Reading The Bible Can Lead To Injury Or Death

Snake Salvation was a reality TV show about “snake handling pastors” in Kentucky. They believe in a bible passage from Mark 16 that suggests a poisonous snakebite will not harm them if they are anointed by God’s power. Sadly, the series was cancelled when the main character died from a venomous snake bite. Does the Bible really say you should go around picking up dangerous reptiles?

People often say things like, “I just believe what the Bible says, and I do what it tells me to do.” But in practice the Bible is open to a lot of interpretation and we tend to pick and choose what we like. Did Jesus really mean for us to cut off our hands if they cause us to sin? (Matthew 5:30) Should we feel guilty about wearing clothing with two different kinds of fabric? (Deuteronomy 22:11) Why don’t all women wear head coverings in church? (1 Corinthians 11)

None of us comes to the Bible with a blank slate; we all bring our own interpretation to bear. And our interpretation can be faulty. There are many parts of the Bible that are clear and easy to understand. As we mature in our faith, we must wrestle with some of the more difficult passages and think about how we interpret Scripture.

But, honestly, the most difficult parts of the Bible for me are the most straight forward and easy to understand. These are the passages that I know I should practice but somehow I fight with. Verses like:

  • “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44)
  • “Do everything without grumbling or arguing.” (Philippians 2:14)
  •  “Pray without ceasing (1 Thess. 5:17)
  • “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.” (James 1:2)

There are difficult and challenging questions about reading the Bible. Common sense though could really help those snake handlers. But like Mark Twain said, “It ain’t those parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand.” Yes, it’s the parts that are all too clear that bother me as well. I still have a lot of work to do.