Why This List Should Just Go Away

nopeI see this Internet Meme or Poster passed around on Facebook and included in Blogs and church marketing campaigns and it always grieves me. It popped up again twice this week, so I’ve decided it’s time to debunk this message. Now, I am certain that many of you have “liked” or “shared” something of this sort before in social media or in email. I’ve seen it and refrained from commenting on it before. My desire here is not to condemn anyone for sharing something that they thought was good or helpful or even accurate. At first glance, it seems like a good thing, right? I mean, how could encouraging folks that they aren’t beyond God’s reach possibly be bad? I think that such an approach to this meme is innocent enough, but once you look at the details, I think you’ll realize that nothing with these types of errors and falsehood could ever be considered “good”. In fact, there is no redeeming this concept, it is fundamentally flawed in its approach and execution.

I chose this particular iteration because it took the route of placing in a Scripture reference as “fine print” as if to say that the poster is Biblically accurate. We’ll get to that a little later, but I want to address the heart of the problem with this poster first.

Do You Seriously Think God Can’t Use You?

Okay, so right at the start, we are in a bad spot. The person who is thinking, “God can’t use me” needs to be corrected in their thinking. The Bible isn’t about us, it’s about God. The Gospel isn’t about us, or our potential, or whether or not God can use us. So, the person to whom this poster is speaking is already suffering from false doctrine, and a poor understanding of the Gospel. Our salvation isn’t dependent upon what God can use us for… it is wholly and completely dependent upon what Jesus Christ did upon the Cross for us. That He bore our punishment as the final atoning sacrifice so that in Him we are free from our sin, free to serve God, free to love Him.

Genesis 1:1 (ESV) 1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

John 1:1-3 (ESV) 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.

We serve a God who created everything out of nothing. Whatever He does, He does by His Will, for His purpose, for His glory. That we get to play any part is by His Grace and Mercy. He doesn’t need anyone or anything to bring about His Purposes.

Another problem with this premise, is it is born out of this “God sees potential in you…” or “God has a destiny for you…” false Gospel narrative. It comes from the notion that God has planned some level of greatness for each Christian. This is heavily marketed to Youth Ministries. I suppose the desire to inspire and motivate young Christians to be faithful to God and to have a desire for good works is a good desire, but this method is abusive. Not everyone is called to be a patriarch or a revolutionary. In all of the Bible, only one person got to be a Moses, a Joshua, a Peter. Moreover, God isn’t limited to only using heroes of the faith, or believers for that matter… He used King Cyrus to restore Jerusalem after the Exile… a pantheist! There are millions of faithful followers of Christ whose names never made history, and that’s okay, so long as their names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. The truly frustrating part about this point is that the “fine print” passage of scripture resolves all of this bad teaching if it would just be given proper attention in full context. So, Let’s look at what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 1 (we’ll underline the portion that appears on the poster).

1 Corinthians 1:18-31 (ESV)
18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written,

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”

20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age?Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

The real question isn’t about how many failed people God has used before, it should be about whether or not you believe your sins are covered by the Blood of Jesus. Who are you to question whether or not the blood of Christ has the power to cleanse you of your unrighteousness? Either you’ve accepted the Gospel of Jesus Christ or you haven’t. If you have, accept what the Bible says of you, and “let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord”. If God had ruled anyone out due to their sin, we wouldn’t have the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 2:1-10 (ESV)
2 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy,because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works,which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

The answer to “can God really use me” isn’t “well, He’s used a lot worse”. The answer to that question should be, “…if it were about who can be used of God there wouldn’t be anyone left, God would have judged us all long ago. It’s not about what we can do for Him, it’s about what He did for us.”

Artistic License or Falsehood?

Now that we’ve settled that matter, we have a whole different problem to contend with. The laundry list of characters and character flaws that are supposed to demonstrate God’s ability to use us is filled with… well… falsehood. Some of them I’ll accept as Artistic License… but they are still presented in support of a false narrative concerning the Gospel and Christian walk.

