I have seen in my years in the church the use of pride to teach the Bible. Classic illustration is when I was whipped up by my youth group leader to “memorize verses so we beat the other team.”
Now, I’m all for competition and some good was done by shoving verses in my head as a youth, but I think the vast majority of what passes for “Christian education” is merely using pride to accomplish the teacher’s goals and very little to do with the Holy Spirit’s teaching.
There are signs that pride is leading you to know the Bible, things that show your interest in Scripture is less than spiritual and way more about you. Here are a few leading indicators.
1) Bible Trivia. You learn the Bible so you can look like you know the Bible. You know the order of the books (even though you’ve never read most of them), you know names and battles and kingdoms and covenants, etc. Yeah, you’d do well in the annual Bible Bowl competition, but you have no clue.
2) Attention Grabbers. You learn the Bible to come up with some new thing, a new angle on an old subject. You learned something about sheep and you are dying to force it into your lesson. You study the Bible to get that weird thing you can impress people with and get some attention. Hey, you never know, you might even be able to start a new church!
3) Win Arguments. You go to Scripture to prove you are right and everyone else is a moron. You know all the proof texts for your issue (s) and that’s about it. No, you have no clue who God is, but you can sure make morons look moronic for not knowing your proof texts.
4) Peer Pressure. You learn the Bible because everyone around you is. This one isn’t all bad, but can be if your only motivation is to “fit in.” It’s better than dropping out, but honestly, there are better reasons to know the Bible than how well your neighbor does. What happens when you convince yourself you know more than everyone?
5) Receive Rewards. You learn the Bible to win points, get prizes or perhaps even a fancy degree you can hang on the wall to prove you know it. You learn to show you’re awesome. Look at my awards that prove it!
6) Sound Impressive. You learn the Bible to wow the crowd. How many hours of Sunday School classes and Bible Studies have been wasted by some blowhard pontificating about the three things in the Bible he’s aware of?
7) Us vs. Them. You learn exactly what you’re supposed to learn. You really don’t learn the Bible as much as learn what your group knows. Walking in lockstep with your Guy, your family, your church, your denomination, your lunch group is your main goal. Yeah, you can repeat what they know, but you have no personal knowledge of the Bible, no beliefs that veer from The Group, no new answers cuz you know not to ask those questions. It’s all about ME and how I am in US and WE are better than YOU!
How many people would take the time to learn the Bible if all of these reasons were eliminated? About four.
There is one main reason to know the Bible: to know God. Everything else fits into that. When you know God: you know what to believe, you know yourself, you know how to live and everything else. Know the Bible to know God.
If it helps, learn in your closet. One of my favoritest verses of all time is “hast thou faith? Have it to thyself before God.” There is a time to pontificate and show what you know. But I pray that all believers, especially those who are pastors or teachers, know a whole lot of stuff they never share with anyone. The silent learning of life, the ongoing growth with Christ that no one else would understand anyway.
How much would you learn if pride was no factor?