Over the years I have heard all kinds of Scripture used and misused all kind of ways. Here are some of the most misunderstood and misinterpreted among them:
Proverbs 29:18a– the KJV rendering says “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” Consequently this verse has been widely used to promote the need for visionary thinking, leadership, etc. Nice and needed thoughts but actually this text does not support them. The NIV (and other versions including the NKJV) more accurately translates this verse as “Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint.” Totally different (and more proper) meaning here.
1st Corinthians 6:12– “‘Everything is permissible for me.'” I have heard this phrase (which Paul repeats later in this book in 10: 23) misused in a variety of ways usually connected to an idea that Paul was somehow granting the Christan some type of extra measure of freedom to engage in what might be considered questionable or disputable activities. But if you look closely at the text you will see that these are actually not even Paul’s own words. He is quoting someone else here- probably those who were advocating the same type of philosophy as those who misuse this text now. In reality Paul was teaching against this kind of thinking and using their own quotes (“”Food for the stomach and the stomach for food.'” ) to stress the importance of responsible Christian behavior when it came to morality and exercising Christian freedom.
John 9:31– “Now we know that God heareth not sinners.” (KJV) There is really nothing wrong with the KJV translation of this text- what is wrong is how it has been taken out of context and misused to prop-up a false idea that “God does not hear sinner’s prayers.” The context of this verse is about certain Jews’ reaction to Jesus healing a man who had been born blind. Obviously these were Jews who opposed Jesus and were wanting to discredit this miracle. They set out investigating it- including an interrogation of the healed man. It was, in fact, the healed man who spoke these words in an attempt to explain what happened and defend himself. These words are simply recorded by the Holy Spirit as part of that conversation and were never intended to form the basis for some doctrine about who God does and does not hear in prayer. For way too long this verse was used as sort of a condescending battering ram to discourage “sinners” from praying. We know from other texts that God hears and receives all who “earnestly seek him” and while sin does separate us from God- any sinner (and that includes all of us by the way) sincerely seeking him will be heard and will find him.
Matthew 24:6– “Wars and rumors of wars.” This phrase is taken from an entire body of prophetic teaching by Christ concerning what the heading in most Bibles indicates are “Signs of the End of the Age.” Most take this to mean the apocalypse or end of the world and anytime a war breaks out they quote this sentence to warn of impending doom, but this is not the meaning of Christ’s teaching here at all. While there are some “end-time” components later in this section of Scripture, Christ in verse six and the immediate surrounding text was speaking about what we now call “the destruction of Jerusalem” which occurred in 70 AD. Here he is warning those in this city to flee beforehand so as to escape the wrath of the Romans who carried out this devastation to squelch the Jewish freedom fighter’s acts of terrorism and defiance. Read the entire text. Jesus encouraged fleeing to the mountains, expressed concern for pregnant women who may have to flee and hoped that this would not occur in winter. What difference would any of this make if it were truly the end time? So don’t use “wars and rumors of wars” as a proof-text on the end of the world. If you do you will constantly be in turmoil- war and the possibility of war is always with us.
Last but not least there is this- and it could simply be just legend. Mark chapter thirteen is Mark’s account of Christ’s prophetic teachings we just visited in Matthew 24. In verse 15 he records Jesus saying this: “And let him that is on the housetop not go down into the house..” It is reported that one preacher- years ago- used this text to preach against the then growing and popular practice of women putting their hair in buns and not letting it flow naturally down. The title of the sermon- at least when spoken- sounded like a direct quote from Mark 13:15– “Top Knot Go Down”!
Now that was extreme! But it just proves that without proper interpretation we can make Scripture say anything. One major problem with all of this type of interpretation is approaching Scripture only as a “proof-text”- that is, reading it to prove what we already believe or to prove some point we want to make. Not a single word of Scripture was ever written as a proof-text. Scripture is about God recording real events and using real people in their culture and setting and using them, their words and examples to teach everlasting heavenly principles, doctrine and values. And we must always root every text within its original context before we begin making contemporary applications or we could easily create more misunderstood Scripture.
How about it? Agree or disagree?
Maybe you have more misunderstood Scriptures to add to my list.