Recently, the major Christian publishing company LifeWay has gotten into some hot water. They had decided to collaborate with Sunday Cool, a ministry which, from what I understand, seeks to minister to and reach the youth of today by making Christianity more “trendy” and “fun” by selling “trendy” merchandise and using more “fun” language to explain the Bible. This collaboration between LifeWay and Sunday Cool was a devotional, or “Devo,” as they would call it, titled “The Word According to Gen Z.”
According to LifeWay, this devotional included “a key biblical text (using the ESV), a short lesson from the Scriptures, an application section, and a playful over-the-top summary of a verse written as a parody of Gen Z lingo.” I highlight that last part because that is what I want to focus on for the rest of this post.
This “Devo” has since been taken down due to the backlash it received, but I still think it is important to discuss it as there are some underlying issues that I think need to be addressed. Below are some examples of this “playful over-the top summary” of some of the verses that were included in this devotional, along with what the verse actually says in the original ESV.
Hebrews 4:12 Original: For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
Hebrews 4:12 Parody: Cap G’s wordz are one hundo, straight up slicin’ and dicin’ and knowin’ it all.
Apparently it’s cool and hip to call God “Cap G.” Is this how young people actually talk? Also, I guess we have to say “wordz” instead of “word” because it’s epic, yo.
John 1:1 Original: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.
John 1:1 Parody: Since Day Uno there was Cap G. Big J was chillin with Cap G. And Big J was Cap G.
One of the most important and sacred texts of the Bible turned into gibberish. Again, we have God being called “Cap G” and Jesus being called “Big J.” No reverence for their names whatsoever. But who cares? Cap G and Big J are just chillin’, ya know what I mean?
Psalm 119:11 Original: I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.
Psalm 119:11 Parody: I got your holy scrips padlocked in my chest thumper.
This one isn’t nearly as bad as some of the others, but I do wonder, do kids these days really call the heart their “chest thumper?” Is that a thing? One issue I do have with this one, however, is that it excludes the last phrase of the original verse, “that I might not sin against you,” from the new lingo. It’s definitely a good thing to have the Word of God stored up in your heart, but the whole point of doing that is to help keep you from sinning, and there is no mention of this in the new “translation.”
Romans 1:16 Original: For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
Romans 1:16 Parody: Not swerved by these scripts cause Cap G be givin’ that “get out of jail free” card to the whole fam.
Salvation is reduced to a “get out of jail free card.” The greatest gift that could ever be given is boiled down to comparatively nothing.
Ephesians 6:17 Original: And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
Ephesians 6:17 Parody: Take that noggin guard of savies and that big ol’ knife of Cap G’s wordz.
“Noggin guard?” I’ve never heard of this one either. And again, salvation is reduced to “savies.”
I think you get the point. To put it mildly, I am not the biggest fan of this new spin that has been put on the most important and sacred book in all of history. These “new and improved” verses are so off base and miss the mark so badly that if you just came up to me and said one of them, I can honestly tell you that I would have no idea that what you were saying is from the Bible, let alone which verses were being “quoted” because of how watered down they are.
“But Brendan, aren’t you being a little harsh? Maybe LifeWay is just trying to reach the youth of today by making Scripture easier to understand.” In general, I do not have an issue with trying to make Scripture easier to understand for people. After all, that’s the exact reason why pastors and other Bible teachers exist, to make the Bible easier to understand for the layperson. But, when you make the method of making Scripture easier to understand changing the complete wording of the text to something that is barely, if not at all recognizable, that’s where my issue lies. Let me explain further.
Take Samuel from the Old Testament as an example. Before he was born, his mother, Hannah, promised God that if God allowed her to have a son (she was barren), she would give him back to the Lord to serve him all of his days (See 1 Samuel chapter 1). God ended up blessing Hannah with a son, Samuel, and she kept her word and Samuel began serving in the temple at a very young age. In fact, it is believed that Samuel was around 11 or 12 years old when God called Samuel to be a prophet. From that time on, Samuel spent his days studying the Word of God and serving God. Sure, he needed people who were more mature in their faith to help him understand the Scriptures, but it is not likely that they almost completely changed the meaning of it.
Or to take an even more clear example, look at Timothy from the New Testament. Paul encourages him in 2 Timothy to, “continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (3:14-15). From a very early age, Timothy was taught about the importance of the Scriptures by his mother and grandmother (see 2 Timothy 1:5) and because of this, he was made wise for the purpose of finding salvation through Jesus.
You see, what happens when we water down Scripture to a point where it is barely recognizable as Scripture is that the very people were are trying to help understand it end up not understanding it at all. When you don’t show people the “depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God” (Romans 11:33) and instead go the route of trying to make the Bible more entertaining and relevant, you achieve just the opposite. You end up with a generation of people that are not just biblically illiterate, but also care nothing for the Bible once they grow older because they see it as no different than any other source of worldly entertainment they were fed growing up.
And then we wonder why two-thirds of American young adults leave the church between the ages of 18 and 22 once they go out to be on their own. It’s because they realize that the hipster “Jesus” they were told about growing up isn’t worth their time anymore. And they’re not wrong: if the Jesus we teach is not the Jesus of the Bible, then he is not worth our time. We’re dumbfounded as we say, “But we made the Bible more relevant to them! We played more games in youth group!” We try so hard to absolve any responsibility for a generation and nation of people with weak to no faith when all we need to do is look in the mirror.
We have decided that teaching about sin and repentance is “too offensive” and will scare people away when the reality is that people not only need to hear about it but want to hear about it. Deep down, everyone knows that they have done things that are wrong and they feel guilty about them. So they search for answers. They seek out anything or anyone that will tell them how they can be better. They eventually come to the church only to find that it’s just like the rest of the world, trying to entertain people and make them forget about the sin and guilt in their lives.
So they move on to the next thing. They leave the church because they don’t see any distinction between what it does and what the rest of the world does.
Isn’t there already enough shallowness and entertainment out there? If people want to be entertained, there are a billion different ways they can find that. Why is the church being so cowardly as to cave in to what the rest of the world is doing instead of staying true to what it was called to do? We are supposed to “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God,” (Colossians 3:6) and “proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light,” (1 Peter 2:9) and “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I [Christ] have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20).
We do not need to make the Bible “more relevant” for people to understand it; it will always be relevant. “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of out God will stand forever” (Isaiah 40:8).