“Impairment of the ability to read, often as the result of genetic defect or brain injury,” thus Webster’s New World Dictionary defines “dyslexia.”
Dyslexic or dyslectic persons often misread words by interchanging letters or combinations of letters — or even whole words and phrases. Thus, for example, such a person might read “not” as “ton” (or vice-versa), “hobo” as “boho,” etc. Or this one-liner by Stewart Francis: “I read that ten out of two people are dyslexic.”
When it comes to spiritual matters, there is also impairment in man’s ability to read the Word of God, the Holy Bible. That is, with man’s natural reason alone, man often misreads God’s Word. The irony is that most people read books on such matters as the sciences and are generally agreed about what the books mean. But not so with God’s Word. It seems like some spiritual “genetic defect” or “brain injury” has been passed on to all mankind from our first parents, Adam and Eve. [See: "Your Eyes Will Be Opened!"]
As the apostle Paul put it, “…through one man [Adam] sin entered the world, and death through sin and thus death spread to all men, because all have sinned” (Romans 5:12).
Cause and effect of spiritual dyslexia
Sin has, in fact, not only caused spiritual dyslexia in most people; a far worse condition has taken hold of them: spiritual blindness! “Our gospel is veiled…to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age [Satan] has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them” (2 Corinthians 4:3-4).
This Satan-inflicted spiritual blindness has kept mankind from properly understanding the Word of God. As a result, like some dyslexic person, we often misread God’s Word to mean exactly the opposite of what God intended.
The Israelites, to whom God revealed His Word, misread it so often that God had to point out where they had erred. “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter” (Isaiah 5:20).
“Her [Israel's] priests have violated My law and profaned My holy things; they have not distinguished between the holy and unholy, nor have they made known the difference between the unclean and the clean; and they have hidden their eyes from My Sabbaths, so that I am profaned among them” (Ezekiel 22:26). [See: Switching Positive and Negative.]
As go the priests [religious leaders], so go the people. “For the lips of a priest should keep knowledge, and people should seek the law [of God] from his mouth; for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts. But you have departed from the way; you have caused many to stumble at the law. You have corrupted the covenant of Levi” (Malachi 2:7-8).
How horrible to think that a pharmacist should misread the label of a drug that is poisonous, or misread the correct prescribed dosage of a medication and thereby cause the worsening of a patient’s ailment — if not the patient’s death! Such is the weight of the responsibility of one who teaches God’s Word, which is “able to make [us] wise for salvation through faith which is in Jesus Christ” (2 Timothy 3:15).
By misunderstanding God’s Word a teacher of the Word can cause many who hear him to become “unwise” and to even lose their salvation! That’s why James 3:1 warns, “My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment.”
Symptoms of spiritual dyslexia
Moses addressed this human weakness to misread God’s Word: “Now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and judgments which I teach you to observe, that you may live, and go in and possess the land which the LORD God of your fathers is giving you. You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you” (Deuteronomy 4:1-2).
The apostle Paul warns about would-be teachers who misread the purpose of God’s commandments (some even calling God’s Ten Commandments “burdensome” and “The Terrible Ten”): “Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart [see: Freed From Bondage], from a good conscience, and from sincere faith, from which some, having strayed, have turned aside to idle talk, desiring to be teachers of the law, understanding neither what they say nor the things which they affirm” (1 Timothy 1:5-7). Incidentally, Peter also warns us that, because of the difficult things Paul has written in his epistles, many have become “dyslexic” and have misread — have twisted — Paul’s writings (2 Peter 3:15-16).
Our Lord Jesus asked a teacher of the law: “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?” (Luke 10:26).
How do we read the law of God?
There are two extremes to which men have carried their reading of God’s law. One is to say, as the lawyer in Luke 10:25 whom Jesus spoke to correctly pointed out, that God requires us to love Him and our neighbor as ourselves — and then conclude that we are to obey no other law of God!
We thus misread the mind of Christ when we ignore what He also said to another lawyer who asked Him which was the great commandment in the law: “‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matthew 22:35-40).
Then again, some may misread this to mean that Jesus has “hanged” — abolished — all the law and the prophets; that only the two great commandments need be observed.
