I’ve been in massive hibernation mode for the past few weeks, trying to do less of me and more of God. That means, spending a lot more time listening for what He has to say about every single situation instead of seeking Him after-the-fact.
I had this random epiphany on Monday about how we can fall into the habit of taking the Bible out of context to fit our own needs; and so I got to thinking: what are some Bible verses or ‘ideas’ that I have taken out of context in my own life that I could share now that I know better?
Here are five of them:
1. God will not give us more than we can bear.
I think I got this idea from a Kirk Franklin song I grew up with: More Than I Can Bear. While the song HAS walked me through more storms than I can count on all digits, the idea itself is far from true. The first problem with this line of thinking is that It feeds into the lie that we will never face problems or hardship in our lives. Imagine telling someone who had just lost a loved one or the ability to walk that ‘God won’t give you more than you can handle.’ Of what comfort is that??? I don’t expect anyone to be able to ‘handle’ that kind of heartache or pain.
Thinking this way also prevents Christians from grieving, and it leaves them doubting the word of God. Nowehere in the Bible does God say He won’t allow us to go through more than we can bear. People often misuse 1 Corinthians 10: 12-13 to support this idea:
If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall. The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.
The passage clearly begins by saying ‘don’t fall under the illusion that you can ever endure anything on your own.’ and ends by saying God will provide a way for you to ENDURE. He doesn’t intend for you not to go through rough patches or to overcome it by your own strength; and sometimes He doesn’t intend for you to overcome it at all! Sometimes He wants to walk you THROUGH it and have you GROW as a result of it. It’s not about what you can or cannot bear ON YOUR OWN. God will give you SO much more than you can bear because it’s in that situation where you become totally reliant on Him and find His strength in your weakness. Believeing this idea that God doesn’t intend for us to go through tough or painful situations or that we have the power to deal with it on our own leave us in a place of weakness and in a situation of questioning God and His goodness. 1 Peter 4 says:
Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. Instead, be very glad—for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world… So if you are suffering in a manner that pleases God, keep on doing what is right, and trust your lives to the God who created you, for he will never fail you.
We shouldn’t live as Christians expecting not to face hard times because of our faith – in fact, it’s quite the contrary. Our first thought when we face those hard times shouldn’t be ‘I can deal with this’ – instead it should be ‘God, how can I trust you in this? How are you going to equip and empower me to endure this? Because your word said you would!’ When communicating this idea we have to make sure we focus on the fact that it is Christ who sustains us in the midst of our storms – who you find your sufficiency in makes all the difference!
2. God helps those who help themselves.
This self-help principle is actually antithetical to the word of God, and cannot be found anywhere in the Bible. I think it stems from this need of man to have some control over his own outcome. Yes, God rewards hardwork and initiative (Hebrews 6:10), and God’s provision is not an excuse for laziness, but God’s word says He helps the helpless – and we are to too. Matthew 5:3 says:
Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
In Mark 8, Jesus is met with a couple different situations. First, a multitude of people come seeking for him and his heart breaks for them because he figures they must be hungry. These people never expressed their hunger. He could have sent them off to ‘help themselves’. I’m sure that’s what his disciples wanted to do. But instead he multiplied a boy’s meal to feed them all, and then some.
Further down the passage, Jesus is brought a blind man and they beg him to heal him. Jesus does so. I’m sure the disciples were wondering – as they had before – who had sinned that the man had been born blind (because blindness from birth was believed to be a curse for the sins of your parents). Jesus didn’t care, he only cared that this man needed to be healed.
Here’s what I got from this chapter. There were two types of people that Jesus helped: the ones that could help themselves, and the one who couldn’t. But Jesus helped them both. Why? Because the helpless aren’t just the poor or rejected or sick or needy – the helpless are simply those who recognize their need for Him. The multitude and the blind man both recognized that they needed Jesus, and that was all that mattered for him to supply.
And he confirms this by saying later on in that same chapter:
“Calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am… Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to saving yourself, your true self.”
When you begin to recognize your need for God, what you can do for yourself will be the last thing on your mind. Instead you will be focused on what God can do in and through you – and anything He does for you will be an unexpected byproduct of that obedience.
