By Cindi McMenamin, Crosswalk.com
Have you ever heard someone refer to another believer as a Bible-thumper?
Worse yet, have you been called one when you were simply trying to share God’s truth about a situation?
Context is everything and while we should all know the Bible and share it with those who need to know the truth, thumping them over the head with Scripture might not be the best approach.
What Is a Bible Thumper?
Picture someone trying to get a truth across to you by taking a huge King James Version of the Bible and hitting you over the head with it. Now, that would be a literal interpretation of a Bible thumper. But metaphorically, it is someone who bombards you with the Word of God.
Now, Scripture does describe God’s Word, the Bible, as a weapon. Hebrews 4:12 tells us “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (NASB).
That tells us Scripture is a powerful weapon that can cut into the very core of us. But the times in my life that the Bible has pierced my heart and changed my mind have been times when 1) a friend gently used God’s Word to help guide me in a particular situation; or 2) I was having a personal interaction with God’s Word and His Spirit caused it to convict my heart of sin and expose to me the error of my ways; or 3) a teacher of God’s Word wielded that sword right into my heart as they expounded on a topic that I was struggling with or being challenged by. In all three of those scenarios, God’s spirit worked through His Word to convict my heart.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” The Bible does contain elements that can perform heart surgery on us. But that surgery rarely happens by getting hit over the head with Scripture. It is mostly when Scripture, by the power of the Holy Spirit, hits one’s heart.
Is Being a Bible Thumper a Good Thing?
I’ve heard women who have sat under my teaching say things like “Cindi thumped me over the head in class when she said….” If what they meant was “Her use of Scripture knocked me right in the head,” I can’t take the credit (or blame) for that one. That would be the powerful effect of God’s Word to enlighten, convict, or correct. And because Scripture tells us to handle the Word of God accurately, that would be a good thing if our teaching or exhortation of Scripture changed one’s life for the better.
However, if I am thumping unbelievers over the head with the Bible, not good. Unbelievers, Scripture says, are “darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart.” The Spirit of God is the One who takes those blinders off and opens the eyes and hearts and minds of people to understand God’s Word. So, the only people who need a thumping with the Word would be believers who are not obeying it. Yet is it our job to make sure they do? Only if we can’t be found disobeying the Word ourselves by refusing to take the log out of our own eye before trying to remove the speck out of another’s (Matthew 7:3-6).
Rather than thumping another with Scripture, gentle exhortation goes a lot further. Sharing the truth in love wins, rather than offends, a brother. Pointing out one’s weakness or failure in love and humility, with the hopes of restoring them to fellowship with the Lord is priceless. But thumping others over the head with Scripture may only serve to make them feel judged and make us look like Pharisees.
Jesus thumped the Pharisees (the religious elite of his day) with Scripture because they knew the Scriptures and weren’t obeying them. Jesus showed them the blackness of their hearts through Scripture. Jesus truly wielded the sword of the spirit (God’s Word) because He WAS the Word of God made flesh (John 1:14). He spoke with authority and conviction to the religious elite because He was the Son of the Most High God. Yet, Jesus was compassionate, gentle, understanding, forgiving, and merciful to unbelievers who didn’t know better and many of them, as a result, became truly repentant.
Nicodemus, one of the Pharisees and rulers of the Jews, came to Jesus secretly at night to better understand Jesus’ teachings. Jesus was gentle as He opened Nicodemus’ eyes to the truth (John 3:1-21). Later, because we read that Nick at Night (as my husband refers to him) came with Joseph of Arimathea to collect the body of Jesus and dress His wounds and lay Him in a tomb, we can infer that Nicodemus became a follower of Jesus (John 19:39).
When it came to sinners and those seeking truth, Jesus used Scripture to open their blinded eyes to the truth. But is it good to be a Bible thumper? It really might depend on the context.
Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/Javier Art Photography
When Is Being a Bible Thumper a Bad Thing?
Being a Bible thumper is not a good thing if you’re whacking unbelievers over the head with Scripture. It’s also ineffective, and disobedient, if you’re using God’s Word to judge other Christians or point out their faults before you’ve asked God to show you your own. It is also not good to slam someone with Scripture who might best be turned from their error if you showed grace and compassion, while sharing God’s truth in love.
Bible thumping shouldn’t be done on the offense.