  • NOAH WAS A DRUNK Really? Who writes this garbage? He got drunk once and became the first recorded victim of incestuous rape. Let’s look at what the Bible says about Noah.
    • Genesis 6:6-9 (ESV) 6 And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. 7 So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.” 8 But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord. 9 These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God.
    • 2 Peter 2:4-10a (ESV) 4 For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment; 5 if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; 6 if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; 7 and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked 8 (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard); 9 then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment,10 and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority.
  • ABRAHAM WAS TOO OLD Too old for what? Here we have a shifting sense of the point being conveyed. Are we now saying Abraham was too old for God to use him,ortoo old for Abraham to have a child? Even that is wrong, because he firstfatheredIshamel by Sarah’s slave. So he wasn’t too old for procreation. Even after God gave him the son of promise, Isaac, Abraham lived another 75 years… that’s nearly an entire lifespan for us now.
    • Genesis 17:15-21 (ESV) 15 And God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. 16 I will bless her, and moreover, I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall become nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.” 17 Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed and said to himself, “Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?” 18 And Abraham said to God, “Oh that Ishmael might live before you!” 19 God said, “No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him. 20 As for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold, I have blessed him and will make him fruitful and multiply him greatly. He shall father twelve princes, and I will make him into a great nation. 21 But I will establish my covenant with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this time next year.”
    • Abraham was making excuses and trying to get God to take Ishamel as the son of promise. God refused the request, but made it clear that Ishmael would become a great nation, just outside of His covenant.
  • ISAAC WAS A DAYDREAMER Seriously… whoever came up with this nonsense hasn’t read the Bible. Nowhere in Genesis 22-27 is there any indication of a proclivity for daydreaming, especially not in the sense that this is somehow a character flaw that God needed to overcome. The closest we can come is in Genesis 24 when Abraham sends for a wife for Isaac. In the past chapter, Sarah has died and been buried. This is important to remember since the bulk of 24 tells of events taking place far away from Isaac.
    • Genesis 24:58-67 (ESV) 58 And they called Rebekah and said to her, “Will you go with this man?” She said, “I will go.” 59 So they sent away Rebekah their sister and her nurse, and Abraham’s servant and his men. 60 And they blessed Rebekah and said to her,
      “Our sister, may you become
      thousands of ten thousands,
      and may your offspring possess
      the gate of those who hate him!”61 Then Rebekah and her young women arose and rode on the camels and followed the man. Thus the servant took Rebekah and went his way. 62 Now Isaac had returned from Beer-lahai-roi and was dwelling in the Negeb. 63 And Isaac went out to meditate in the field toward evening. And he lifted up his eyes and saw, and behold, there were camels coming. 64 And Rebekah lifted up her eyes, and when she saw Isaac, she dismounted from the camel 65 and said to the servant, “Who is that man, walking in the field to meet us?” The servant said, “It is my master.” So she took her veil and covered herself. 66 And the servant told Isaac all the things that he had done. 67 Then Isaac brought her into the tent of Sarah his mother and took Rebekah, and she became his wife, and he loved her. So Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.
    • So where is this Beer-lahai-roi? It is the place where the Word of the Lord came to Hagai, after Sarah had treated her harshly and caused her to flee. It is the name of the well and it means “the well of the Living One who sees me” (Genesis 16 (ESV))
  • JACOB WAS A LIAR I’ll concede this point as “Artistic License”. Yes, Jacob lied, and it didn’t go well for him. Still, Jacob was chosen by God as the heir of Promise over Esau while still in the womb. He lived a hard life, and wrestled with God and walked away with a permanent limp.
  • LEAH WAS UGLY That’s quite a stretch. We know only that her eyes were weak (or soft), and we know that Jacob’s desire was for Rachel. Now, she might have had a lazy eye or poor eyesight, the text doesn’t go into detail, but to say that this means she was ugly is a fabrication. It is also guilty of presenting a false notion that maybe it’s easier for God to work with pretty people, since this list is supposedly about the kinds of character flaws God has overcome so He could use certain people. Rank falsehood.
    • Genesis 16:13-14 (ESV) 13 So she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, “You are a God of seeing,” for she said, “Truly here I have seen him who looks after me.” 14 Therefore the well was called Beer-lahai-roi; it lies between Kadesh and Bered.
    • It just occurred to me that this might be an attempt to address those Christians who are crippled by ugly duckling syndrome (of which I was for a very long time). Is pointing to Leah really the answer to this false premise? Laban tricked Jacob by swapping daughters for the wedding, and then God opened Leah’s womb before Rachel’s because of Jacob’s treatment of Leah. This is the kind of garbage that comes from trying to inject human reason into Biblical historical narrative and then allegorizing it for today’s “hardships” rather than simply preaching law and Gospel.
  • JOSEPH WAS ABUSED First of all, Joseph was abused because his brothers hated him for giving a bad report of them and for sharing his dreams. Prophetic dreams, given to him by God. But this list isn’t about teaching Biblical truth (clearly), this list is someone’s human attempt to reach hurting Christians by twisting Scripture. All of it under a false premise that somehow we need to believe in ourselves that God can use us. That is a false Gospel. We need only believe in Jesus as the Christ, our atoning sacrifice, our Redeemer, who loved us enough to die on a cross for our sin.
