For those who don’t know what a Rube Goldberg machine is, it’s a machine that is deliberately over-engineered and purposely constructed in a way that is needlessly complex in order to perform an exceedingly simple task.
I was channel surfing a few weeks ago and came across a pastor who was preaching on the story of David and Goliath. I don’t recall his name. I had never seen or heard of him until that moment. When he got to the part of the story where David picked up the five stones from the stream bed to take on Goliath, this pastor went into a very lengthy and detailed explanation as to why David chose those five particular stones. He attached a special significance to each of the stones, explaining at length what each stone symbolized and why David chose them. About halfway through, I changed the channel. I thought to myself, “Guy, you’re making this way more complicated than it really is.”
Want to know why I think David chose five stones? Yes, he was confident God would give him victory, but I believe he was thinking to himself, “I can take this guy out in five!!!” Unless I’ve missed something, I believe it really is that simple. The only thing significant or special about the stones was their aerodynamic properties. They didn’t represent a thing to David, except ammo! David had done this before. As a shepherd charged with guarding his father’s flocks, he’d probably taken down an untold number of predators that had posed a threat to his sheep, and he’d perfected his technique to the point that five stones were all he needed. He knew his abilities.
The Bible is really not as difficult to understand as we try to make it sometimes. When we try to take the simple truths of the Bible and twist them into something that sounds profound and mysterious, we’re far more likely to turn people away from Christianity. Remember, our mission is to lead people to Christ. But if we take a simple passage and give it some difficult and complicated interpretation, a non-believing person will likely become so overwhelmed and/or intimidated that he (or she) will walk away. Remember, the Bible is God’s word!! There are no hidden codes contained in its pages. The words of scripture are not metaphors for some deeper, hidden meanings. We don’t need to read anything into scripture that’s not there, because God did not make the Bible into a Rube Goldberg machine that is overly complex in its communication of simple truths.
With that said, there are some parts of the Bible that are difficult to understand, especially to new believers who are reading through it for the first time. But the Bible does a more than adequate job of explaining itself. For instance, in John chapter 6, when Jesus taught about the need to receive his His body and blood in order to gain eternal life, one of his own disciples commented that it was a very difficult teaching. However, we can look to the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke for the explanation. In those accounts, before being handed over to be crucified, Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper. He broke bread and gave it to his disciples and said, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” He did likewise with the cup of wine. He told his disciples to drink from it and said to them, “For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” What seemed to be a difficult teaching is really very simple. As believers, we receive the Lord’s Supper, which symbolizes the body and blood of Christ as a reminder of Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins. So the Bible isn’t difficult. But understanding scripture does require us to read it and study it.
Matthew Henry wrote in his commentary, “Whatever difficulties there may be in the sayings of the Lord Jesus, we shall find him ready to explain himself, if we are willing to listen so that we may understand.” The same holds true for much of the rest of the Bible. Sometimes we want to make it more complicated than it really is. In the spirit of Rube Goldberg, we sometimes try to take simple messages and make them needlessly complex. But whether we’re sharing our faith or teaching the Bible, simple is better. And the simple truth is, we’re all sinners and we can do nothing on our own to be saved. Jesus took our punishment by dying on the cross, but He overcame death and rose again. By believing in Him, we too have overcome death and will spend eternity with Him in Heaven. So keep it simple, because that’s a message no one can afford to miss out on.