How do we read what Jesus said: “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill” (Matthew 5:17)? Many think Jesus did just that! They misread “fulfill” to mean “finish” or “end!” And that’s how they read Romans 10:4 as well (“For Christ is the end of the law…”) — that Jesus put an end to, or ended, the law of God. [Actually, the Greek word telos, rendered as "end," also means "objective" or "goal." The goal or "end" of the law is to make us righteous like Christ is.]
What a far cry from what Jesus went on to say, “Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments [not just the two great commandments], and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:19)! Jesus did not come to end the law of God which defines true righteousness.
Why don’t people think of the two great commandments as the trunk of the tree, and all the lesser commandments as the branches and twigs? What is a tree with only a trunk and no branches and leaves? How can it bear fruit? That’s how “all the law and the prophets” hang upon the two great commandments. Can it be that many who profess belief in Christ are not bearing the fruit of God’s Spirit — or are, in fact, bearing bad fruit — because they only consider the trunk of the tree and ignore the branches, twigs and leaves?
The “great commandments” state the overall principle of God’s will. God’s laws, statutes and judgments spell out or detail what righteous (or moral) conduct Christians should observe. Transgressing these commandments constitutes sin (“…sin is the transgression of the law,” says 1 John 3:4, King James Version or KJV). It is from such sins that Christ came to save or redeem us [see: Transgressions Under the First Covenant and No Such Thing as Sin?].
Jesus Christ, in fact, did not destroy the law and the prophets but rather He elaborated on them. Matthew 5:21-7:13 shows how Jesus “exalted” — magnified — the law of God (as Isaiah 42:21 prophesied of the Messiah) to include not just the letter of the law but its spirit and intent, the motives of the heart!
The other extreme of human error in reading the law of God is to go the opposite of taking from it: adding to it (Deuteronomy 4:12) in such a way as to annul its intent. This is what the scribes and the Pharisees of Christ’s day had done with the law of God. “They bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders,” said Jesus, “But they themselves will not move them with their fingers” (Matthew 23:4). [See: Barking Up the Wrong Tree.]
The tendency of human additions or accretions to the law of God is to set aside the very commandments of God. “In vain they worship Me,” Jesus (quoting Isaiah 29:13) said to the leaders of the Jews in His day, “Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men….All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition….making the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down. And many such things you do” (Mark 7:7, 9, 13).
Cure for spiritual dyslexia
There’s only one “medicine” or “treatment” for spiritual dyslexia. As Paul put it, “…no one knows [reads properly] the things of God except the Spirit of God….the natural man does not receive [read properly] the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them [read them properly] because they are spiritually discerned [understood]” (1 Corinthians 2:11, 14).
Since we do not naturally have the Spirit of God, how do we obtain it? By and large, God’s Spirit is something God imparts or sends by His sovereign will through His inscrutable power. “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion,” said God to Moses as He still says to us today (Exodus 33:10; Romans 9:15). But Jesus also assures us that our heavenly Father is more than willing to give His Spirit “to those who ask Him” (Luke 11:13).
This is not to say that by His sovereign will God simply writes off from His kingdom all people on whom He has not shown mercy in their lifetime or who have not asked for His Spirit. If we understand God’s purpose rightly, we will come to see that God is working with a “firstfruits” (James 1:18) at the initial stage of His grand work of saving sinful mankind. This strongly indicates that God has a plan to work with subsequent fruits later on. What a consolation to Christians with loved ones who have died without a saving knowledge of Christ! [See: Predestination and This Is Not the Only Day of Salvation .]
For those whom God has chosen to favor with His Spirit, proper understanding of His Word is made possible. It’s as if they are healed of their spiritual dyslexia, their spiritual blindness (2 Corinthians 4:6) — in fulfillment of the prophecy concerning the work of the Messiah: “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped” (Isaiah 35:5). As Jesus promised, His Spirit will guide His chosen ones into all truth (John 16:13). Not only that: His Spirit will also give them the power to obey the truth. “I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them” (Ezekiel 36:27), says God to Israel as He would also say to Gentiles whom He calls to salvation (Romans 2:5-11). [See: God's Spirit and Obedience.]
Are you suffering from spiritual dyslexia? May God heal you of it and open up to your understanding His Word which will make you “wise for salvation” (2 Timothy 3:15). As Paul exhorts: “Therefore do not be unwise, but understand [read properly] what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:17) [see: About Pool of Siloam and Is Jesus Your Lord -- Really?]
Pedro R. Meléndez, Jr.