Scripture tells us to “sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, but with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15)
Did you notice that word defense? We are to defend our hope and faith in God, not force it upon others or hit them over the head with it. In Ephesians 6:10-18, we are told we are in a spiritual battle and we must therefore put on the full armor of God to protect ourselves and “stand firm” (verse 14 – also a defensive position). With the shield of faith “to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one” (verse 16) and the “sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God (verse 17) we are to “pray at all times in the Spirit, and …be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for the saints” (verse 18. That’s a lot of defensive positioning in Christ and praying – two things that can help strengthen us as believers. Never in scripture are we told to do the piercing, cutting, reproving, or heart surgery on another. God’s Spirit does that as we share God’s truth in love.
During nearly 40 years of ministry, I’ve never seen people repent and come to Christ because they got hit over the head with a Bible and told to clean up their ways or they’re going to hell. And if they did come to the Lord that way, it didn’t appear to be a sincere commitment, but a temporary one made in order to gain “fire insurance.” When one recognizes Jesus as Lord and realizes He saved them by His grace and love, it softens and opens their hearts. To accept God’s gift of salvation and eternal life merely to avoid eternal punishment is one-sided. Scripture says with the heart man believes, resulting in salvation, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation (Romans 10:9-10). One must repent in their hearts, receive Jesus out of a response to His sacrificial love demonstrated for them on the cross, and then tell others of what they’ve done, as a way of showing it was real. That “fire in their souls” is kindled by the Spirit of God, not because they’d been bumped or burned into receiving Christ.
Bible thumping should not be done out of pride or malice.
Sometimes we really want to hit a believer upside the head when they’re not living right. Tough love, we call it. But, I don’t believe that true followers of Christ intend to sin. I don’t believe they want to be in rebellion against God’s love and law. That’s why I believe Scripture tells us to lovingly confront our brothers and sisters in Christ and keep fervent in our love for one another because love covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8).
Some believers continually sin because they are being deceived. Others are in a full-out war with the flesh or they’ve resigned themselves to that war. Yes, some may be in outright rebellion. But those are our brothers and sisters in Christ whom we need to pray for (including praying for an opportunity to share God’s truth with them in a loving way so they will be open and receptive to it).
Biblically, we are told to confront them one on one, and if that doesn’t work to bring one or two witnesses of their sin, which is the next step in biblical confrontation, according to Matthew 18:15-20. If that doesn’t work, we are to bring them before the church (their local body of believers). Churches that have followed this biblical approach to confrontation, in a prayerful and loving manner, have seen the repentance of those believers and restored fellowship. In my years of ministry, I’ve seen this to be effective when it is bathed in prayer, led by the Holy Spirit, and performed by leaders who were careful to present pure hearts before the Lord, not confront others with a selfish or sinful agenda.
What Can You Be Instead of a Bible Thumper?
If you love God and want to be obedient to Him, share His Word with others. But share it. Don’t slam or slay others with it. Share it lovingly and let the Holy Spirit do the piercing, prodding, penetrating, reproving, rebuking, and refining.
Share God’s Word lovingly and instead of being a Bible-thumper, be a Bible Whisperer (whispering God’s gentle truths in love). Instead of thumping people with the Bible, love them with it. Instead of a Bible-thumper, be a Bible Follower, a Bible Embracer, a Bible Studier, a Bible Teacher, A Bible Encourager, a Bible Counselor, or a Bible Comforter. Those precious people are in short supply today. And the world with or without God desperately needs them.
There are many ways we can share God’s truth with someone in a gentle and loving way without thumping them over the head with the blunt end of our Sword.
Lord, make us followers of Yours who truly care about others and strive to introduce or love them back to You with grace, love, and the power of Your Word.
Related Resource: Listen to our FREE podcast, Reframed: The Power of Perspective. In each episode, Carley provides practical techniques for identifying and reframing negative thinking patterns. Listen to an episode below, and check out all of our episodes on LifeAudio.com.
Photo Credit: Unsplash/Priscilla Du Preez
Cindi McMenamin is a national speaker, Bible teacher, and award-winning writer who helps women and couples strengthen their relationship with God and others. She is the author of 17 books, including When Women Walk Alone (more than 150,000 copies sold), When a Woman Overcomes Life’s Hurts, When God Sees Your Tears , and When Couples Walk Together , which she co-authored with her husband of 32 years. Find out more about her speaking ministry, coaching services for writers, and books to strengthen your soul, marriage, and parenting, at www.StrengthForTheSoul.com.