Most Misinterpreted Scripture Verses – Matthew 7:1

“Judge not, lest you be judged.” he said somewhat proudly, and lit a cannabis cigarette.  The news report continued to show various people in our nation’s capital lighting up to celebrate the legalization of pot in Canada today.  I just shook my head and changed the channel.

Matthew 7:1 will likely be quoted many more times in the days, weeks and months ahead as Canadians negotiate the highs (pardon the pun), and lows of what the legalization of marijuana in this country will mean for its citizens.  So, for those who feel the need to quote scripture to defend their stance for or against the use of pot, let’s just ensure we’re using this misinterpreted verse correctly, shall we?

Matthew 7:1 is one of the most frequently misused verses often declaring in its premise that Jesus told us not to judge.  Since we are all sinners, who of us have the right to cast the first stone, or judge someone else?  Verse 1 is often used to defend against pointing out a person’s wrongdoing, but if we dive further into the context of this passage, Jesus is not forbidding judgement but is pointing out the hypocrisy in those who improperly judge.

Merriam Webster defines “hypocrisy” as: a feigning to be what one is not or to believe what one does not : behavior that contradicts what one claims to believe or feel.  In this case Jesus is rebuking the hypocrisy of the Pharisees who were quick to point out the sins of others but were unwilling themselves to be held accountable to the same standards they insisted on imposing on others.

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged.  For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.  “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your won eye?  How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”  Matthew 7:1-5

My father had a saying when I was growing up: “Don’t do as I do, do as I tell you.”  My Dad did not want my brother and I to make the same mistakes he made when he was growing up.  He wanted to shield us from the heartache of making poor decisions.  It was particularly confusing when he told us to not do something, when he was at the same time doing the thing he was telling us not to do.  For example, we were told that smoking was bad for us and we should never smoke, yet he and my mother both smoked.

Christians have a hard time with Matthew 7:1.  It’s easier to let things pass by and say, “Who am I to judge?” because we are fearful that we will be labeled hypocrites if our own sins are found out.  So the question remains, should we judge at all?  Scripture tells us that believers are to judge – but to do so in a righteous manner.

I read a commentary recently with regards to the “plank” and “speck” in someone’s eye.  I found the analogy quite eye-opening, literally!  The closer an object gets to the eye, the larger it appears – a tiny splinter from a distance is log-sized if embedded in one’s eye.  So a fault or sin in one’s own life is a far greater problem than the same fault in another person’s life.  So Jesus is stating quite clearly in Matthew 7:3-4 that removing the obstruction or “plank” from your own eye is vital before you can righteously judge someone else.

Merriam Webster defines “righteousness” as: acting in accord with divine or moral law: free from guilt or sin.  Several Bible verses show that a righteous person (one who does not conform to the world any longer but strives to follow God wholeheartedly), can make a righteous judgement.  Paul tells us to “Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.  For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.”  2 Timothy 4:2-3

Christians are commanded to make decisions, to discern between good and bad or to establish what is good and best.  In other words, the ability to think with discernment is synonymous with an ability to think biblically.  John Calvin says that one “who judges according to the Word and law of the Lord, and forms his judgment by the rule of charity, always begins with subjecting himself to examination, and preserves a proper medium and order in his judgments.”  Christians can make judgments without hypocrisy if we live a life surrendered to God, repentant and humble before Him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Most Misinterpreted Scripture Verses – Philippians 4:13

It had been a tough game.  A tough game to watch, and it was a tough game to play.  I could tell that my son was frustrated as I watched him skate to the bench after a particularly brutal shift on the ice.  His midget hockey team was up against a rival out-of-town team with some boys on defense who outweighed him by fifty pounds or more.  A finesse player, he hadn’t been able to skate or stick-handle his way past that defense.  They blocked him and hip-checked him soundly into the boards each time he got the puck.  The coach called a time-out and the players circled in to get some much-needed words of encouragement. I’m not sure what was said, but in the next shift, the boys looked fired up.  When my son was passed the puck behind our team’s net, he looked up the ice with fierce determination.  As a spectator watching the events unfold, it seemed like he was skating in slow motion.  He managed to weave his way almost effortlessly past the opposing players only to face the tallest boy on defense who stood like a sentinel barring his way.  I wished I had the presence of mind to film what happened next, because it was talked about for months after.  In a moment of desperation, my son slid the puck to one side and then ducked under and between the boy’s long legs to pick up the puck again so he could fire a wrist shot past the stunned goalie and into the net.  The home team fans, myself the loudest, erupted in one great cheer as my son skated past his bench, high-fiving his teammates as they congratulated him.

After the goal, my son excitedly shared with his team mates what had transpired on the ice that led to that spectacular goal.  “When I got the puck, I remembered my favorite Bible Verse: ‘I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me’.  I just kept saying it over and over to myself all the way down the ice!”

Through the years, my son has been greatly encouraged by Philippians 4:13 motivating him to even have the verse tattooed on his body.  As a mom, I am so thankful that my children find strength in Christ and His Word.  Still, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out, that Philippians 4:13 really has nothing to do with he or anyone else being “successful” at school, in business, or in scoring spectacular hockey goals.  The verse has everything to do with being content regardless of life’s circumstances.

When he wrote the letter to the church in Philippi, the Apostle Paul was under house arrest awaiting trial, and based on previous experiences with those who opposed his preaching, Paul fully expected that this time he would be put to death if found guilty.  Paul had faced all kinds of suffering as he alludes to in vs. 12., but he had learned to be content in any kind of circumstance whether good or bad.  He was trying to teach the young church in Philippi that he could endure any and every hardship, including a death sentence if it came to that, because he knew Christ would give him the strength to endure anything.  He could make the best of his situation because he was not focused on his personal circumstances but on Christ alone.

I have discovered that when we interpret Scripture in an attempt to prop up self and boast about our personal accomplishments, we’ve likely got it wrong.  Scripture focuses on God’s Glory, not ours.  With our misinterpretation of Philippians 4:13, we tend to focus on our achievements rather than give full credit to God.  “I can do all things” with God’s help.  While it is true, God can give us victories, the focus should never be on us, but always centred fully on God.  Let’s go back to my son’s hockey game.

Although the outcome achieved was a favourable one in that my son scored a goal, he was able to credit his achievement by giving God the Glory.  It was a way to share his faith with his teammates in a tangible way.  That said, I wonder what he might have done or felt if he hadn’t scored the goal.  Would he have lost faith in God?  Would he have been angry, dejected, or hurt that his favourite Scripture verse did not deliver a positive result?  Would he have shared the verse with his teammates regardless?

My son has grown up and has experienced both victories and defeats, but he has learned to focus on God knowing He remains trustworthy in every circumstance.  Philippians 4:13 allows us to once again yield to God’s Sovereignty in our lives.  We need not sink under times of trial because He will strengthen us.  We need not fall into temptation, as I wrote in my previous blog posting, because He provides the means for us to endure and not succumb to temptations.  We need not fear, worry or be anxious because Jesus will strengthen us, bolster us, and give us courage to face any adversity.  We can be content in any circumstance because we know He will never leave us or forsake us.

No matter what trials, temptations and challenges you may face today, friend, use Philippians 4:13 to encourage you today!

 

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Most Misinterpreted Scripture Verses – 1 Corinthians 10:13

I cringed when he said it.  He was using the verse to strengthen his argument but although his intention was good, misinterpreting Scripture, and using it out of context, hindered the point he was trying to make.  On Journey Thoughts some of my most popular posts are 25 Encouraging Verses that are topical in nature.  I am delighted people turn to these posts so frequently, but I also encourage people to READ THE VERSES IN CONTEXT to get the full meaning of the text!

Many times we don’t even realize we’ve put our own “spin” on Scripture until it’s pointed out to us.  This has prompted me to write a series of blogs on some of the most popular Bible verses that are often misused or misinterpreted.  The first one being the verse that had me cringing last night:

“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”  1 Corinthians 10:13  (NIV)

Other translations read: “He will not allow you to be tempted more than you can take.” (NLV) or “He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can handle.” (The Voice) or “he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability.” (ESV)  I focus on that little phrase within that verse because that’s what trips up more people to misunderstand this entire passage.  Many people use that verse to claim that God will not allow them to face anything that’s too difficult a task.  Or they take comfort knowing God will not allow them to be “tempted” or “tested” beyond what they are able to handle.  The problem with that interpretation is that in my experience, God DOES allow people to be “tested” and/or “tempted” way beyond what they can bear.  If this were not so the Apostle Paul is contradicting himself when he says in 2 Corinthians 1:8 “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself.”

I think about my young friend, a mom with three children, who is fighting Stage 4 metastatic breast cancer.  Another friend, who is grieving the loss of her precious son to suicide.  There are people who are picking up the pieces after a tornado ripped through their neighbourhood in Ottawa.  More often than not, I hear about people going through the most difficult of times and I know it is way more than they can bear.  When I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001, I faced a situation I could not handle…on my own.  The misinterpretation of that verse makes people question God, and decry the unfairness of life.  Why does God allow bad things to happen?  He promised we would never face more than we can bear!

We have completely missed the meaning and message of that Bible verse because we have completely misinterpreted it!

Read the Scripture in context to glean its full meaning.  Paul in 1 Corinthians 10, is warning the church, using Israel’s past history to prove his point, that they will face all manner of temptations but as long as they anchor themselves to God He will give them the spiritual strength to handle whatever they may face.  God will not allow any temptation to come their way that they are unable to resist.  The entire passage is about temptation and the fact that people fall into temptation when they are being disobedient and rebellious.   Verse 12 warns: “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!”

Sin is insidious.  When people are not following God, when they insist on going their own way and not obeying God, sin, disguised as temptation, will lure them in.  Verse 14 says the solution to being tempted is to “flee” but if we ignore that advice and instead succumb to temptation, God will, in His mercy, help us by providing a way out.  He will ask us to repent, to be restored to a right relationship with Him first.  Leaning on Him, we can endure the consequences that follow as a result of our disobedience.  He won’t remove the consequences, but He will give us the strength we need to handle them.

The promise is not that God won’t let bad things happen, but when they happen, we are to trust that God is bigger than any problem, trial, or temptation we may go through in life.

Be encouraged, friend.  Are you feeling tempted by sin’s pull?  Flee!  God’s got your back!  With His help you can overcome any temptation.  Have you already fallen into temptation?  Don’t be disheartened.  Face the consequences, repent and ask God’s forgiveness.  God will give you the strength you need to endure.

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”  Isaiah 41:10

 

 

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