Bible

The Top 3 Most Misunderstood Bible Verses

Our culture loves soundbites. We have about a 30 second attention span (I’m definitely guilty of that). And because of that we often take one Bible verse and go around quoting what it says while ignoring the context. Sometimes this gives us a half truth, other times it gives us something totally wrong. These are the top 3 Bible verses that I hear that don’t mean what people think they do.

Our culture loves soundbites. We have about a 30 second attention span (I’m definitely guilty of that). And because of that we often take one Bible verse and go around quoting what it says while ignoring the context. Sometimes this gives us a half truth, other times it gives us something totally wrong. These are the top 3 Bible verses that I hear that don’t mean what people think they do.

No. 3

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. Matthew 7:1

Part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, this verse has become a kind of mantra for many believing that we should not judge each other. You live your life, and I’ll live mine. While we certainly shouldn’t go around judging everyone’s behaviors and condemning the world, we take this verse too far to the extreme.

Jesus wasn’t trying to say we should never correct or call out sin that we see in someone. He was saying that we need to get rid of the sin in our lives and then in love help correct our fellow Christians’ sin.

That’s why Jesus also said this: If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. Matthew 18:15

When this verse is said, the people are often right, we should never judge anyone. However, that doesn’t mean that we never call out sin. Helping a fellow Christian out when they are caught in sin is not judging, it’s loving.

No. 2

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11

This verse is often quoted during a difficult season in life as a promise that God has a specific plan and will bring us through it. Many read this verse and think that if we trust God, then not only will we be brought through it, but we will prosper. In other words, we read it kind of like the prosperity Gospel. If we follow God then we will have the good life, the money we want, a nice house, and plenty of vacations.

The problem is that this verse is a specific promise to a specific people, Israel. The promise is for deliverance by ending the Babylonian exile. To take this verse and apply it to our lives is taking it out of context.

The danger comes in misinterpreting this verse when we assume that God wants us to prosper by our definition. Does God want us to prosper? I would argue yes. However that probably doesn’t look like we might think or want.

No. 1

For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them. Matthew 18:20

I hear this verse referenced when describing a church gathering. Often the person uses this verse to say that because there are more than three in the room God is there. When we use the verse this way it infers that when there are not two or more then God is not there. From the Old Testament to the New Testament the Bible tells us that God is with us. God is most certainly with us when we are alone.

If you were to read the surrounding verses in Matthew 18 you would see a different message. Jesus is actually giving instructions on what to do when you have conflict with a person. It’s actually a very relevant and important message for us today. When we pluck one verse out of the bunch we get a skewed view and miss what Jesus was actually trying to say.

Honorable Mention

I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13

I can’t tell you how many times I have heard an athlete quote this as their motivation to win their game. This verse is used as a personal motivation to get through whatever challenge is facing us. We use it as a rallying cry to get through a tough test, breakup, difficult workout, or finishing a project. But when Paul wrote this verse that’s not what he had in mind.

To get a better idea of what this verse is trying to communicate we must read it in context of the surrounding verses, found here. Paul is actually talking about being content whether hungry or full, having plenty or little. He’s saying that God will get him through the seasons that God brings him to.

So what do we do with all this? When you read or hear a Bible verse look at what’s said before it. Look at what’s said after it. Look at the whole context. In that big picture what does it mean? When we read just one verse it’s like only listening to one sentence your spouse says to you and tuning out the rest. It will get you in trouble real quick, trust me I know.

We need to read the full thought before we can figure out what this actually means to us. That’s the only way to get a full view of what the Bible actually means. This will give us more clarity and keep us from spreading something that is not true.

What are your top 3?

12 comments on “The Top 3 Most Misunderstood Bible Verses

  1. I love topics like this because it allows opportunity to become in alignment with God’s heart for us, but also the reference for which it was meant. 1 Cor 10:13 “He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.” Normally people stop there. Some translations are “He won’t give you more than you can bear.” But they don’t read what is next: “But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” If Jesus wasn’t given a life without temptation, why should we expect a life without it? HArd times will come. In our flesh, no, we cannot endure it on our own. That’s why we have Jesus.

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  2. I agree with you almost entirely. (And I also agree with your first commenter.) I would suggest that you are limiting the Church and its Lord by the way you are reading Matthew 18. Jesus is present when people gather in his name. Gathering in his name is gathering around the forgiveness he offers and the victory he has won over evil. Of course God is always with us, but Jesus is present in a special way when believers gather in his name. The person who says, “I don’t need the church–I can worship alone in the forest or at home,” needs to be reminded that Jesus promises his gracious presence when believers gather in his name, not when one Christian tries to be one with Jesus apart from the Church. J.

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    • I think you are right in what you are saying about the importance of gathering as a body. But Matthew 18 is clearly not about that and we would be pulling that verse vastly out of context to use it as such. While I believe that gathering is good and something we should practice, we cannot force this verse to be the proof text.

      A few Bible passages that do talk about that are Hebrews 10:25 and 1 Corinthians 12.

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  3. The one that comes to my mind is Romans 8:28 (And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose). The song Your Love Never Fails by Jesus Culture has a main line that says “you make all things work together for my good” which every time I hear that line, I think “I don’t think that means what you think it means…”

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s certainly true. Especially in this culture our faith has become all about us. It’s about what we can get from God. Ironically when we do that we are missing out. It’s when we give up our desires and follow God that we get what we truly need.

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  4. I think you absolutely nailed the top three.

    But for the sake of playing along, here are three more.

    James 2:24 (at least by Catholics)

    Matthew 19:24

    1 Tim 6:10

    Liked by 1 person

    • I hadn’t thought about James, I’ve definitely seen that misused before. Also Matthew 19:24 I’ve seen numerous arguments around what Jesus was actually saying. 1 Timothy 6:10 I think is clear, ALL money is evil, right? JK.

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  5. This is so true! Although I think that Jeremiah 29:11 still gives hope for us even today about God’s deliverance, it’s important to understand context and culture to really appreciate scripture. It’s also important to not try and twist scripture for our own wants.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. autisticaplanet

    To me, Matthew 7 speaks about not being self-righteous along with getting rid of any sin in one’s life, which we can’t do without asking God for help. Phil. 4:13 means that whatever God ordains, we can face. It doesn’t mean that I can do whatever I want and expect God to bless it. I cannot attend church due to autism and resulting sensory processing issues, but do firmly believe that God is present wherever He is welcome (not that He isn’t fully aware and present of places He isn’t welcome). I hope churches pray for those who cannot (not will not) attend. Thank you for your post.

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  7. Often there is the mistake of seeing “judging” and “discerning” the same thing. To me, judgement is hallmarked but the attitude behind it which will affect the outcome. If I am judgmental, I become critical which can lead to bitterness. And I am not being loving nor want to see the other person change for Jesus’s sake and their own. I want to be seen as a little above them and my response will often be harsh.
    Discernment is for the righteous good of all involved. The outcome wanted is ultimately to further the Kingdom of God, not mine. We are to be discerning, using Biblical guidelines, but not has a hammer to shape another but to come along side to augment the Holy Spirit’s work of forming them into the likeness of Jesus. The fruit of the action taken will show whether it’s judgement or discernment.
    God, help us to know the difference.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think the bottom line is, as you said, do it to further God’s kingdom. When we called something out in someone are we doing it to tear them down or point them in the right direction?

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