3. Ask and it will be given to you.
We loooooove this one, especially since it can actually be found in the Bible:
Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. (Matthew 7:7-8)
But we have lived long enough to know that it isn’t entirely true. We don’t get just anything we ask for. The passage continues in verses 9 and 10 to talk about how if we ask for GOOD things, God will give it to us. Good things doesn’t necessarily translate into a corvette (otherwise your girl would be ridin right now haha). Good things have to do with the will of God. 1 John 5:14 says:
This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.
God answers us according to His will – His good, pleasing, and perfect will.
It reminds me of this sermon I heard about how God’s promises are all potentially ours, but not all of them are practically ours. And part of that boils down to God’s specific will for your life, and part of that boils down to timing. You can ask God for something over and over again, but if it’s not the right moment or in His will for you, then you won’t get it. You may be praying for a new job, but God has a purpose for you in the job you’re in. You might be asking for a husband, but God hasn’t finished what He’s trying to do with you in your singleness. So while the promise of success and marriage is yours potentially, it isn’t practically yours outside of God’s timing. That’s why it’s important to know God’s specific will for your life, and you can’t get that from just reading His word – you need to hear His voice and direction for your every day circumstances.
4. Only God can judge.
This is every lukewarm Christian’s go-to. I know because I’ve used it myself lol. People back this idea up with Matthew 7:
Judge not, that ye be not judged. (KJV)
But it’s a little more than that. let’s take a look at the amplified version:
Do not judge and criticize and condemn [others unfairly with an attitude of self-righteous superiority as though assuming the office of a judge], so that you will not be judged [unfairly]. For just as you [hypocritically] judge others[when you are sinful and unrepentant], so will you be judged; and in accordance with your standard of measure [used to pass out judgment],judgment will be measured to you. Why do you look at the [insignificant]speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice and acknowledge the[egregious] log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me get the speck out of your eye,’ when there is a log in your own eye? You hypocrite (play-actor, pretender), first get the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.
I think we have a warped idea of what it means to judge. We’ve been fed this idea that when someone tells you you’re doing something wrong, then they are condemning you, but it isn’t always true, and thinking that way can stifle your growth. You should still attempt to help your brother with the speck in his eye but there is a right and a wrong way to judge people. John 7 says:
Do not judge by appearance [superficially and arrogantly], but judge fairly and righteously.”
God isn’t saying don’t recognize and tell others when they are doing something wrong – He’s saying there’s a way to go about it that isn’t unfair or self-righteous. God wants us to be aware of the fact that in judging others we are giving people the opportunity to judge us as well, so to becareful how we live our lives, and to be cognizant of how we correct people – with love and not unfairly with condemnation.
Jesus asking us to not judge others isn’t saying that ‘right’ is objective. The truth is the truth whether someone wants to accept it or not. What he IS saying is that some people don’t know what IS right, and so it’s not our place to penalize people for coloring outside of the lines when they have no idea where the lines are. Instead, we show them the lines through our own lives and in love. For the ones who do know what is right, we are called to rebuke with love and compassion (2 Timothy 4:2). Be open to correction, and do not despise rebuke.
5. All things work for good.
This one stems from Romans 8:28:
And we know [with great confidence] that God [who is deeply concerned about us] causes all things to work together [as a plan] for good for those who love God, to those who are called according to His plan and purpose.
There are two things that people glaze over in this verse. The first is the part that says “… for those who love God.” Jesus clearly defines what it is to love God in John 14:
Jesus answered, “If anyone [really] loves Me, he will keep My word (teaching); and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our dwelling place with him. One who does not [really] love Me does not keep My words. And the word (teaching) which you hear is not Mine, but is the Father’s who sent Me.
God works everything for the good of those who love him and as such are living in line with His purpose. Any time anything happened or changed for anyone in the Bible, it’s because they sought to align or realign themselves with God and His word. God can do good things for anyone, but you have to obey God and be in His will to activate His good PLAN for your life.
The second part we often misunderstand is the ‘good’ part. I wrote a business ethics paper yesterday, and from my studies of different cases alone, I can tell you that good is highly relative. What is good to us (a six-figure paying job and unlimited airline miles) isn’t necessarily good to God. Good does not denote an absence of suffering or hardships. Good means you can trust God to do what He already knows is best for you at any given point in your life – and it may not always feel like the best, but you trust either way.