Some times, being new is good. Produce at the store – as long as it’s not unripe – is better when it’s fresh, compared to last year’s crop. A new dress shirt is better for me to wear to work, compared to the one that is starting to fray.
Other times, being a little older is better. Consider the wisdom that comes with age, or a finely-aged cheese (the good kind, not the block that might be growing mold in the back of my refrigerator).
On the other hand, there are elements of our lives where both old and new can be good. Some people may like the “new car smell” (although many of those volatile chemicals probably aren’t too healthy), while still appreciating the style of well-maintained classic cars. Personally, I enjoy music from a wide range of time periods. The local library contains classic writings, as well as new stories and insights.
This doesn’t universally mean that that everything old is always good, or that everything new is inherently better. Many books are published each year that turn out to be duds. (The advantage of time is that the junk usually tends to get filtered out, leaving only better content on average, but that doesn’t mean that things in the past were inherently better or worse.) However, for many things that humankind has been engaged in for centuries, we can find examples of positive results from multiple different timeframes (including our own).
Have a look at this statement of Jesus, recorded in the Gospel of Matthew:
He said to them, “Therefore every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.”
Matthew 13:52 NIV
In Jesus’ day (much like our own), there were many who were well-educated about the past. The society into which Jesus was born, and where He taught (i.e., the Jewish people), had a rich history, full of both amazing events to recount, and some negative behaviors to avoid. As a people group, they had retained their identify for many centuries, and some of them specialized in studying and teaching not only history (in an academic sense) but also the specific messages that God had given to this people.
Although Jesus taught many things, He did not (see Matthew 5:17) contradict or denigrate the historical law that God had given to the Jewish people in the days of Moses. Even today, there is much that can be learned from these writings, and the follower of Jesus would do well to study them. Valuable lessons that were available when Jesus was born included:
- God’s nature and His role in the universe.
- God’s expectations of humankind, as well as the inability of the human race to live up to God’s standards, along with examples of His patience with us as we fail.
- God’s plan for us, showing how His preparation and prophecy pointed to the arrival of Jesus Christ.
- Ways that we can worship and honor God.
However, although Jesus spoke in context from the existing word of God, He didn’t just stop with the conventional interpretation of these laws. In Matthew 5:21-48, for instance, it is recorded how He took past messages, and taught His followers to go above and beyond. Jesus taught us that getting our actions right wasn’t enough; instead, our heart needed to be right (which would result in good words overflowing from our hearts).
The wisdom in the teachings of Jesus are so profound that many have followed some of His instructions, even when they do not give their allegiance to Him. Many world faiths see Jesus as a prophet, acknowledging His words as divinely inspired. While truth is not determined by majority opinion, there is fairly universal alignment on the validity of many things that He said.
(If we believe that He spoke the truth, though, we cannot just pick and choose which of His instructions to follow. He called for no less than a complete surrender of our fallen, prideful selves, in exchange for a superior life that He died for us to have.)
So, as you study the Bible, don’t limit yourself to just part of it. I know that there are books of the Bible that can be difficult for all of us to understand, and other books that can be more challenging for one person to internalize versus another (depending on how each of us was created). However, if we focus on just the parts that we like, or just those that are easier to read, we are like a music shop that contains only songs written in a single decade, or a library that contains only books from a particular era. We may gain a lot from our favorite parts of the Bible, but we’re missing out on the rest of the treasures that it offers us. So, fill up your collection with treasures both new and old, and you will be amazed when God shows you all of the wisdom that He has already made available for you to share.