece of text, etc. that is copied (often with slight variations) and spread rapidly by Internet users.

Bible – a collection of texts sacred in Judaism and Christianity.

Spend any time on social media and you’ll see memes. Spend time on social media where Christians post their thoughts and you’ll see Bible memes, complete with chapter and verse, offered to inspire and encourage people through the word of God.

Yet I’ve never seen a meme for Job 2:9b. Instead, I see memes like this one on the blessing of abiding in Christ:

And one on the love of God and loving one another:

Notice the pleasant typeface and compelling images. This is typical of Bible memes. They feature rainbows, running horses, storm-tossed seas, and more images that draw the eye to the text.

Meming Responsibly

I have to admit that there are days when I run across a Bible meme and it encourages me greatly. God’s word will do that. After all:

[God’s] word is a lamp for my feet,
    a light on my path. (Psalm 119:105.)

and,

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17.)

Which brings me back to my original observation. If all Scripture is God-breathed, why are some verses overlooked? Perhaps if they were coupled with compelling images – rainbows and landscapes, perhaps – like this one about an Apostle from the first chapter of Acts:

Acts 1_18Hm, not as encouraging as I’d hoped.

Or here’s a verse from Genesis regarding Abraham’s descendants:

Gen 23_13-15Well, that didn’t illuminate my understanding of God as much as I’d hoped either.

How about that verse I mentioned in the beginning of this post? We never see a meme quoting Job’s wife:

Job 2_9That one just didn’t bring me any hope at all.

These are all taken straight from God’s word – they even have those compelling images to go with the words – so why aren’t they popular meme verses? It’s because while all Scripture is useful, it’s not all useful in the same way. God’s word doesn’t work that simplistically. Or as Nick Quient said:

“It’s the Bible. We don’t have the luxury of simple.”

Description versus Prescription

The Bible both describes and prescribes. Consider those three memes I proposed:

  • When we’re told how Judas died, it’s not an invitation for us to strive for the same kind of death. It’s merely an explanation to help us understand why the rest of the Apostles chose someone to take his place in Acts 2.
  • To understand the importance of Abraham’s line of descendants through Ishmael, the passage needs to be read in light of all of Israel’s subsequent history. Context always counts.
  • And the quote from Job’s wife is a product of her grief at losing her children in a horrible accident, one she recognized rightly as being allowed by God. Yet we are not encouraged to emulate her but are given her words to understand the revelation of God’s true character in the final chapters of the book of Job.

The need for context doesn’t come up only with verses like those I choose from Genesis, Job and Acts, but when understanding the other verses more common to Scripture memes. For the vine and love memes posted above, they are both descriptive and prescriptive: they describe a truth about God and prescribe action on our part. But even memes as responsibly created as these are incomplete.

  • Jesus is the vine and we are the branches, the first meme above says. That is true. But to understand what these branches (God’s people) are doing in the vine (which is Christ) you need to read the rest of that passage in John 15 about branches bearing the vine’s fruit, and you should also read Galatians 5 concerning the fruit of the Holy Spirit produced in God’s people. A knowledge of Old Testament passages describing Israel as the vineyard of God would help too.
  • The second meme says love is from God and we are to love others as he has loved us. True, but how great is this love of God? That heart meme doesn’t say. In fact, to understand the love of God you need to study Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and the patient ministry of the Holy Spirit in everyone who belongs to God, as well as read of the relationship God has had with his people from Genesis chapter one to Revelation chapter 22.

I’m not down on memes. though. They get people thinking and can encourage you to turn to God with your cares and thanks and struggles and triumphs and questions. God’s word, even verses in isolation, achieve much.

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12.)

This doesn’t mean you can take God’s word out of context and spout it off willy-nilly. That would be irresponsible (like the three memes I created from Genesis, Job and Acts). God entrusts his word to you to use wisely, through the power of the Spirit of Christ within you. (John 16:13, Ephesians 1:13-14.)

