Most Often Abused Bible Verses #1

October 13, 2015 by cloften  
Filed under Bible, Church and Leadership

Starting a new series here.  Don’t let the number one confuse you.  I’m not saying that this is the most misused, just the first in the series.  For a similar series, check out Stuff Christians Need to Stop Saying from 5 years ago.

more-than-handle-1It seems far too often that the more often we quote a Bible verse and the more often it shows up on inspirational posters, the more likely that verse is being abused in some way.  Sometimes we misquote it.  Sometimes we take it out of context.  Sometimes we just misunderstand what it is saying.  Sometimes we abuse a verse to say something that is true, and other times to we make the Bible say something we want to be true but isn’t.  I encourage you to follow along with this series over the next few weeks.  This will help our theology and our Bible study skills.

The Verse:

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. I Corinthians 10:13

What we think that it means:

“God will never give me more than I can handle.” The circumstances of my life will never get so overwhelming that I won’t be able to handle it.  In fact, when my circumstances feel overwhelming, I can take some pride in that because it shows that “God thinks a lot of me and what I am able to handle.”

Why that is a bad interpretation:

This verse is not talking about the circumstances of your life.   Paul is talking about the temptation to sin.  The temptations that you experience are common to everyone and will not be more than you can bear.  He is talking about temptation not the trials and challenges of life. The challenges of life can be sources of temptation but Paul is not speaking to simply the times when life is overwhelming

Even if we get that right, Paul is also not talking about your ability to bear those temptations.  He does say that God won’t give you more temptation than you can bear, and if the verse ended there perhaps we could take some pride in our ability.  However, the verse doesn’t end there.  Paul says that God is the one that delivers us.

Furthermore, if this verse is talking about temptation and my ability to bear it, then it is verifiably false.  I am tempted beyond what I can bear all the time, because I choose the temptation.  I fail to take the way out that God is offering.  Instead, I choose sin.  It is dangerous to believe that this passage speaks highly of our abilities to withstand temptation because it puts the emphasis on the wrong person. I begin to look to myself as the source of my freedom from temptation.

What this verse means:

The temptation to sin is significant, but whatever temptation that you are facing is not uncommon.  In fact, the temptation, no matter how severe, will not be more than you can bear.  You will never be put into a situation where your only choice is sin.  Because no matter how severe the temptation to sin is, no matter how much the sin seems inevitable, God will provide a way out.  Again, God will provide the way out.  We experience the power of this verse, not when we take pride in God’s view of us in believing we can handle adversity, but when we are in the middle of great temptation and we choose God and his way out.

Sin is never inevitable.  Way too many of us become completely overwhelmed.  Even now, many of us feel like there is a recurring sin in our lives that we will never defeat.  We have resigned ourselves to continual defeat.  However, Paul has made it clear here that is not the case.  God has provided a way out for you.  When we choose to rely on our own strength to fight temptation, when we falsely believe that we can bear it, we end up deeper and deeper in trouble.  So when the potentially overwhelming temptation comes, do not look to your strength to bear, humbly look to God and ask for him to give you the way out.

So, by all means, make an inspirational poster of this verse.  Use this verse to inspire you when you are hopeless and sin seems to be getting the best of you.  However, when you look at the poster, your next look needs to be to God.  With that look, you will see the way out.

Stuff Christians Need to Stop Saying #9

March 3, 2010 by cloften  
Filed under Family and Parenting

You know sometimes there is a huge gap between the production of sequels.  It seems that for a while they are popping out with wreckless abandon every 12-18 months and then they stop.  Why is that?  One reason is that the last one was so terrible that you want people to get the bad taste out of their mouth (Rocky V).  Sometimes it’s because the actor gets too big for his britches (arrogant for those of you who live outside the southern U.S.) and thinks he has become “too big” for the role then the actor needs to cash a check for some reason and after waiting on the “perfect script” they make one and lay a giant rotten egg (Indiana Jones).

Sometimes the author just gets really busy and distracted.

Set up: You or someone you know is going through some tough times.  It seems to be overwhelming.

Response: Well, you know, the Bible says that God won’t give you more than you can handle.

Sometimes people will go even further than that.  People begin to take pride in the trials that they are going through.  “God must think a lot of me, otherwise he wouldn’t put all of this on me.  He thinks I can handle a lot.”

“Now wait a minute, Cloften.  I have bared with this series for most of my adult life, or a month I can’t remember which.  I haven’t always agreed with you, but this is too far.  I know that is in the Bible.”

Ok, here is your verse:

I Corinthians 10:13

No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. 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 stand up under it.

What does this passage say?  First of all, it is talking about temptation.  If you are tempted to sin, you will not be tempted in such a way that you will only be left with the option of sin.    If it speaks to anything, it speaks against a false view of “lesser of two evils” that says that we are put into situations where all we can do is sin.  There is no temptation to sin that is so great that you must choose sin.

Secondly, where does the way out come from?  The way out comes from God.  If the only ways you can overcome sin came from you, the verse wouldn’t make sense. I am tempted to sin beyond what I can handle all the time, noted by the fact of my persistent sin problem.  However, God always provides a way out.  Again, God always provides a way out.  Some face temptation in their lives and read this verse and believe that they can have confidence in themselves alone to overcome.  If that is true of you, then 1, you misunderstand your own personal history with overcoming sin and B, you haven’t read the rest of the verse.  We can have confidence in God, not us.

Even if you want to extend this passage beyond the temptation to sin (which is what Paul is talking about) and include the overwheming circumstances of life, it is only in God that we can find the way out.  Never have I met someone who took on a heavy burden and walked through it, that came out on the other side and said, “Wow I didn’t know that I could do that.”  They will tell a story about how God met them in their pain and how God brought others into their lives.

Overcoming the temptations and trials in your life is not about your perceived capacity to stand up against “what you can handle.”  It is about God filling, strengthening and leading humble broken people well beyond what they could handle on their own without God.