The Problem With Knickknack Theology
In the early years of my faith I would spend countless hours in the local Christian bookstore. While most people were perusing the book section or listening to the latest Amy Grant cassette I was enthralled by that part of the store that I lovingly referred to as the “Bible bazaar.” Pictures. Posters. T-shirts. Really bad ties for your pastor. Christmas ornaments. Trinkets. Plaques. Wall mountings of every possible shape and size. Toys. Figurines. Collectible items. Bumper stickers. Buttons. Pens. Dishes. Cups. Coffee mugs. Bath rugs. On and on it went. Table after table and shelf after shelf covered with every conceivable item imaginable. On most days it looked like the owners had simply taken the items and tossed them out at random with no regard for order. But the best part? Every last item had a scripture verse on it. Sometimes the connection made perfect sense. Other times it just simply seemed like someone had said to themselves, “I know. Put a Bible verse on it. Christians will buy anything with a Bible verse on it.” I still remember telling myself that I was going to produce a line of scripture stones. You know, rocks with Bible verses. I even had a name for them. “Jesus Rocks.” I cannot begin to express to you my level of dismay when I realized that someone else had already beaten me to the quick.
Now, before you send me an email, let me get to my point today. There is a problem with our generation’s penchant for purchasing such Christian paraphernalia. Understand that the problem is not the item itself. (I’m not saying you need to throw anything away.) The problem is the inherit philosophy. In a way knickknacks tend to minimize the power inherit in the actual verse while also lessening our personal sense of responsibility toward the Bible as a whole. Let me explain it like this. A Bible rock in my pocket does me no good unless I am in daily relationship with the Rock. A scripture verse hanging on the wall has little value if those words are not also inscribed on the walls of my heart. A coffee cup that encourages me to “have faith” cannot replace my need to be a person of faith and faithfulness. Trinkets cannot replace the need for genuine trust. Figurines seldom serve as the seeds that eventually grow into a viable and mature faith.
Psalm 46:10 may well be one of the best examples of this modern-day dilemma. Without question the most popular rendering is taken from the KJV. “Be still, and know that I am God;…” Walk into any Christian bookstore and you can probably find it on at least a dozen different items. Now, here’s the issue for me. Scripture was never intended to be some sort of Christian “mantra.” That placard might serve as a wonderful reminder but it doesn’t possess any magical powers. The sheer repetition of a singular verse was not God’s intended purpose. His Word is not a vending machine. His promises were not meant to be used as some sort of leverage wherein we seek to force God to submit to our desires. The value of that word comes from its Source. It’s power is derived solely and wholly from its Author. If I divorce the word from God, it loses its power. He is the Word.
The problem with such spiritual trinkets is that after a while they begin to trivialize the truth. That phrase that once had such powerful impact becomes something rote. It becomes just another cliché. We can quote it (somewhat). It becomes a quick answer that we throw at the person who is wrestling with trouble and trials. But personal power? Life impact? At some point along the way it’s meaning has become little more than background noise. It’s like the song you hear playing at the supermarket. Instinctively, you find yourself singing along but you’re not really paying any attention to the words.
I want to remind each of us today that God’s word was intended to be much more than a pretty picture or some ornamental knickknack. (Again, the problem is not the item itself. I have them hanging in my house too.) God’s Word was meant to be a daily part of our lives. It is supposed to be read. It is supposed to be studied. It is supposed to be memorized. It is supposed to be obeyed and fleshed out in our day-to-day living. Psalm 119 refers to it as a treasure that is supposed to be hidden away in our hearts. One of my generation’s greatest failings is our regard for God’s Word. Honestly? (You’re not going to like this…) Too often the Bible has become just another knickknack in our homes. It sits on the shelf collecting dust. It lies buried in the bottom drawer. Little wonder that we fall to pieces when tough times come upon us. Little wonder that we lack real power in the market place. Stop treating His Word as just another trinket. Recognize it as treasure. And treat it as such.