Holman Bibles for the Poor
Once in awhile something comes along that is truly appalling. Today’s rant is inspired by a full-page magazine ad for Holman Bible Outreach International. The middle third of the page is a photograph of an obviously impoverished, partially clothed, very young child, standing barefoot in a gutter, poking at the garbage on the ground with a plastic fork. The big headline at the top of the page reads, “We publish BIBLES for people who can’t afford SHOES” (emphasis theirs).
wow. Where do I start? What is this little child going to do with a Bible? He or she is too young to read and probably will never get an education. Do they expect people who can’t afford shoes to be excited about getting a book they can’t read? Maybe they could find some string and tie the bibles to their feet? They can’t eat bibles, and this child is obviously hungry. They can’t seek shelter in a bible, though it’s obvious this child has no place to live. There is an adult sleeping on the sidewalk in the background. How do people who read and study and translate the bible come to the conclusion that all those verses in the bible about God’s concern for the poor mean the poor need bibles?? Do they honestly think that, lacking food, clothing, shelter, and education, that what the desperately poor of the world really need most are bibles??
The small print says in part, “From the streets of Bangkok to the back roads of rural America, people are hungering for the bread of life. And we’re bringing it to them with bibles and scripture portions…”
I looked up Matthew 25 in the Holman Standard Version online. The words of Jesus there do NOT say, ‘When I was hungry, you published me a bible. When I was thirsty, you published me a bible. When I was naked, you published me a bible. When I was sick, you published me a bible.’
I was startled to see this ad in Creation Care magazine - an excellent publication for Christians who care about the environment that was gifted to us from a friend. The Holman ad seems very out-of-place here. Even if I did not already dislike the Holman translation because of its history on the gender translation issue, this ad alone would ensure I never purchased one.
It seems that there is a wonderful awakening beginning to emerge from N. American churches who used to be ignorant and apathetic to the plight of the poor, but who are beginning to come alive with a passionate, active response to global and local poverty. I pray that this is not a passing fad, but a renewal that will grow and spread among God’s people. And I honestly pray that the well-intentioned folks behind this Holman ad will adopt a more holistic understanding of what it means to bring the bread of life to the world’s impoverished people.