A Meme Bible isn’t the most complete way to learn the word of God, but Bible memes can be a good way to get people thinking about God and his word.

***

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31 Responses to Bible Memes You Never See

  1. I put Scripture memes on a Pintetest board I named “think on these things”.

  2. Pastor Bob says:

    “A Meme Bible isn’t the most complete way to learn the word of God, but Bible memes can be a good way to get people thinking about God and his word.”
    —— Well said.

    How did you get “meming” pas the spell checker MS cop?

  3. Jeannie says:

    That Job meme is the best of all. 🙂 The describe/prescribe distinction is really interesting and helpful. The casting of lots by the disciples to find someone to replace Judas is one example: because they did it, lot-casting must be what we should do, right? … or not? Saying something is “Biblical” because it’s in the Bible, and then just doing it, is the easiest way, but sometimes more discernment and thought is needed. Really interesting (and funny) post today.

    • Tim says:

      Thanks, Jeannie. Laying out a fleece is one I’ve heard Christians doing as well, taken from Gideon’s request for God to make his guidance plain. The fleeces today are more symbolic than taking an actual lambskin and leaving it outside overnight, but the concept comes up still. It’s like when a person says, “If God has my great aunt call me today, then I know I should take that job in Omaha. If she doesn’t call then I’ll turn it down.”

      The problem with laying out fleeces is two-fold form what I can tell. For one thing, nowhere in the New Testament do we see anything remotely resembling it. For another, when it happened in the Old Testament it was Gideon’s idea, not God’s.

  4. A Meme Bible may not be the Bible we need, but it would be the Bible we of the internet deserve. That’s the first thing that popped into my mind after reading this.

    But yeah, context is pretty important. It’s sad that it seems like context whether Biblical or even just in general is so often neglected in favor of memes, out of context quotes, and sound bites.

    • Tim says:

      Right. It’s one thing to pull a universal truth from a passage. It’s another to say that the nugget of truth is the whole truth on the matter.

      And when people miss the meaning because they’ve missed the context, it’s dangerous. As you say, Jeremy, it happens with the Bible and a whole lot more.

  5. Persis says:

    My pastor taught a class on hermeneutics and told us if we could remember only one thing, remember the importance of context.

    The Job meme is great. But what about Elisha and the bears? (2 Kings 2:23-24) That would be perfect for The Children’s Meme Bible.

  6. Kathi says:

    If you can get the genealogy record of 1Chronicles into memes, people may read it!

  7. Reblogged this on multicolouredsmartypants and commented:
    Excellent post. Chipper little bible verses are great in their own way, but they’re a signpost to the bigger picture. Too often in our instant gratification, can’t-be-bothered culture, we forget that there is a paragraph around that sentence, a chapter around that paragraph, other chapters around the original chapter, a book around those chapters and a collection of books in one cover that sets the entire context – God’s beautiful word, contained in the bible.

  8. Kevin Mason says:

    I am flooded with memes that have a pretty picture of Jesus (think Precious Moments, etc.) that end with “like if you agree, share if you too love Jesus”. I hate “like bait” and “share bait” just so someone can generate a lot of likes and shares. It is pure manipulation.

    I wanted to create one with a cute puppy that says “If you don’t click ‘like’ and ‘share’ this picture, I will shoot this this dog.” Oh… wait… national Lampoon already did something like that!

    Thanks for the ‘snort’ producing laughter for this morning.

  9. Jennwith2ns says:

    So, as someone who frequently tries to put myself in the sandals (or whatever) of Bible characters, I am embarrassed to realise and subsequently admit that I have never thought of Job’s wife’s grief and loss before. It’s so obvious, but she’s “written” so harshly and “harridan-ish-ly,” that for some reason it never dawned on me that essentially she was going through the same test as Job. Duh. Thanks for that, Tim.

  10. fikalo says:

    Oh my, these are great. Haha

  11. Carmen S. says:

    Tim, you’re good at this, and actually your memes might make a few people think.

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