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.
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.
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.
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.
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.