Intention matters so. A work changes in result and value depending on it. A work done in an evil intention is itself evil and so is the result of it. What if the intention of reading and studying the Bible is not what God intended? Such reading and studying of the Bible, even though they seem good in appearance, are evil and their result will be devastating the person and the person’s hearers. This writing discusses first how intention matters to a work in its value and result, the principle of intention, as this writing calls. Then it will apply the principle to reading and studying the Bible. In this discussion, it will review some teachings of the Bible regarding studying the Bible.
People do most of things on purpose. There are almost nothing that people do for no purpose except the things done by subconscious or instinct. Even these things, however, are initiated for purposes. Only some things that are done with no purpose involved, furthermore, may not be included in doing. It is based on the definition of doing that it has to have a purpose as its essential element. With the definition, we may say that people ‘do’ everything on purpose.
What has been widely acknowledged regarding purpose is that consciousness of it affects the performance of the person. The stronger the strength of consciousness of it, the better the performance. It may be because the consciousness of it is related with motivation of the person at the work. As one agrees to the purpose and internalizes it, he or she would be motivated for the work and would perform better.
There is one other aspect we need to discuss regarding purpose. It is that it has a relation with the intention of the person at the work. The intention is the person’s internal reason to do a thing (metal or physical). We may, therefore, define intention as the actual purpose of the person. I mean by ‘actual’ that the purpose is in his or her heart. It may or may not the same with the purpose that is known to public, which is nominal apparent one. A person’s actual purpose is not always the same with the nominal one. Intention is useful to refer to the person’s actual purpose which is in his or her heart.
As intention is the actual purpose of the person, it affects the work. It affects the work not only the performance, but also the substance. It is obvious that it affects the person’s performance at the work because it is related with his or her actual purpose for the work, as aforementioned. This is a quantitative effect of intention, if we will. The other effect of intention is more complicated than the one. It is to the substance of the work and so this one is qualitative. So, it needs more serious discussion.
Intention affects a work at least in two ways: the work itself and its result. It affects, first, the work itself. For example, if a man gives a hamburger to a person in hunger, the work he is doing seems good. So it could be seen as a good work. However, if his intention is to get people’s attention but not purely to help the hungry person, his work is not a good work but evil (let me come back to this a little later). Even though the effect to the person in need, the receiver of the action, is the same, the value of the work to the man, the doer, is totally different from its apparent value. To the doer, his or her intention changed the value of the work; to the doer, the work is different substantially depending on his or her intention of the work.
Intention also affects the result of a work. If we use the example above, the work resultantly harms the man, the doer, and the people around him as well, including the receiver, the hungry person. They are deceived by his work. The result is not what they assume by the apparent purpose of the doer, doing good to the receiver that is feeding the hungry person, but to get their heart to accomplish his actual purpose. The people who are impressed by his or her work are deceived by the doer; that is, he got them.
In this case, the result intended by the doer is not satisfaction of the person, but getting his or her heart. The doer’s intention makes the result totally different in value from that the apparent purpose suggests. It is like a dish of food, metaphorically speaking. If a cook makes a food with hands with germs unwashed, the germs are spread into the food in all the process of cooking. The result, say a cake, looks the same in appearance, but in quality it is totally different: it is a cake in appearance but a lump of germs. If we go back to intention’s effect on the work itself with this conclusion, the work is used by the man as a ‘bait’ to catch them (at least their attention). Those who eat the cake will get sick. In this regard, the work itself is also evil. It is just a tool of the doer to accomplish his evil intention. In this way, intention affects the work holistically.
This principle of intention applies to the reading or studying of the Scripture. The intention of reading and studying the Scripture changes the value of the reading and studying. Reading the Scripture looks the same in appearance, which corresponds to the apparent purpose; however, the quality of it is totally different depending on the person’s intention, the true purpose in heart. If one reads the Scripture for a debate, the reading is not what the Scripture is for (cf. 1 Tim. 6:4; 2 Tim. 2:14; Acts 18:15). The Scripture is for life, that is, it is given to human beings for salvation (2 Tim. 3:15). Reading the Scripture is to find the will of God they have to follow and accomplish through their life (cf. 1 Pet. 1:23; Rom. 12:2). But if one reads it for argument, they would not change their life rather their knowledge of it would work as a ‘stabber’ that may kill him or herself and his or her listeners (cf. 2 Tim. 2:14). Such unbiblical intention of the reader changes the quality and value of the knowledge of the Scripture.
