One of the best ways to gauge your mental health is by what you do with the teachings of Scripture.

A few instances....

  • Jesus said, "Do not worry about tomorrow" (Matthew 6:34). Bad mental health takes that to mean that long range plans, insurance programs, and concerns about the future of one's loved ones is sinful. Good mental health keeps it in the perspective of the entire Bible's teachings on the subject.
  • Jesus said, "By their fruits you will know them" (Matthew 7:20). Bad mental health takes this as a license to inspect the lives and productivity of anyone claiming to follow Christ. Good mental health sees it in context, that one's works will, generally speaking, tell the tale on who he or she really is.
  • Jesus said, "As you have believed, so let it be done for you" (Matthew 8:13). Bad mental health interprets this (and similar scriptures) as carte blanche promises that we get what we believe God for, and if we are not getting, it's because we are not believing strongly enough. Good mental health knows that there is far more to this issue than some isolated scriptures or instances of the Lord's healing.

The shooter in Tucson from a few weeks back provided one more lesson that we seem to keep getting in this country again and again: The person with poor mental health can look at anything and make it into something bad.

Three texts in I Corinthians impressed this upon me during my reading this morning.

All three verses lend themselves to misinterpretations and extreme over-reactions by people with either limited biblical understanding or poor mental health. Or both.

  • Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble. (I Corinthians 8:13)

The person with either limited knowledge of God's word or an untethered mind will read that if anyone criticizes us for anything, no matter how good or necessary it is, we should stop it. "After all, doesn't the Bible say... (and he quotes this verse)?"

The believer of better Bible understanding and balanced mental health knows that people are always going to find fault with something you do. If the grand central truth in our lives were that whatever someone stumbles over has to go, then we would soon be existing as hermits in a cave somewhere.

Or we would be the worst neurotics on the planet.

  • If we have sown spiritual things for you, is it too much if we reap material things from you? (I Corinthians (9:11)

The person who knows little about his Bible or has a severe lack in his mental stability will read this verse and the passage surrounding it, and conclude that the church "owes" him a living.

Those with better knowledge of the Word and a solid underpinning mentally will keep it in context. Paul and Barnabas were supporting themselves in the Lord's work (see 9:6), but Paul is establishing that the ministers and missionaries should, if possible, be freed for full-time work by the Lord's congregation.

Some preachers--I'm tempted to say televangelists, but the culprits have not all been broadcasters--have used this verse and similar teachings in Scripture to manipulate congregations into over-supporting them. I confess to a concern on this point regarding some of my brethren who seem to feel that if their parish boasts members driving expensive cars and living in mansions, they themselves should have the equal. This may be news to some laypeople, but it is not unknown for some ministers of the largest, richest churches to pull down astronomical salaries in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Just once, I'd love to see a pastor of a church running 10,000 driving a 5-year-old car and living in a humble 3-bedroom house. I guarantee it would offend the pride of some of his members, but think what a statement on anti-materialism it would preach.