In the first article of this series we saw how people play games with their fellowman and with God by acting God-fearing and Christ-obeying in appearance, but not in fact. But the best — or rather worst — is yet to come as we take a look at another facet of the spiritual sport of hypocrisy.
GIVE a football to a quarterback and he will attempt to score a touchdown. Give a baseball to a pitcher and he'll try to strike out the batter. Give a Bible to a Christian and he may play games with it too! He also will try to score points — points measured in feelings of self-righteousness and superiority. The Bible does not naturally lend itself to this exaltation of the human ego. It thrusts and parries at our follies and frailties, exposing human nature for what it really is. "For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart" (Heb. 4:12). But in the hands of a game-playing Christian, the sword of the Lord can be blunted or even wielded on other people instead of being applied personally. The rules for doing this are few and simple: 1) Forget or disbelieve that the Bible is true and factual revelation. "Thy word is truth," said Christ (John 17:17). But this must be overlooked. 2) Don't approach the Bible with humility, and don't fear to misuse or misinterpret it. "... To this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word," says God in Isaiah 66:2. But that's in the Old Testament — and hasn't that been done away with? 3) Forget that God gave the Bible to instruct, correct and change people — and you are "people," too. Disregard such scriptures as II Timothy 3:16,17: "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works." So easy are these rules to follow that anyone can play. And, sure enough, most do at one time or another. So as you read about these games, don't point the ferreting finger of fault-finding at someone else. That, as you may remember, is playing the games of "Blemish" and "Comparison Shopping." Apply the games personally.
Ignore-Amos (And the Rest of the Bible, Too!)
The first game professing Christians play with the Bible is to ignore it altogether. "Ignore-amoses" darken the doors of their church more often than they read the Bible. They can tell you the top five teams in the National League, but can't tell you the first five books of the Bible — in either Testament. Yet they have little or no doubt that they are genuine Christians who will be reckoned with the sheep, and not the goats, at the Judgment. The next worse thing to avoiding the Bible altogether is to use it in "Prop." This game is played by being seen with the Bible in public — but avoiding it in private. What counts is not how well you know the Bible — but your ability to show it off. A typical "Prop" game is played once a week on the way to church. The player carries the Word of the Lord conspicuously to be seen of men — and reverently to be seen of God — on his way to services. However, he must be careful: someone on earth or in heaven may notice that the Bible looks as new as when it was purchased ten years ago. Experienced players avoid this embarrassing faux pas by thumbing through the pages during services to give it that dog-eared, well-worn, well-read look. Or even better, the Bible is given to the baby to play with during the week.
"Display" or "Part of the Furniture" is similar to "Prop," but is played at home. The Bible is strategically placed on the coffee table or nightstand for the benefit of guests or visitors. The conclusion they will form about their host's piety is, of course, unmistakable. But like an original piece of Louis XIV furniture, it is there to be looked at — not to be used. Its sole value lies in its prestige. "Display" is also seen at formal occasions such as weddings, installations, anniversary parties, etc. — where a Bible is needed to lend an air of spirituality to the event. As any good Bible salesman knows, the feelings of spiritual superiority are directly proportional to the weight, size and cost of a Bible. Extra pseudo-spiritual points can be won in "Display" when: 1) The Bible covers at least two square feet when opened to the 23rd Psalm (10 points) 2) It weighs at least ten pounds (20 points) 3) It comes with gold lettering, genuine leather cover (preferably white), indexing, twelve pictures of the Holy Land, and a reproduction of the "Lord's Supper" by Leonardo da Vinci (30 points) 4) It costs at least $50.00 (50 points) 5) It has been a family heirloom for at least three generations (100 points) 6) It is a Gutenberg original (1,000 points!).
Read the Book
Could you be an "ignore-amos" or a "Prop" player to one degree or another when it comes to the Bible? Is your Bible only a prop or a piece of furniture? Or is it something you continually read — and live by? Here's a quick test to find out. It never fails to divide game players from real readers: Does the book of Josiah precede or follow Nahum? If you aren't sure or have to look it up — you need to read our free booklet Read the Book. It gives the antidote for being a Bible "ignoreamos."
Let us pass on to the game players who do read the Bible, who give the appearance of sinking their teeth into the "meat of the Word." But, remember, in all games, appearances are deceiving. For while these people may be readers of the Word — they are not doers (James 1:22-25). Spiritually speaking, such a person is a "knowbody" — someone who is more concerned about impressing himself and others with what he knows about the Bible than actually obeying it. Here are some of the games they play.