  • MOSES HAD A STUTTERING PROBLEMUhm, No. This is a common myth. First of all, Moses was making excuses and trying to back out of God’s calling.
    • Exodus 4:10-17 (ESV) 10 But Moses said to the Lord, “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.” 11 Then the Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? 12 Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.” 13 But he said, “Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.” 14 Then the anger of the Lord was kindled against Moses and he said, “Is there not Aaron, your brother, the Levite? I know that he can speak well. Behold, he is coming out to meet you, and when he sees you, he will be glad in his heart. 15 You shall speak to him and put the words in his mouth, and I will be with your mouth and with his mouth and will teach you both what to do. 16 He shall speak for you to the people, and he shall be your mouth, and you shall be as God to him. 17 And take in your hand this staff, with which you shall do the signs.”
    • Acts 7:17-22 (ESV) 17 “But as the time of the promise drew near, which God had granted to Abraham, the people increased and multiplied in Egypt 18 until there arose over Egypt another kingwho did not know Joseph. 19 He dealt shrewdly with our race and forced our fathers to expose their infants, so that they would not be kept alive. 20 At this time Moses was born; and he was beautiful in God’s sight. And he was brought up for three months in his father’s house, 21 and when he was exposed, Pharaoh’s daughter adopted him and brought him up as her own son. 22 And Moses was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and he was mighty in his words and deeds.
  • GIDEON WAS AFRAID Yes, yes he was, and rightfully so. However, God called Gideon. I’ll give this one an “Artistic license” pass.
  • SAMSON HAD LONG HAIR AND WAS A WOMANIZER If we are going for the whole “Champions of old had major flaws, too” bit… Solomon wins in the category of womanizer. But are you KIDDING ME with the long hair bit? No really… (I confess, I’m more than a little frustrated by this list) how does this even fit into this list at all. Trying to reach out to the “long-haired hippy” crowd or the “pony-tailed biker gang” by having them equated with Samson? Let’s look at why Samson had long hair, shall we?
    • Judges 13:1-7 (ESV) 1 And the people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, so theLord gave them into the hand of the Philistines for forty years. 2 There was a certain man of Zorah, of the tribe of the Danites, whose name was Manoah. And his wife was barren and had no children. 3 And the angel of the Lord appeared to the woman and said to her, “Behold, you are barren and have not borne children, but you shall conceive and bear a son. 4 Therefore be careful and drink no wine or strong drink, and eat nothing unclean, 5 for behold, you shall conceive and bear a son. No razor shall come upon his head, for the child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb, and he shall begin to save Israel from the hand of the Philistines.” 6 Then the woman came and told her husband, “A man of God came to me, and his appearance was like the appearance of the angel of God, very awesome. I did not ask him where he was from, and he did not tell me his name, 7 but he said to me, ‘Behold, you shall conceive and bear a son. So then drink no wine or strong drink, and eat nothing unclean, for the child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb to the day of his death.’”
    • His long hair was commanded by God. I’m going to close out this list with Scripture references only, and we’ll close briefly. Wow… what a horrible meme.
  • RAHAB WAS A PROSTITUTE Yes, before the Israel came and she served Israel. James mentioned her in his teaching James 2:24-26 (ESV).
  • JEREMIAH AND TIMOTHY WERE TOO YOUNG God chose Jeremiah as His Prophet, and Timothy had some of the best training possible since Christ ascended into Heaven. He was discipled by the Apostle Paul, and his Jewish mother and grandmother had taught him the Scriptures from a young age.
  • DAVID HAD AN AFFAIR AND WAS A MURDERER Yes. Internal inconsistency, for by then God had already used him mightily. What makes David special is his heart of repentance, a heart that was after God.
  • ELIJAH WAS SUICIDAL I can’t… ugh… no, this is false. We covered this recently in a CTT post, and you can read the account in 1 Kings 19 (ESV). He felt like he failed God and asked God to kill him (for his perceived error).
  • ISAIAH PREACHED NAKED … any research at all, here?… God told him to do this, just read the text. Isaiah 20 (ESV).
  • JONAH RAN FROM GOD Yes, he did. Because he didn’t want Nineveh to repent, for he knew God would forgive them if they did, and he wanted Nineveh to be judged. Book of Jonah.
  • NAOMI WAS A WIDOW How is this even on this list? This isn’t even remotely a character flaw or a sin.
  • JOB WENT BANKRUPT This is just… I mean I can’t… *sigh*. Book of Job. The steadfastness of Job.
  • PETER DENIED CHRIST Yes. Jesus warned him he’d do it, and it happened. He repented and was restored.
  • THE DISCIPLES FELL ASLEEP WHILE PRAYING Yes, they did… and then they fled when Jesus was arrested.
  • MARTHA WORRIED ABOUT EVERYTHING “everything” is a stretch. Jesus pointed out that Mary had chosen the better thing to focus on (Luke 10:40-42 ESV).
  • THE SAMARITAN WOMAN WAS DIVORCED Yes. But why stop there? She was a Samaritan, She had been married 5 times, and was currently sleeping with a man who was not her husband. And yet, God loved her enough to point out her sin and presented Himself as the source of life.
  • ZACCHEUS WAS TOO SMALL … that’s just petty, even for this list. Why even include him on this list? He was rich.
  • PAUL WAS TOO RELIGIOUS No, he was wrong. He persecuted the church with great zeal out of ignorance. He didn’t realize that Jesus was the Christ until Jesus met him on the road to Damascus. I hate that the seeker-sensitive crowd throws this out as an attack at those like myself who insist on taking everything to the Scriptures, but I digress… this pain is almost over.
  • TIMOTHY HAD AN ULCER Yes, and Paul encouraged him to drink a little wine for his stomach. You see, Timothy was trying to just drink water even though Paul taught at length about the food and drink laws no longer applying. Perhaps Timothy was struggling with religiosity? Let’s face it… we all will struggle with this from time to time.
  • LAZARUS WAS DEAD Yes, and his death was part of God’s plan to demonstrate His Lordship over death and the grave. John 11 (ESV)

