Everyone loves a good inspirational quote. In fact, we love inspirational quotes so much that entire social media accounts are dedicated to them. Retail stores have not just shelves but entire aisles for inspirational mugs, artwork, and apparel.
Inspirational quotes have spawned a money making industry in America. And a large segment of that market is Christian. To many, we have an entire book filled with inspirational quotes just ready to be slapped on a mug. Yikes!
The bible is certainly encouraging, and its pages are filled with a message of hope. But reducing scripture down to a catalog of content ready to decorate a picture of mountains with a beautiful sans serif font is more than just harmful, it’s devastating. It’s hard to know what’s worse, the fact that the trend is alive and well in the church or that there’s money to be made off of it.
I’m not telling you to throw away the sign above your door displaying Joshua 24:15 or your mug with Psalm 46:10 printed on the side. But I do think it’s important that we recognize the harm of this trend in our churches and in our lives.
Whether you’re the one creating the social media post or simply the one liking it, I think we should all be aware of how we are perpetuating the negative side of this trend.
Here are 3 ways inspirational quotes are harming the American Church.
1. Inspirational quotes often perpetuate the misunderstanding of bible verses.
I imagine that, like me, your social media feed is filled with a lot of well designed graphics with bible verses. But as you make your way to the caption, it looks less like a footnote in a study bible and more like an entry in someone’s personal journal.
That’s the beauty and the evil of social media, you can post just about anything you’d like. It doesn’t matter if it’s accurate, truthful, or credible. It’s anything you want it to be.
So, when it comes to posting about scripture, there’s a lot of cattywampus thoughts out there. There are also a lot of verses simply pulled out of context. And it doesn’t take much for one misinterpretation to spread like wildfire.
I think we’ve seen this happen a lot with verses like:
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
“I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13)
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” (Matthew 7:1)
Reading these verses in isolation can lead to all kinds of misinterpretation, and it often does. When these verses are read in the context of the entire chapter and book they are found in, there is great clarity. It is in their full context that you can truly see what it is God is saying through them.
The issue of pulling verses out of context is nothing new, but the trend of inspirational quotes only furthers the offense. This trend causes people to commit it more often, especially for creatives. The people running Christian social media accounts and creating Christian merchandise need to be mindful of the pressure to create can lead them down the road of pulling bible verses out of context.
For those consuming, whether through likes on social media, dollars spent on a product, or devotions read, we must also be thoughtful. Every verse has an intended meaning by its author, and that is what we should be looking for. Our goal isn’t to flip through scripture or search Google to find standalone verses that sound inspiring or encouraging for the day.Reading bible verses in isolation can lead to all kinds of misinterpretation, and it often does. Click To Tweet
2. Inspirational Christian Quotes encourage biblical illiteracy.
Whenever someone tells me that my husband is a social person, I immediately understand that they don’t know my husband very well. Dale comes across as an extrovert when he’s preaching or in a work setting, but he’s naturally an introvert. Being in highly social settings takes a lot of energy out of him. He sometimes needs to rest for days after the fact.
The thing is, at first glance, Dale might seem like an extrovert. But it’s only once you get to know him that you realize it’s not a natural tendency for him.
In the same way, we can look at a person’s misunderstanding of scripture and believe it’s true when we see a verse in isolation. It’s only when you’re familiar with a certain verse or book in the bible that you can easily spot a misinterpretation.
The only way to know that is to be familiar with scripture, which means we have to actually be reading it. And not merely through the lens of social media or Christian products. I fear too many people count devotional posts and verse-of-the-day emails as knowing the word of God. When this is as far as we dive into scripture, we’re choosing to trust the words of others about the bible, rather than turning to the bible to actually see what it has to say.
One of the best ways to guard yourself against misinterpreting scripture is to read it in its full context. When someone posts a scripture verse that resonates with you, I encourage you to take a moment to read the verses surrounding it. Don’t merely read the caption in the social media post and take their word for it. This will allow you to become more familiar with scripture and allow the Holy Spirit to minister to your soul.The only way to spot a misinterpretation of scripture is to be familiar with scripture. And not merely through the lens of social media or Christian products. Click To Tweet
3. Inspirational quotes cheapen the message of scripture.
When verses are pulled out of context and rated based on their level of “inspiration,” we allow the message of scripture to be cheapened. The hope of God’s word is so much better, richer, and deeper than finding a bible verse to encourage you when you get a flat tire.
God promises there will be a day when death will be no more, when sin will no longer plague this earth, when we get to see Jesus face-to-face. This is the good news that impacts our lives both now and on the other side of eternity.
The message of scripture is full of hope and encouragement, but it’s not merely because of the words. The Holy Spirit moves through the words on the pages of the bible to open our eyes and hearts to what God has spoken.
The message of scripture is so much better than the most inspirational words spoken by Abraham Lincoln, Walt Disney, Oprah Winfrey, Martin Luther King Jr., or any other person who is often quoted.
In our effort to try to find encouraging words to get us through the day, we can’t rest this need on our coffee mugs, home decor, or favorite accounts to follow on social media. God can use all of these things to remind us of his word, but to turn to these things for hope stops us from seeking the One who is capable of caring for us in every way.When verses are pulled out of context and rated based on their level of 'inspiration,' we allow the message of scripture to be cheapened. Click To Tweet
MORE RESOURCES TO CHECK OUT
If you enjoyed this article, these books might be useful resources to you.
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- Playing With Fire: How the Bible Ignites Change in Your Soul by Walt Russell
- Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes: Removing Cultural Blinders to Better Understand the Bible by E. Randolph Richards and Brandon J. O’Brien
- Introduction to Biblical Hermeneutics: The Search for Meaning by Walter C. Kaiser Jr. and Moisés Silva