Originally published Friday, 05 June 2015.
Bible verses need a home. When they get plucked out of their dwelling place—that is, the surrounding paragraphs—they can make a great deal of mischief. Many times, isolated verses can cause damage to our understanding of the truths of Scripture. They can get tossed around to end arguments, shut down discussion, and instill false hope. That’s why one verse a day isn’t enough. You need hearty daily bread, not a daily crumb.
So, if you’ve mastered the verses that aren’t in the Bible, now make sure you know the true meaning of these 3 commonly misused verses. After all, when we truly understand what they say, our knowledge of God grows, too.
1. “Do not judge….” Matthew 7:1a
This one seems so straightforward on the surface. When Jesus was explaining how Christians should live the Kingdom life, He explicitly told us not to judge… anyone... ever. At least, that’s how some have come to understand this verse. If anyone questions their lifestyle choices, moral decisions, or actions, they remind us that Jesus said not to judge.
But we need to be careful how we use this verse by understanding what’s happening. Namely, this verse comes in the middle of the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus explains to His followers what a God-first life looks like. He shows them why they don’t need to worry, how they should pray, how they should fast, and so much more. His main concern, in fact, involves believers and how they treat other believers or “brothers” (i.e., the Church). In other words, this isn’t really a discussion of confronting someone in sin as it is examining someone else’s Christian walk.
Even still, Jesus tells us that the problem isn’t in judging itself. The problem is in that we must judge a matter in the same way that we would want to be judged (a form of the Golden Rule from Matthew 7:12). And if we are to be fit to do the judging, we must do so only after examining ourselves (Matthew 7:5; Romans 2:1).
After all, Jesus—only a few paragraphs later—says that we must watch out for “false prophets” by looking at their fruit (7:15–19). We cannot do so without making a biblical judgment about their lives. Otherwise, we’d be in danger of accepting any teaching without testing it by the Bible.
In addition, God has already declared what is sinful in His Word, and we know that His rulings about morals, lifestyle chioces, and actions are always right. It is not “judging” anyone if we point out what God says about a certain sin. The ruling has already come, and showing them that something is against God’s perfect standard is the most loving thing we can do:
“Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases?” (1 Corinthians 6:2)
So, while we must be very careful about examining ourselves first and treating others with love, we also must judge when judgment is warranted or God has already declared a verdict.
2. “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.” Galatians 6:7
What goes around comes around, karma, poetic justice, sowing and reaping—for many, this Bible verse proves the concept of getting what we deserve. If someone hurts us or treats us badly, we know they’ll reap what they sow. Right?
Well, that’s not exactly what this verse means. In fact, taking a look at the context shows that the idea isn’t about some “cosmic retribution”; it’s really about how we live our lives. Let’s step down one verse:
“The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” (Galatians 6:8)
In other words, when we live a life to please ourselves and satisfy all our desires, we do reap the consequences of our actions. These include heartache, shame, regret, fear, physical effects, and more. Our earthly appetites can cause real damage, not to mention the spiritual ramifications. But when we pour ourselves into Spirit-led living, we reap eternal treasures.
Really, the idea of “karma” is completely contrary to God’s Word. Why? Because we humans deserve one thing, and that’s death:
“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)
We all sin, but we don’t get what we deserve. We get grace instead—all of us. In fact, you could say that God even blesses the “evil” and “unrighteous” (Matthew 5:45). His love is so powerful that Jesus came to earth to blast karma to pieces by taking the “reaping” that we should have gotten:
“For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.” (1 Peter 3:18)
To be sure, sin-obsessed living will lead to physical consequences. But God’s mercy and patience mean that He gives us the opportunity to turn to Him (1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9). We don’t deserve the chance, but we get it anyway. We pray that you will take it if you haven’t already.
3. “A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies.” Proverbs 31:10
This one isn’t so much just the verse as it is the whole chapter. We know this virtuous lady as the Proverbs 31 woman, but for many wives out there trying to live up to the example, the better name might be “impossible standard woman.” After all, she rises up before it should be legal, goes to bad crazy late, and has her hands in every single aspect of the household. She does it all with a smile and nary any bags under her eyes.
But using this chapter as the definitive job description for a wife isn’t really fair to anyone. Husbands who expect their wives to do everything listed will be sorely disappointed, and the wives who try to make it happen will be sorely exhausted. What was supposed to be encouraging and affirming becomes something that is, instead, a big pain.
Here’s the secret, though. Proverbs 31 works like an amalgamation, a collection of snapshots of women of faith and solid character. (You could think of it like the hall of fame of great wives and some of the amazing things they do for us.) One wife like this wakes up early to get things ready for her house; one knows how to make savvy business deals; one makes clothes like nobody’s business. Some may even have done a couple of them well.
But the point is that the noble wife is a godly woman who loves her family and blesses them. She uses the gifts and talents God has given her uniquely. How she uses her gifts depends upon the situation and what God leads her to do. That doesn’t mean she’s a failure if she doesn’t sew her own clothes; it means she’s a success if she allows God to use her to point her family and others to Christ.
Photo credit: ©GettyImages/Ozge Emir