This may happen a lot to the people who are defending their traditions. Their intention of reading or studying of the Scripture is not what it is supposed to be but to argue against and criticize other interpretations than their traditional one to defend their tradition. Because their intention is not biblical, which is contradictory to what God intended for his words, their works are unbiblical but merely human-traditional, that is misleading and evil. It is deceptive. Their studying, reading, and teaching of the Scripture looks good, as suggested by the apparent purpose or by the name; however, its actual result and its influence to themselves and their listeners are devastating spiritually. What God gave humans for life is manipulated for destruction by their wrong intention.
This generation has a tendency to judge things by appearance. It is a sort of mega-trend of this world. It is a culture of the society permeated into marrows and veins of most of people. So it is easy not to be affected by it. In this stream, that tendency has also been attacking the church constantly. The Christians do the same thing in many things many times. As they do so, they do the same with their spiritual life. They focus on appearance. It has been affecting their dealing with the words of God. They think studying the Bible is anyway good without examining their intention for it. They, without watching their intention of heart, hastily assume that they are getting what God intended for the words. Therefore, they are vulnerable to their unbiblical intention, which kills them spiritually. They do not ask ‘why do I study the Bible?’ and ‘why do I teach it?’; instead they assume that studying the Bible is good anyway.
I am addressing by this discussion a sort of tendency pretty prevalent in the church. They put too much emphasis on studying of the Bible instead of “following” Lord’s teaching in it (cf. 1 Pet. 2:21). It seems they assume studying the Bible is following the Lord. However, they are lost in mind and doing exactly what the Jews who were not following Jesus and were rebuked by him. In John 5:39, Jesus rebuked the Jews because they did not ‘follow’ him but instead they were thinking they were ‘doing right’ (it is implied) because they were searching Scriptures, which means in our term, studying the Bible.
Their intention of searching the Scriptures was not for ‘doing’ the true will of God, that God intended for his words (cf. James 1:22). It is what Jesus metaphorically expressed like this: “You refuse to come to me that you have life” (John 5:40). Jesus was teaching what the will of God is (e.g., the Sermon on the Mount teaches God’s will) and why it is important for salvation (e.g., Matt. 6:10; 7:21-27; 12:46-50; 26:39; cf. Acts 13:22; Heb. 10:9), but they refused to do what the Lord taught them to do (cf. Matt. 7:24-27). However, they must have studied the Scripture so fervently (cf. John 5:39); but they never practiced what they studied and preached as they should (cf. 23:2). As their intention of studying the Scripture is not right, their knowledge of the Scripture is contaminated. Their study is not good as God intended for it, but evil as Jesus taught against it. Nevertheless, in their blindness by their tradition, they are satisfied with their studying of the Bible judging it only by appearance.
They might be like these fools who look at only their teacher’s index finger’s end as he points the moon with it for them to see the moon and feel its beauty. However, unfortunately, such foolishness is not merely funny but it is dangerous. The narratives about such stubborn Jews in the Gospels testify that their intention of reading the Scripture was wrong and it made them who they have become and have led them to do what they have done—they judged people instead loving and eventually they killed Jesus and persecuted his disciples. They were blind to their ‘traditional’ ideas even though they might have been thinking they were offering service to God (cf. John 16:2; Acts 22:3-4).
We see in their case, tragic and devastating consequences of having a wrong intention in reading the Scripture. Their studying of the Scripture was not good at all but evil through and through. The evil might not have been intended by them but because of the power of Satan who take advantage of such ignorance led them to be his servants and to accomplish his will—judging and killing truthful people. That is how the blind people, in their conviction, have killed tremendous number of innocent truthful Christians by burning, sewing, tearing apart bodies, frying in boiling oil, etc (cf. Matt. 5:12; Heb. 11:36-37).
A couple of leading brothers of the church have been putting too much emphasis on studying the Bible without balancing it with doing what they teach and leading the church to doing the will of God. It is said that it is a strong tradition of some brethren. It seems that to them studying the Bible and teaching it are all of their services to God and following the Lord. So, they teach and reproduce that idea fervently to their congregation and to others too as if it is biblical. However, as we discussed using John 5:39, it is not. James would affirm and rebuke too, if he were here with them, saying, “Be doers of the word, an not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (1:22); and “Someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith apart from your works and I will show you my faith by my works” (2:18).
I am sorrowfully watching the ‘leaven’ that is being permeating into the hearts of innocent but sincere and devout brothers and sisters here. I am afraid that the wrong intention of studying of the Bible will bring in a tragic and devastating consequences to the church and the truthful brothers and sisters as the Jews’ in Jesus’ day did—judging and killing them to destroy the Lord’s church. We, the soldiers of Christ, have to be aware of this danger in the church and try to defend the church from those who are in wrong, whether it be because of ignorance or their traditions.