- “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32. This verse is often used in reference to “truth” in general as opposed to falsehood in general. As important as “truth” is in any situation, the full passage states “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Knowing the truth is tied to the Truth, the person of Jesus Christ; that is, obeying his teaching and thus giving evidence of being his followers. That’s the condition for knowing the truth that sets one free. It is not just generic truthfulness, as important as that may be. It is Him.
- “Do not judge.” Matthew 7:1. This passage is often used to ward off criticism or an unappreciated attempt at accountability. It is also used by one person to shame another who may be judging the character or behavior of a third party. The passage, however, does not forbid any and all judgment or discernment. New Testament scholar Donald Carson points out the preceding Sermon on the Mount requires “that decisive judgments be made.” The point, rather, is not to judge thoughtlessly, non-reflectively, and with condemnation in mind. That is, make sure you are first taking care of your own stuff! Yes, sometimes we must make judgments, but we also must be sure that we are willing to be judged by the same standard. The command, therefore, is to avoid hypocritical condemnation. The Bible often calls on us (especially as a church body) to discern, evaluate, and even judge the character and behavior of others. It is to be done, however, carefully, humbly, graciously, with love, and for the purpose of restoration (see Galatians 6: 1-5), not rejection or condemnation.
- “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19. Well, yes, he will. However, this passage is too often appropriated by those who confuse needs with wants. It is often taken to be a promise that God will give us anything and everything we want, however and whenever we want it. The context of the passage is Paul’s explanation that he has learned to be content with whatever he has, as little as it may be. He has also learned that God will supply for the needs of the Philippians because they have sacrificed in their gift of support for Paul. This is needs meeting in the context of sacrificial giving.
- “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13. In the same section is the verse infamously appropriated by some when scoring touchdowns, landing a coveted job, qualifying for the American Idol contest, and pretty much getting whatever is dreamed of. Again, yes, God is interested in all aspects of our life. But Paul is saying here that he has found that he can live and minister in whatever situation he finds himself, whether in plenty or in want. The appropriate application is along the lines of “I can live, work, and minister in whatever circumstances I find myself.”
- “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” Proverbs 22:6. This verse if often interpreted as a promise that if parents raise their children the correct way, it is guaranteed children will always do the right thing. Besides the fact that scholars differ on the exact meaning of the verse, experienced parents know that they can do all the right things in the right way, but children, as they get older, will often reject godly teaching and simply choose go to the wrong way. Without a doubt, training kids up in the right way certainly stacks the odds in favor of a godly life, but proverbs are not promises, they are, well, proverbs. That is, they are meant to be wise sayings and instructions for practical living. They state general truths rather than specific commands or promises. They are based on godly experience and are true in that they can be trusted when understood and applied wisely. They are not, however, guarantees or promises. In fact, in some cases they must be applied differently in different situations. See, for example, the complementary sayings in Pr. 26:4 and 5.
What are some of your “favorites”?