Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. The Most Misused Bible Verse

 

shutterstock_140876329Just today on my Facebook page, a friend complained about how her church is “homophobic.”I asked what they said that was homophobic. If they’re liberally using homosexual slurs or saying God hates gays or announcing that we should persecute homosexuals, then I’ll agree her church is homophobic. If they’re just preaching that homosexuality is a sin, she needs to come to terms with the fact that what they’re preaching is exactly what the Bible says. If you think that saying homosexuality is wrong is homophobic, then the Bible is a homophobic document.

But that’s not really what inspired this post — that would be all the commenters chiming in about how Christians are “not supposed to judge.” The verse that they are alluding to is Matthew Chapter 7, Verse 1, where Jesus says to his follower “Judge not, lest ye be judged.”

In my opinion, this the most abused and least understood scripture used in modern popular culture. It upsets me every time I hear someone misuse that verse.

Saying a certain behavior is sin is “judging” and unchristian? So what if somebody murders somebody and I say, “That’s wrong”? What if a guy is molesting children and I say, “That’s wrong”? What if I say homophobia is wrong? Aren’t all these instances of me judging behaviors? And that means I’m no longer following the teachings of Christ!?

That’s funny, because, if I recall correctly, Christ spent quite a lot of time judging certain behaviors. He didn’t mince words condemning the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, the money-changing in the temple, the pride of the wealthy, or even the pride of his own apostles. He even condemned thinking bad things. And his disciples followed suit in judging behaviors and condemning all sorts of things, including people’s private sexual behavior.

What Christ meant in saying “Judge not” was that we should not be self-righteous; that we shouldn’t immediately think the worst of everybody; that we shouldn’t obsess over others’ flaws while ignoring our own; and that we should be charitable to others in the way we hope God will be charitable to us on judgment day. He did not mean that we can’t call a sin a sin, or that we shouldn’t warn individuals about behaviors we believe will lead to spiritual destruction (again, something we see Jesus and his disciples do again and again in the New Testament).

When most people reference that verse nowadays they are latching on to it without context and using it as a cop-out to avoid having to seriously deal with politically incorrect Bible verses and teachings (and ignoring mounds of other Bible verses that contradict their interpretation of that verse)

Are there any other Bible verses you can think of whose meaning has become mangled by modern society?

There are 90 comments.

  1. MJBubba Inactive

    We are supposed to put the “best construction” to interpret other’s actions or motives. We are not called to judge.

    We are called to proclaim that there will be a judgement.

    If you are sounding a warning, that is very much different than pronouncing a judgement.

    • #1
    • June 22, 2014, at 2:16 PM PDT
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  2. Knotwise the Poet Member
    Knotwise the Poet

    MJBubba:

    We are supposed to put the “best construction” to interpret other’s actions or motives. We are not called to judge.

    We are called to proclaim that there will be a judgement.

    If you are sounding a warning, that is very much different than pronouncing a judgement.

     But you can tell somebody what they’re doing is wrong. We can’t take on the role of God and pronounce a final judgment on anyone. But we can certainly discriminate (“by their fruits ye shall know them”). The thing is, the word judge, like most if not all words, has different meanings in different contexts.

    • #2
    • June 22, 2014, at 2:27 PM PDT
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  3. Mike Rapkoch Moderator

    This may be the most often ignored verse in the Bible:

    “If I say to the wicked, O wicked one, you shall surely die, and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from his way, that wicked person shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, that person shall die in his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul.” Ezekiel 33: 7-12.
    The Catholic Church identifies the admonishment of sinners as a Spiritual Act of Mercy. A duty. I’d certainly like to be admonished–it’s vastly superior to be coddled in my sin, and thereby lose my soul.

    • #3
    • June 22, 2014, at 2:31 PM PDT
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  4. Knotwise the Poet Member
    Knotwise the Poet

    MJBubba:

    We are supposed to put the “best construction” to interpret other’s actions or motives. We are not called to judge.

    Thanks for the using the “best construction” phrase. That’s what I was going for when I wrote “not assume the worst of everybody,” but couldn’t quite figure out how to say it.

    • #4
    • June 22, 2014, at 2:41 PM PDT
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  5. MJBubba Inactive

    In a conversation at Ricochet last year, one of those same-sex “marriage” posts, after we got past 300 comments the number of participants dropped off and I ended up in an exchange with a member who self-identified as homosexual. After he stated that he understood that my motive was one rooted in my concern for the fate of his soul, he went on to say that, even though he did not believe in souls or G-d or the Bible or a judgement, nevertheless he felt bad when I said that the Bible says that homosexual behavior is sinful. Therefore he was justified in calling me hateful and bigoted.

    When I mentioned that I pray for him, he rejoined that that made things worse.

    • #5
    • June 22, 2014, at 3:53 PM PDT
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  6. Arahant Member

    MJBubba: When I mentioned that I pray for him, he rejoined that that made things worse.

    Expecting logic when someone feels bad about something?

    • #6
    • June 22, 2014, at 4:47 PM PDT
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  7. Profile Photo Member

    Funny at church we talked about this. Later in the chapter it says beware of false prophets. We must be able to discern from the good and the bad. We must also judge ourselves first before we take the “mote” from our brothers eye.

    • #7
    • June 22, 2014, at 4:47 PM PDT
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  8. Brad B. Inactive

    I have always take it to mean as you say not to be self-righteous. Don’t judge people by standards you are not willing to hold yourself to. If I’m willing to hold myself to a certain standard and I hold others to the same standard, then judge away!

    • #8
    • June 22, 2014, at 4:56 PM PDT
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  9. Merina Smith Inactive

    You’re right, Knotwise. That “judge not” thing is used very selectively. Homosexuality is actually a new concept. In the Bible, the act of sodomy is condemned, but there is no homosexual identity. It’s an important difference, a way of condemning behavior without condemning the person and their identity. Ironically, though, I think it is only having a sense of sin and redemption and recognizing God as the judge that allows us to be tolerant. If we recognize that there is sin as delineated in the Bible but also that God is the judge, we have the wherewithal to recognize sin while allowing people to make their own choices. The truly self-righteous are those who see only themselves and their views as arbiters of sin. If you disagree with them, they are the judge and you are evil.

    • #9
    • June 22, 2014, at 5:01 PM PDT
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  10. MJBubba Inactive

    “…judge away!”

    Not so fast.

    We do not know many of the relevant circumstances. Some folk have never heard the Gospel, or have heard a defective version of the Gospel, or are confused due to emotional stresses, or are reacting to wrong actions by Christians who were behaving badly. Some may be struggling with mental illness, or even torment by demons. We can never truly know the extents of the burdens that weigh a neighbor down.

    The Ricochet member that I was in conversation with last year, after defending his calling me a hateful bigot, expressed the view that he is sure I am really a nice guy.

    It turned out he had been raised as a non-practicing Christian-in-name-only, and is only recently putting together a coherent view of the Christian message.

    I continue to pray.

    • #10
    • June 22, 2014, at 5:10 PM PDT
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  11. Knotwise the Poet Member
    Knotwise the Poet

    I’d also like to be clear that when I say homosexuality is a sin, I don’t mean same-sex attraction is a sin. For whatever reason (nature/nurture/whatever) there is a small percentage of people that end up in the boat of being attracted to people of the same sex whether they want to feel that way or not. Most married men are also naturally attracted to pretty women who are not their wife. I believe it’s in the actual lusting and acting on those feelings that is sin.

    • #11
    • June 22, 2014, at 5:37 PM PDT
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  12. Knotwise the Poet Member
    Knotwise the Poet

    Anyways, my main point in creating this thread was not to get into just a discussion Christian beliefs regarding same-sex acts (though I myself have just commented on that topic again), but about popular misinterpretations of Bible verses. I pointed out one. Mike Rapkoch pointed out one that is often ignored.

    Any other verses people cant think of that have been popularly misused or ignored?

    • #12
    • June 22, 2014, at 5:45 PM PDT
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  13. Probable Cause Inactive

    Another verse fast overtaking “Judge not” is “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). The abuse is that people use it as if a.) God is speaking to his people, and b.) He is telling them to sit quietly and contemplate.

    Rather, the psalm shows God defending a threatened Jerusalem. Then in verse 8 we see the action (NAS):

    Come, behold the works of the LORD,

    Who has wrought desolations in the earth.

    He makes wars to cease to the end of the earth.

    He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two.

    He burns the chariots with fire.

    Cease your striving and know that I am God;

    I will be exalted among the nations,

    I will be exalted in the earth.”

    So in reality, God is speaking primarily to the enemies of Jerusalem, and he is telling them to quit making war against it.

    What is the message to His people? That’s actually in verse 11 (also in v. 7 and paraphrased in v. 1):

    The Lord of hosts is with us;

    The God of Jacob is our stronghold. Selah.

    • #13
    • June 22, 2014, at 5:53 PM PDT
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  14. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I think you’ve chosen one of the most frequently abused verses. People love to think of themselves as “non-judgmental,” but it’s nonsense and not actually what the Scripture is calling for. Our ability to reason and discern (judge, if you will) is one of the characteristics which reveals our likeness to God.

    The very next verse implies that we should judge rightly (For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you). This suggests we should be “fruit inspectors,” not judging the intent or motivations of others, as only God knows what is in a person’s heart. Rather, we should generously assume good intentions (as we hope for God’s mercy), and only assess the behaviors as either being of God (good) or not (evil). 

    The other abused verse is “turn the other cheek.” People use it to invoke pacifism when it is no such thing. It is a rebuke from a position of righteousness, and a challenge to the offender to either elevate his behavior (refrain from worse) or sink lower in his depravity.

    Examples follow…

    • #14
    • June 22, 2014, at 6:15 PM PDT
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  15. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Two examples of the proper interpretation and application of “turn the other cheek” come from Desmond Tutu and Blessed Mother Theresa. 

    Tutu was crossing a muddy plaza on a boardwalk once when an Afrikaner approached him from the opposite direction saying, “Step off. I don’t make way for apes.” Tutu stepped off the boardwalk into the mud and replied, “I do.”

    Blessed Theresa once approached a bread baker asking for bread for a poor, starving child she had taken off the street. The baker spat in Theresa’s face. Blessed Theresa wiped her face and, still holding the hand of the little girl, asked, “Now, do you have something for the child?”

    These are examples of “turning the other cheek.” It’s not being a doormat. It’s outwitting and facing down the aggressor, calling him to either do his worst, or become a better person for the encounter.

    • #15
    • June 22, 2014, at 6:24 PM PDT
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  16. Randy Weivoda Moderator
    Randy Weivoda Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    People often quote the words “money is the root of all evil” when the full sentence is “Love of money is the root of all evil.” I personally favor Mark Twain’s version, “Lack of money is the root of all evil.”

    • #16
    • June 22, 2014, at 7:05 PM PDT
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  17. Paul Erickson Member

    “Wives, be submissive to your husbands.”

    Because a couple verses later, “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church.”

    I ask you… who has the tougher job?

    Edit: In SSM, which submits to whom?

    • #17
    • June 22, 2014, at 7:09 PM PDT
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  18. kylez Member
    kylez Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    drives me crazy too. it is something they always say about you, for their own purposes, but never about themselves about anything they oppose.

    • #18
    • June 22, 2014, at 8:55 PM PDT
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  19. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Western Chauvinist: These are examples of “turning the other cheek.” It’s not being a doormat. It’s outwitting and facing down the aggressor, calling him to either do his worst, or become a better person for the encounter.

    Yes, that’s another one. Properly, it’s attempting to reveal to a person his or her own sin or the consequences of it, or perhaps revealing to others nearby the evil of the act. It’s allowing oneself to be vulnerable when there is an opportunity for good. It is not an act of pride, though revealing the strength of faith by endurance can also be helpful. Love is always looking beyond the self.

    A common example is refusing to respond to a callous and hurtful remark with a similar remark. Sometimes a sharp response is merited. When someone uses the word “homophobia”, for example, I refuse to proceed with the conversation unless that word is recognized as fruitless, fictional ad hominem. On the other hand, when someone is slinging insults simply to hurt, responding in kind only encourages them. 

    In any case, it is the difference between revenge and justice. Revenge seeks only to hurt as oneself has been hurt. Justice is about restoring harmony, both by discouraging future wrongs and by extending mercy to the penitent wrongdoer.

    God is not only merciful but just. And He sometimes acts through warriors like King David, St Michael, and St Joan of Arc.

    • #19
    • June 22, 2014, at 9:37 PM PDT
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  20. PsychLynne Inactive

    My experience with misquoted, misapplied versus is long and deep, but the one that irks me every time is when someone quotes Romans 8:28 at the time of death – For we know that all things work together for good to them that know God and are called according to his purpose.

    At my father’s funeral, my sister and I actually set up hand signals to cue the other to come rescue us from being “8:28-ed”
    I should note, that through much of my Christian experience, I haven’t disagreed with the theology, but I’m a bit horrified by the lack of social skills of my fellow believers.

    • #20
    • June 23, 2014, at 3:54 AM PDT
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  21. Tom Meyer, Common Citizen Contributor

    MJBubba: When I mentioned that I pray for him, he rejoined that that made things worse.

    In the context of a theological discussion — especially a contentious one — “I’ll pray for you” is a dangerous thing to say. No matter how kindly it’s intended, it can be heard as de-legitimizing the listeners’ position while stealing the moral high-ground.

    • #21
    • June 23, 2014, at 7:00 AM PDT
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  22. Tom Meyer, Common Citizen Contributor

    Western Chauvinist: “Step off. I don’t make way for apes.” Tutu stepped off the boardwalk into the mud and replied, “I do.”

     Ouch.

    • #22
    • June 23, 2014, at 7:04 AM PDT
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  23. donald todd Inactive

    While not directly scripture, one is reminded of the directive to “hate the sin and love the sinner” which is transparently exactly what Jesus did. To put a fine point on it, He did so when He was dying on a cross and said, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”

    • #23
    • June 23, 2014, at 7:14 AM PDT
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  24. Lady Randolph Inactive

    As soon as I saw the title of this post, I thought “Judge not lest ye be judged!” So obviously I agree… that verse is quoted so far out of context, people don’t even know what “judging” means anymore. “Don’t judge me!” has become an excuse for doing whatever you want.

    • #24
    • June 23, 2014, at 8:27 AM PDT
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  25. Probable Cause Inactive

    Twisting the topic a bit, here are two fun, related categories.

    1. Things people believe are in the Bible, but aren’t. E.g.: “God helps those who help themselves.” It’s actually from Aesop’s Fables.

    2. Things people say that they don’t realize come from the Bible. E.g.: “Handwriting on the wall.” It’s from Daniel chapter five.

    • #25
    • June 23, 2014, at 8:44 AM PDT
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  26. FloppyDisk90 Member

    Knotwise the Poet: And his disciples followed suit in judging behaviors and condemning all sorts of things, including people’s private sexual behavior.

     Indeed. In fact, none of us are worthy of the Kingdom of Heaven without Jesus’ sacrifice. A fact that should temper our enthusiasm to judge and condemn others. I see Jesus’ condemnation of the Pharisees and his own disciples not as license to be judging of others but as instructive on how infinitesimally narrow the door is. Even the arguably most devout people to walk the Earth were condemned by Jesus for their faults.

    • #26
    • June 23, 2014, at 9:45 AM PDT
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  27. Douglas Inactive

    Thank you for this. I’m so tired of the liberal bumper-sticker-mentality crowd taking Matt 7:1 out of context. It’s a warning against hypocrisy in judgement. Jesus tells us how to judge, for cryin’ out loud:

    “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment” – John 7:24

    Paul goes on to tell us to judge Christian brethren when they fall afoul of the faith, and to expel those that won’t believe from the circles of the faithful:

    “For what have I to do with judging them that are without? Do not ye judge them that are within? But them that are without God judgeth. Put away the wicked man from among yourselves.” 1st Corinthians 5:12-13

    • #27
    • June 23, 2014, at 9:53 AM PDT
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  28. Douglas Inactive

    Lady Randolph:

    As soon as I saw the title of this post, I thought “Judge not lest ye be judged!” So obviously I agree… that verse is quoted so far out of context, people don’t even know what “judging” means anymore. “Don’t judge me!” has become an excuse for doing whatever you want.

     People that quote “Judge Not” usually haven’t read the Bible, or done so only superfluously. Because there’s no way you can read the NT and come away with Jesus of Nazareth being a hippie Buddy Christ that’s one of those “I’m OK, You’re OK” types. Jesus was quite the hard-case, and was quite judgmental about what was right and what was wrong. He was also pretty demanding, to a radical extent: you’re with him, or you’re against him, and if you’re with him, the price is high. He makes this clear over and over. His burden may be light once you accept it, but to accept him, he makes it clear that none can come before him, including your own parents, spouse, or children. You have to hate the world to love him and follow him.

    • #28
    • June 23, 2014, at 10:05 AM PDT
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  29. Cow Girl Thatcher

    One of my pet peeves of scriptural misuse is the term “brother’s keeper.” The only time that it is used in that exact phrase is when Cain is being sarcastic and rude to God, who is asking about the absence of Able. Who is dead, at that point, by his brother Cain’s hand.

    It isn’t used in the Bible anywhere to imply that we are responsible for our fellow man. We are supposed to watch out for and care for each other, yes. But that term–brother’s keeper–is often referenced as the justification for being told that we should cooperate with our overlords in giving up our resources for misguided government instituted “programs.”

    • #29
    • June 23, 2014, at 10:09 AM PDT
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  30. Randy Weivoda Moderator
    Randy Weivoda Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Probable Cause:

    Twisting the topic a bit, here are two fun, related categories.

    1. Things people believe are in the Bible, but aren’t. E.g.: “God helps those who help themselves.” It’s actually from Aesop’s Fables.

    2. Things people say that they don’t realize come from the Bible. E.g.: “Handwriting on the wall.” It’s from Daniel chapter five.

    That should be a whole other post. I’ve heard a few funny examples where someone mixes up the bible with non-biblical legend or something they saw in a movie. My favorite example was when I guy I know talked about the bible story of the Sword of Androcles. I’m sure he meant the Sword of Damocles, which is not a bible story. Androcles was the guy who removed the thorn from the lions paw in one of Aesop’s Fables.

    • #30
    • June 23, 2014, at 10:11 AM PDT
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