[NOTE: sometimes my best friends are those who save me from myself. Rileysowner was that kind of friend today, quickly catching a way I'd misread the article my target refers to. It forced me to retool this article, the start of which was affected by my misreading — and I'm very grateful for his catch. Thanks, R!]
At first, this is kind of funny: Smokers are Driving Up the Cost of Bibles (thanks to Daniel Foster of Logos for pointing me to this).
No, this isn't a report from the Smoking Nazi's, as Rush Limbaugh calls them. (At least he did ten years ago, so he probably is today. Man needs new material. But I digress.)
This is a report that Chinese are taking the same thin paper on which Bibles are printed, and using it to roll cigarettes. That, in turn, is driving up the cost of printing Bibles on the same presses. Also, the blog to which I point talks about prisoners using actual pages of the Bible to roll cigarettes.
My first and briefest thought is how much pressure is put on to translate and print up Bibles for the unreached heathen — and this is what at least some of them do with the paper used for those Bibles! (Though that's not nearly as bad as prisoners actually using Bible paper for cigarettes.)
My second thought is of a real-live "Bible smoker." This man did far more than merely use the same paper to roll and ignite cigarettes.
I think that the following is, at the same time, one of the funniest, and yet one of the most bitterly telling scenes in the Bible. God had given words to Jeremiah, which the prophet then dictated to Baruch, who wrote them on a scroll (Jeremiah 36:1-4). Jeremiah directed Baruch to read off the words at the temple gate, which he did (vv. 5-10). The officials heard, and were moved to tell King Jehoiakim about it (vv. 11-20). Here is what happened:
Then the king sent Jehudi to get the scroll, and he took it from the chamber of Elishama the secretary. And Jehudi read it to the king and all the officials who stood beside the king. 22 It was the ninth month, and the king was sitting in the winter house, and there was a fire burning in the fire pot before him. 23 As Jehudi read three or four columns, the king would cut them off with a knife and throw them into the fire in the fire pot, until the entire scroll was consumed in the fire that was in the fire pot (Jeremiah 36:21-23)Of course, what Jehoiakim did was horrid, but at the same time, isn't it... what's the word? It's almost delicious in its artless, naked contempt. It's almost refreshing to see.
Does that sound awful?
I would imagine it most sounds awful to non-preachers. Believe me, I mean no condescension. I just mean that you perhaps have never had the experience of being impelled or compelled to preach something that you know is God's blistering-hot, molten truth — only to see pious nodding and saintly smiles, and to hear reverent platitudes afterwards, from the very ones who should either lie low in the dust and ashes of repentance, or rise up in raging fury.
You preachers at least, every one of you who preaches the whole counsel of God: you know exactly what I am talking about. This man, that woman, shakes your hand and says "Nice sermon" — and you want to jump out of your skin. "'Nice'?!" you want to cry. "How can you think that was a 'nice sermon'?"
Then you go home, collapse into a chair, stare off into space, and ask God, "What did I do wrong? Did I blunt Your edges? Did I dull Your point? Did the fear of man snare me?"
When you're through raking yourself over the coals, you think, "Yow! — what these people are doing to their standing before God!" They certainly can't have the excuse that they never heard, never had an opportunity. The pan-Biblical principle is: greater privilege = greater responsibility (cf. Amos 3:2). The Word will judge them (Luke 10:16; John 12:48).
And so, think now of Jehoiakim, and his very different response. He did not say, "Nice sermon." After he did what he did, everyone with a lick of sense, watching him, knew what he was. Perhaps he even knew what he was.
I fear more for the pious pretenders, who can hear the Word, who can have arrow after arrow strike the ten-ring dead center — and then smile and say, "Nice sermon."
Would I rather see them out there, ripping pages out of their Bibles and crumpling them up?
Because whatever their hands aren't doing, their hearts are doing.
Rip, rip, rip.