Jesus Is Coming… Look Busy

I’ve seen my share of bumper stickers—most of them many times. The one I saw recently, however, is in a class by itself. “Jesus Is Coming,” it proclaimed. “Look Busy!” It was done, I suspect, by some sarcastic wag who wanted to poke fun at a serious matter. But, whether he realized it or not, he touched a nerve on the functional attitude of many professed Bible-believing Christians these days. To intellectually acknowledge the coming of Christ is one thing; to live as though you believe it is something else again.

A survey done by the Barna Research group in Oxnard, California, seems to shed light on the “deaf ear to biblical mandates” currently afflicting many who claim to line up with those who believe the Book. Barna found that the Bible is being reduced to the status of an icon with little value in millions of American homes.

Barna further concludes that America is moving from a Christian nation to a spiritually diverse society with more personal faiths. Contemporary relevance is being questioned by some who feel that they have difficulty in understanding the Scriptures, they do not have enough time to attempt to understand them, and the Bible doesn’t seem to relate to their lives. Many of these same people, 60%, said that they would probably turn to the Bible if they had a personal crisis or if they could find a Bible with practical ideas for better living.

Just how deeply biblical illiteracy is ingrained in our “feel good” generation has been revealed in surveys taken in recent years. Following are a few eye-openers.

  1. Of those polled, 80% incorrectly think that the Bible includes the statement, “God helps those who help themselves.”
  2. Those ubiquitous signs bearing the quotation “John 3:16” seen at sporting events are a mystery to at least 65% of Americans, who do not know that the passage refers to eternal life for those who believe in Jesus.
  3. Only 50% of adults know the Book of Jonah is in the Bible.
  4. Now, hold on to your hat: Joan of Arc is believed to have been the wife of Noah by 10% of those questioned.

I find it incredible that so many of this generation claim that they cannot figure out what the Bible is saying. We are touted to be the most broadly educated Americans in the history of the republic. For more than 200 years, people from the most rural settings to the urban sprawls of this country have had no problem getting the message. Perhaps many chose to ignore what they heard, but they did get it.

Today, considering all the new “language of the people” translations of the Bible available, such an abysmal grasp of the world’s most important book is no less than appalling.

But this is really not so surprising. One reason is that our young people are not being taught the basic values that enable them to understand what God is talking about when matters such as truth, honesty, humility, moral decency, and respect for others are being dealt with. Eighth grade graduates of past days were taught that these things mattered. As a result, America became what it is today. Also, I might add, those bygone generations may not have been computer literate, but in things that contributed to a spiritually well-rounded life, their education was superior.

The big problem, however, is the “ME” syndrome. Several times in the Barna report, references were made to what people themselves judge to be relevant. Inevitably, this translates into more for self in the here and now. In short, people are simply looking in the wrong direction. They would like to fashion a God that is more horizontally conceived. All of this business of “looking up and bowing down” places a great strain on people obsessed with their self-esteem.

Is there a change in the wind? Perhaps so, for those who said a “personal crisis” would get their attention. Well, stand by. There will be plenty of personal crises to choose from before we’re out of here. Let’s hope some people will be receptive.

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