Loss. A car accident -- with a "recovery" expected to last five years. Maybe ten. Maybe for the rest of this mortal life.
Poverty -- not just for a year, but for generations. One generation after another.
Obsession -- always needing another dozen Facebook likes, a new drug, a new "god" that leaves one hungry for more.
Response to problems like these often comes in one form: advice. Do this, don't do that. Here are the steps to healing and success.
Our own day has seen a revival of short, pithy proverbs -- with advice about "five steps to be happy" or "six ways to financial security" going viral through social media. Often, the way that Christians approach the Bible fits the same mold: we approach the Bible as a divine self-help manual, with a collection of Bible verses to give us advice to help us live healthier, happier lives.
Indeed, good advice is a gift. Advice can be part of the wisdom that comes from God. Practical wisdom to address loss, poverty, and misdirected hearts can be a cup of cold water to those in need. Scripture itself offers proverbial wisdom in many places.
But if we approach the Bible primarily as a source for divine advice, we are in trouble. If we really believe that the Holy Spirit inspired scripture, and that the Spirit illumines our hearts and minds in receiving the Word, then we need a larger, deeper context for interpreting the Bible. As sinners, we do not just need advice. Our situation is more desperate than that: we need a Savior. Moreover, we need the new life that comes by the Spirit in God's household: with its costly discipleship which displaces our selfish preoccupations as we gather together to receive the Word of the one Lord.