Have you ever had some ask you, “Well wasn’t polygamy OK in the Old Testament?” You think about it and how there are many examples of men having multiple wives (or concubines, even) and wonder for yourself. But there is a really simple, useful tip for Bible reading that I think can be overlooked:
Just because it happened doesn’t mean it was good.
There is plenty to admire in a person like Moses or Abraham, but just because Moses or Abraham did something, doesn’t make it good. Should we have multiple spouses, act out of fear or anger, deceive? No. We don’t need to condone every action or emulate every attitude. King David was described as a man after God’s own heart, but he had an affair and had someone murdered. Yet the simple guide reminds us, just because it happens on the pages of the Bible doesn’t mean it is good. These people sin and thankfully we can learn from that, as well as learn from the good.
I think we can even apply this tip to our own lives. In a discussion we may be quick to say, “that’s not how we did it when I grew up.” We have a little nostalgia for whatever it was that we observed or experienced in our own lives. But just because it happened doesn’t mean it was good.
It doesn’t mean it was bad either, but we need to be able to recognize that mere existence isn’t enough. Something, whether in the Old Testament or our own lives, may be normal—status quo even—but God shines his light on us all, revealing what is good on the basis of his own goodness. We need to be able to discern by his Spirit, critique what is wrong, let go and move toward Christ in all we do.