In the opening chapter of Tom Sawyer, Mark Twain presents an interesting conversation that reflects human nature. Tom tries to persuade his friend Huck to join him in his plans to form a band of robbers and to take captives much like pirates used to do. Huck asks Tom what pirates do with the captives they take, and Tom answers, “Ransom them.” “Ransom? What’s that?” asks Huck. “I don’t know. But that’s what they do. I seen it in books; and so of course that’s what we got to do,” explains Tom. “Do you want to go doing different from what’s in the books, and get things all muddled up?”

This dialog represents a way of thinking that’s not much different from what Jesus encountered. The people were also quoting and repeating things they had found in a book—the Old Testament. But they were merely mouthing words. The ideas had been separated from the spirit of the original revelation. By misapplying Mosaic principles of conduct, the people were justifying their sinful attitudes and actions (Mt. 5:27-42).

This should be a reminder to us. When we quote the Bible, let’s be sure we understand its meaning and context. Then we won’t get things “all muddled up.”