Labels

A quick Bible study on our tendency to judge books by their covers

One of my favorite actors is Don Knotts. Of course, he is most known for his role as Barney Fife on The Andy Griffith Show from the 1960s. Knotts left the show in 1964 to pursue a career on the big screen. It did not go as well as he had hoped. He became typecast. The public wanted him to be Barney Fife in every movie he made. For most of his career, with the exception of his time on Three's Company, he was unable to obtain opportunities for other character roles. Typecasting is a common occurrence in Hollywood. It is also a common occurrence in human behavior. All of us have a tendency to wear labels and project labels on others. Sometimes it is intentional, and sometimes it is not. Most of the time, we label people without ever uttering a word. In the following passage of scripture, Jesus condemns this kind of labeling. Lead your group in the following Bible Study and model for them the example given to us by Jesus.

Labels from the Past
Luke 7:36-50

  1. What is the first word that comes to your mind when you hear the names of these well-known biblical characters? Noah, Jacob, Moses, Gideon, Samson, David, Elijah, Jonah, Job and Paul.
  2. Now take a look at the list again, identifying a failure in each one's life.
    Noah was a drunk. Jacob was a liar. Moses was a murderer. Gideon was afraid. Samson was a womanizer. David had an affair and was a murderer. Elijah was suicidal. Jonah ran from God. Job went bankrupt, and Paul was too religious.
  3. What is your reaction upon hearing that list? How does this list affect your initial response from question #1?

    A certain immoral woman heard he was there and brought a beautiful jar filled with expensive perfume. Then she knelt behind him at his feet, weeping. Her tears fell on his feet, and she wiped them off with her hair. Then she kept kissing his feet and putting perfume on them. When the Pharisee who was the host saw what was happening and who the woman was, he said to himself, "This proves that Jesus is no prophet. If God had really sent him, he would know what kind of woman is touching him. She's a sinner!" Luke 7:37-39 (NLT)

    The Pharisee mentioned in this passage demonstrated these kinds of behaviors:

    This Jesus is not what I expected from God.
    Jesus does not play by my rules.
    I have no need; I want no forgiveness.

    The "labeled" woman mentioned in this passage demonstrated these kinds of behaviors:

    This Jesus is not what I expected from God.
    I have a lot of need; I want forgiveness.
    Jesus has forgiven me of my many sins, something my community could not do.
    I will worship him continually.
  4. What are some common labels we assign to people (divorced, jerk, etc…)? Why?
  5. How does this story influence your thinking about how we should relate to others?
  6. What specific ways can you help people change their negative labels to positive ones?

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