Years ago Art Linkletter had a delightful television show on CBS called “House Party.” Over the course of time he interviewed some 15,000 children who came up with priceless remarks delightfully expressing the lively spirit and zest of youth, especially with humor. The show and the book that followed have become known as, “Kids Say the Darndest Things.” Here is an example: Art: What are you learning at school that you can tell us about?

Child: They teach you not to fight with your friends.
Art: How do they do that?
Child: They read from the Bible, where Jesus says, “Thou shalt not kill.”
Art: I’m happy to learn that they’ve stopped the killing on the playgrounds this way. But tell me, have you been punished lately?
Child: Yes.
Art: What for?
Child: Hitting a kid in the face with a cupcake.
Art: Why did you do that?
Child: It’s not in the Bible.
Sometimes we take the Bible as innocently as a child might. “It’s not in the Bible” might give us permission to do anything we want if it is not forbidden. But we are more likely to assume that everything we need to know is contained in the Bible. It is treated as a manual for living life. In some ways that can be true. But the Bible says all sorts of things that are not literally true, such as the story of creation found in the first chapter of Genesis. The people who told the story had no scientific expertise to explain that the universe has been in a continual creating process for at least 14 billion years. The story tellers were simply trying to say from their experience that God is the Creator of our universe, which with our scientific understanding is continuing to expand and evolve.
We also have to be careful in the “proof texting” we choose to prove a point. If children dishonor father or mother, do we do as prescribed in Leviticus and put them to death? (Leviticus 20:9, Deuteronomy 21:18-21) And if we were to follow the commandment, “Thou shalt not kill,” we would have to reconcile why the Hebrew Bible is filled with bloody battles, some commanded by God. Is God pleased when we kill our enemies or do we take Jesus’ advice, “Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44)
We have learned to be discerning when it comes to interpreting the messages of the Bible. The Bible is not a verbatim account of the words of God, unless you think God changed his mind multiple times and enjoyed making up stories.
Rather, the Bible is a human record of people’s experience with God seen through their limited perceptions and understanding. There is nothing wrong with that unless we think it is perfectly alright to hit a kid in the face with a cupcake because it’s not forbidden in the Bible.
Here’s another quip from “Kids Say the Darndest Things.” When asked who the smartest man in the world is, one child replied, “God.” Why, asked Linkletter. “Because when people are naughty he can take the naughty right out of them.” Perhaps that is a truth we can take to heart from the “mouth of babes.” (Matthew 21:16)
This column was originally published on October 6, 2017