This list is not only unnecessary (for the lost or the saved) it is wrong. Bible twisting is evident in the majority of the examples cited, and the aim of the meme shifts in odd ways as the list progresses. Just… stop. This is not what we, the Church, are supposed to be doing to God’s Word. This is NOT faithful stewardship of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is falsehood. This is wrong. In closing, let’s look to Paul’s encouragement to Timothy:

2 Timothy 4:1-5 (ESV)
1 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.5 As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist,fulfill your ministry.

May the Lord bless you and keep you,
In Him,

One thought on “Why This List Should Just Go Away

  1. Ok, ignoring the face that the entire premise behind that list is flawed, certain ones on that list get a pass. “Gideon was afraid,” “Samson was a womanizer,” “Peter denied Jesus,” “the disciples fell asleep,” “Rahab as a prostitute,” and “Jacob was a liar” all get a pass if the message is that God doesn’t choose flawless people for His purpose. I’ll even give the David one a pass, even though his life headed on a downward spiral after that whole fiasco (not that he wasn’t a man of God anymore, but that there were a ton of consequences that he reaped).

    Some of those are straight up offensive: “Leah was ugly,” (1. how do you know? 2. I’ve never heard anyone say that God can’t use ugly people); “Naomi was a widow” (ouch! to any widows who’ve seen those lists, I apologize on the artist’s behalf); “Zaccheus was too small” (do I even need to say anything? offensive to short people everywhere). These things are not character flaws at all, and should not be in the same list as “affair and murderer.” Also, being dead isn’t a “character flaw.” For the artist’s sake, I’ll assume they meant that even the dead can be used by God.

    The rest are just either a horrible understanding of scripture, or a deceitful twisting of scripture. Example: “The Samaritan woman had a divorce.” Ok, but that’s not the only flaw she had. It’s like they didn’t even read the full story. Also, “Samson had long hair.” So they’re suggesting that a command from God is the same as sin or a character flaw? That kind of blasphemy is also shown in “Isaiah preached naked” and in “Job went bankrupt.” These things happened not because of sin or because of character flaws, but because of God. I hope the artist didn’t know what they were doing, but it’s blasphemy to say that God commanded sin or that God commanded someone to act out a flaw.

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