Nitpicking the Bible

The Dangers of Nitpicking the Bible

Posted: April 17, 2022

Personally at fault

For years now, I have had a Bible quote in my Instagram bio (and a variation of it as my yearbook quote). The Bible quote in question is Matthew 6:34. The current version follows:

"Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today's trouble is enough for today." - Jesus

Notice that I have attributed this to "Jesus", not Matthew 6:34, an act of cowardice. Also notice that this has been truncated and heavily reworded. The original verse (from the Bible I currently have on hand):

So do not worry about tomorrow; it will have enough worries of its own. There is no need to add to the troubles each day brings.

The reason I modified THE BIBLE was so that it seemed to say "don't worry, be happy". If that was what I wanted, I should have just included the quote from the Bobby McFerrin song. The only thing I'm missing is a dancing fish.

Losing Context

In paraphrasing a single verse of the Bible, I have lost a considerable amount of context. In reality, citing a single verse of the Bible is losing signifigant context. Shortly before in Matthew, Jesus explains that God cares for all of his creation. He feeds even the littlest bird and clothes every flower in the fields. This additional information only adds to the verses already cited. Ignoring the context here is somewhat subtle, but consider the verse:

Jesus wept.

As it is, this could make Jesus look like a crybaby. The lack of context of Jesus having genuine sadness at the loss of a friend, despite the fact that shortly therafter he raises him from the dead ruins the message.

Broken Telephone

I remember years ago, when trying to select a Bible translation, there were so many different versions. But I foolishly worked through them to try to find a version that best matched with the Brady News Bible, and then edited it even more.

The King James Version is one of the oldest English Bible translations. The KJV is similar in litereary difficulty to Shakespeare and just as poetic.

24 "No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

25 "Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? 26 Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? 27 Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?

28 "And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: 29 And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?

31 "Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? 32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. 33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. 34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

Analysis and Changes

An actual analysis, of the whole section from the Bible shows Jesus saying "Trust in the Lord. The birds and fish do not worry about tomorrow, and neither should you." Another wonderful verse is verse 27: saying "Has anyone grown taller through worrying?", this feels like like a roast, and that's hillarious.

My instagram Bio needs changing, but I still like the current verse. I have now remedied my Instagram bio to be:

"Look at how the Lord clothes the birds. Aren't you worth much more than birds? Can any of you grow taller by worrying about it?" - [Matthew 6:26-27]

This was modified from the biblical original, but only slightly and to fit a 150 character limit. I feel that this quote better repesents the message of this section of the Bible. The inclusion of verse 27 (Can any...) still keeps a little bit of the "Don't worry, be happy" message, while remaining biblical. This verse is intentionally taken from the bible I had on hand, so that I wouldn't again shop around for the Bible.

Additional Reading

For a very well done article on what exactly makes the Venerable King James Version great, see this article by Ray Patrick.