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.
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.)
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:
Or here’s a verse from Genesis regarding Abraham’s descendants:
How about that verse I mentioned in the beginning of this post? We never see a meme quoting Job’s wife:
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.