Despite the availability of streaming audio services, I have a local collection of music in my car (on a USB drive) that my family has acquired over the years. In that eclectic mix is both “American Pie” by Don McClean, and “Weird Al” Yankovic’s parody of that same song, called “The Saga Begins”[^1]. (The latter happens to be a musical recounting of the movie, “Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace”.)
Each of these songs contains some expertly-crafted lyrics (although they are sometimes cryptic, especially in the original version), and some catchy tunes. They each describe a series of events (one allegorically historical, one entirely fictional). A problem though, is that when I’m listening to one, anticipating the next words in the song, I might be thinking about the other version and mix up the two. For instance, “The courtroom was adjourned / No verdict was returned”, followed by, “Because Yoda sensed in him much fear / And Qui-Gon said ‘Now listen here’ “.
With songs like this, if I get the words mixed up, the results might be unusual or funny, but it’s no big deal. I’m no professional musician…not by a long shot! However, there are times when combining the correct answer with an incorrect answer is downright dangerous.
In that context, take a look at the passage below. After Paul gave some specific instruction to Timothy, he (Paul) wrote a pretty telling statement:
Some people may contradict our teaching, but these are the wholesome teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. These teachings promote a godly life. Anyone who teaches something different is arrogant and lacks understanding. Such a person has an unhealthy desire to quibble over the meaning of words. This stirs up arguments ending in jealousy, division, slander, and evil suspicions. These people always cause trouble. Their minds are corrupt, and they have turned their backs on the truth. To them, a show of godliness is just a way to become wealthy.
1 Timothy 6:3-5 NLT
We should not miss the benefits of correct teaching, which Paul leads with in this passage. The value of teaching is so important, that we must not just sit and let the message of Jesus remain unspoken or hidden. It needs to be shared.
However, as good as the truth is, anything else is equally bad. Both the attributes of the person who teaches something different from God’s truth, and the outcomes of doing so, are undesirable. Look back at the passage to see these attributes of the false teacher…
- “Lacks understanding”
- “Unhealthy desire to quibble over the meaning of words.”
- “Minds are corrupt”
- “Turned their backs on the truth”
…and the outcomes of their behavior:
- “Evil suspicions”
- “Cause trouble”
This is not a positive scenario, by any reasonable measurement. So, why would anyone purport to teach God’s word, but mix in content that contradicts it?
- Sometimes, it’s just an accident. There are very earnest speakers and authors who get things wrong because they don’t know the details. They may not have read enough of the Bible to round out their teachings, or didn’t take the time to cross-check the accuracy of what they are using to “fill in” the gaps in their knowledge.
- Sometimes, the message is diluted or modified out of fear or social pressure. It may seem easier to fit in with the crowd and either, 1) leave out some details of the truth, or 2) add in a little bit extra to seem more inclusive or palatable to those of secular opinions. God’s word is indeed for everyone, but it also clearly delineates facts from human fiction.
- Sometimes, an individual wants to justify his or her own behavior. By manipulating elements of God’s instructions, and combining them with claims that happen to support our own opinions, human ideas can be given the [false] appearance of divine blessing. God provided a means for us to be justified (see Romans 3:26), but that’s not the same as Him condoning sinful actions.
So, if we agree with this passage (i.e., accepting what the Bible says as the truth), what do we do about it? For one thing, we should be aware of the reality of falsehoods being introduced into teachings that claim to be from God’s Word. Our defense against this is to know the Bible ourselves, regularly reading and studying it, while asking for God’s insight into His messages. Not every falsehood requires us to stand up and shout against it (sometimes, the speaker just makes an honest mistake, mis-stating something minor), but there are absolutely times when we need to take someone aside and correct their message (see Acts 18:24-26), or step up and clarify the truth during a conversation.
At the same time, we must be careful to keep the truth of God pure and consistent when we share it with others. There is much context and personal experience that we can use to illustrate the message, but the truth is unchanging. As Revelation 22:18-19 points out (and history confirms), mixing God’s truth with faulty human ideas is a pretty bad idea.
As you might imagine, these obligations apply to me as well. I work to keep the messages on this site consistent with the Word of God (trying to include references to help connect the dots), but I certainly know that I am imperfect. Should you find a significant inconsistency between anything said here and the truth of Biblical principles, please let me know. If the topic is subtle, we may have an opportunity for a conversation, but if you can present the facts, you definitely won’t be the first person to show me where corrections need to be made (not just on this site, but in my life, too).
Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
[^1]: See lyrics at: