Written by Anne L. Bicks, Editor
It’s a breakdown in communication; a text completely misinterpreted, perhaps to ease a conscience and conform with desires. How many of us spew a bible verse to defend our actions yet we’re not able to tell the rest of the context of His message? Yes, the Bible is so misunderstood by many Christians because it is changed to fit our beliefs instead of allowing it to change us. If we pick and choose single phrases and misinterpret them according to our needs, we reduce the meaning of God’s living word. Maybe it’s time for an “oops” moment – a time for self-reflection. Let’s drop our guard now and examine some of those verses….
This verse was addressed to the Lord’s disciples as a guide in their personal lives. It was not intended to be interpreted as wealth and material possessions for all who read the Bible. God told the disciples to support others poor in spirit yet rich in Christ. The correct message relayed to them was those disciples who are poor, find their wealth in Christ; find ways to better the economy and distribute the gifts of God to the impoverished so they may discover God’s Kingdom too.
Christians in developing countries see Jesus delivering a hopeful message about real economic need, but this is incorrect. We must realize that not everything in the Bible is written to us. If the passage is addressed to another group, such as the disciples in this passage, then we should understand it will not be directly related to us.
Yet another verse falsely spoken as Matthew 7:3-5 thoroughly explains the rest of its meaning. At first view, it looks very much like Jesus is telling us not to criticize or find fault with someone’s lifestyle. But in the rest of this section, Jesus better explains the method to follow for judging others (and yes, we are allowed to judge!):
We are to first acknowledge and repent our own similar sin, taking the speck out of our own eye. Once we have them under control, we are then enabled to help other people deal with their issues. We are not to behave judgmentally but get involved modestly and through the community of the church. If a person in the church is openly sinning, then you must make a judgment on this.
God sets up a strong moral ethic that reflects what it means to love God with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself. He does not suggest we have no right to hold others accountable. But, if you are committing the very same sin and are unwilling to address it or break free from it, then judgment on others is a sin. The Bible makes it clear we must spur one another on to live lives that please God.
Doesn’t this text, alone, imply God’s love, strength, and our prayers are only heard amongst two or more people gathered in His name? This passage is so misunderstood as well. As you continue to read the rest of God’s words, it is interpreted to apply to disagreements within the church only. It is about church discipline and that if two or three witnesses of sin agree on the matter, then Jesus is also in agreement with them (verse 16). In other words, when church leaders are mediating a problem between its members, the solution and a covenant are made between the parties in which Jesus is involved in that agreement. Far different than the interpretation used today, isn’t it? Once again, this passage is taken out of context because only a small portion is read instead of the entire verse.
Wouldn’t it be great if God used these words to claim He will make us rich or never have any need or want? Yes, it would be, but unfortunately, this isn’t the correct context. It says that God will supply the Philippians’ every need, not their every greed. God will bless us with the basics of our needs – not the riches of the world.
Many passage’s promises made in the Old Testament were specific to the nation of Israel and are not applicable to Christian living of today. Before we claim any portion of Scripture for ourselves, we better make sure it is addressed to our current day life. Be sure to interpret verses within the complete chapter it is written in, not according to our own preconceived ideas of what is right and wrong, true or false.
I would like to conclude this blog by saying that I was raised attending church, Sunday School classes as well as adult bible study classes. We were taught and asked to memorize particular passages of the Bible which were pertinent to leading a godly and Christian life. Some of those verses were listed above yet never once did anyone describe the full context of the passages. I believe we are all guilty of self-interpretation so it is important to say that we must be diligent in understanding all other text around a verse. Let us not be complacent!