Some players measure their spiritual and intellectual prowess by the volume and density of Bible commentaries, dictionaries, translations, pamphlets and articles amassed on their shelves. They become very "shelf-righteous" about this outward display of apparent biblical knowledge. (Not that there is anything wrong with a good collection of reference books — it's how they are used!) Perhaps some have forgotten what Paul said: "Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth" (I Cor. 8:1); and "Though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge... and have not charity [love], I am nothing" (I Cor. 13:2). What they need is shelf-restraint, or better yet, shelf-abasement (most of their books should be relegated to the basement!).
In the same league with the shelf-righteous are the players of "Ivory Tower" or "Pious Pedestal." They preach faith, hope and charity to their fellowman, but are woefully short on practicing it themselves. This game was vividly demonstrated recently in an experiment conducted at Princeton University. Two researchers placed 40 aspiring theologians in a test situation similar to the parable of the "Good Samaritan." They told the students to walk to a nearby building and dictate an impromptu talk — some on the parable of the Good Samaritan, others on their career concerns. Along the pathway was planted an actor who, as the unsuspecting student approached, groaned and slumped to the ground. How did they react? Sixty percent walked right on by! Some, who were to talk on the "Good Samaritan," literally stepped over the slumped body as they hurried along!
"It Ain't Necessarily So"
This is one of the most popular games of all time. It is played by atheists, agnostics, liberal theologians — anyone who feels uncomfortable taking the Bible literally. If they come across anything in the Bible that doesn't agree with their thinking, it has got to be in error. On paper and in pulpits they immediately strike up a refrain of "It Ain't Necessarily So." They would rather change the Bible to fit their ideas, than change their ideas — and lives — to conform to the Bible. On the flip side of the coin is the game "The Bible Says...." Whereas in "It Ain't Necessarily So" the goal is to read out objectionable parts of the Bible, the goal in "The Bible Says..." is to read into the Bible ideas, words and sentences that aren't there! Thus, "the Bible says that heaven is the reward of the saved"; "the Bible says the soul is immortal"; "the Bible says Sunday is the Lord's day." But the Bible says none of these! Undoubtedly, this statement will send some scurrying to their Bibles to prove otherwise. Good. We have made these statements hundreds of times on the air and in our literature to shock people out of taking their God and their Bible for granted and to start doing what the Bereans did with the preaching of Paul: "These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so" (Acts 17:11). Before you send us your "proof" to refute these statements about heaven, the soul, and the Sabbath, be sure you are not guilty of playing these games:
Give Me That Old Time Religion — But Not the Old Testament
Some people have the sincere, but mistaken, notion that the Old Testament is done away with and is of no value in establishing doctrine. But they forget that when Paul made his statement (quoted earlier in this article) about the usefulness of God's Word ("profitable for doctrine") the New Testament canon was not in existence! He was referring to the Old Testament Scriptures. So was Christ when He said to Satan: "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God" (Matt. 4:4). Mirage: This involves seeing things in a verse that aren't really there. For example, people read "mansions" in John 14:2, 3 and automatically see " heaven." (To find out what these "mansions" are, read our free booklet What Is The Reward Of The Saved?.) Scalpel and Forceps: This is the technique of lifting a verse out of context to change its application or intent. For example, this is frequently done with Revelation 1:10 ("on the Lord's day") to prove Sunday-keeping. (The biblical meaning of the "Lord's day" is explained in our booklet The Book of Revelation Unveiled at Last.) Plastic Surgery: The person tries to rework the verse to make the meaning more agreeable to his thinking. Stack the Deck: Like a cardsharp fixing his deck in order to win, some people try to select the scriptures that "support" their argument, and leave out those that don't. An invaluable help to using the Word of God is our booklet How To Study the Bible. It shows how to stop playing games with the Bible — and start to study it and understand what it really says.
"Prove All Things"
The Bible exhorts every person who thinks he is a Christian to "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good" (I Thess. 5:21). Otherwise, you might be a game-playing Christian, a sham, a hypocrite. Your "religion" may comfort you now — but when Christ blows the whistle on the games "Christians" play and starts to divide the sheep and goats — are you sure you'll be on the right side? Don't play games with God or His Word. Find out what true Christianity is all about. Read the Book — and live by it!