Not everything in the Bible is meant to be carried out. In fact, there are some things in the Bible you are definitely not supposed to do.
How can I say something like that? After all, you know I’ve read 2 Timothy 3:16-17 –
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.
I believe every word of that passage. I also believe that doing some of the things the Bible says is not only stupid but foolish, and if I did them I’d be a real jerk. In fact, I have done them and I have been a real jerk.
Here’s one from the Book of Job, the words of Zophar.
My troubled thoughts prompt me to answer
because I am greatly disturbed. (Job 20:2.)
Sounds good so far, doesn’t it? If something is troubling, talking it out can be the right thing to do. But then we get to the next verse.
I hear a rebuke that dishonors me,
and my understanding inspires me to reply. (Job 20:3.)
Zophar sees injustice and must speak out, but who is the victim of this injustice? Zophar. And being a man of great understanding – understanding so great that it inspires his reply! – Zophar must speak in his own defense. As the rest of Job 20 shows, Zophar’s defense is an all-out attack on Job’s character.
What a jerk.
Stupidly Following Scripture
Taking Zophar’s words as an example of appropriate biblical behavior would be stupid. It’s not that we should write these words out of the Bible. There they are for all to read. But Zophar’s words are not recorded as a guide.
Or are they?
They are a guide for what not to do. That’s part of what it means in 2 Timothy 3:16 – “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching.” Every word of the Bible is there for a reason. Understanding that reason takes discernment. So what is the reason for Zophar’s words?
One tool for exercising discernment is studying all of Scripture, not allowing words to stand in isolation. Sometimes that takes effort, and sometimes it is as plain as day. Zophar’s words fall into both categories.
First the plain as day part – at the end of the Book of Job, God clearly rebukes Zophar in the clearest words possible.
I am angry with you … . (Job 42:7.)
If God is angry at Zophar, it’s plain we need to rethink anything Zophar has said to see where he went wrong. This is where it takes effort to see what other passages might apply. Here’s one –
If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. (Luke 6:29.)
Zophar felt the insult like a slap on the cheek, and in turn felt compelled to answer back. That doesn’t fit in with Jesus’ teaching.
Here’s another that’s on point –
Do not say, “I’ll pay you back for this wrong!”
Wait for the Lord, and he will avenge you.(Proverbs 20:22.)
In light of these passages, it’s clear Zophar didn’t have as great an understanding as he thought. Sure his understanding might have inspired him to reply to the insult, but it’s actually a matter of not having enough understanding that drove his actions. That’s why this passage is in the Bible. That’s the lesson we are to learn from Zophar.
And that’s the lesson I still need to learn so I don’t end up being a real jerk.