Tempted to Believe Lies: Misinterpreted Scripture
Pt. 2: How Jesus Responds to Difficult People & Circumstances
We’ve all heard it, whether it was in-person or online, we’ve had the experience of hearing someone misuse Scripture to justify behavior. Sometimes we’re left scratching our heads thinking, “Did God really mean that?”. Other times, maybe we’ve been in complete agreement without realizing that the interpretation was incorrect.
In my life, “Honor your father and mother” was often used to justify abusive behavior from a parent. It was a way to keep me in line and maintain control all the while inhibiting my emotional and spiritual growth as a child.
God’s Word does tell us to honor our parents in Exodus 20:12, but there are also plenty of other verses on parenting and child-rearing. Using this one verse to justify any behavior from a parent is dangerous and can ultimately damage and misguide a child. Honoring a parent looks different to those with abusive, alcoholic, or negligent parents. And then again, honoring a parent as an adult looks differently than it did as a child.
God’s Word has plenty of other verses on parenting and raising children beyond Exodus 20:12.
“Do not exasperate your children, instead bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4 NIV).
“Do no embitter your children, or they will become discouraged” (Col. 3:21).
“People with understanding control their anger; a hot-tempered person shows great foolishness” (Prov. 14:29 NIV).
“Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self-control” (Prov. 25:28 NIV).
“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly, I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it” (Mark 10:14-15 NIV).
In the full context, parenting and honoring a parent is very complex depending on the parent. My temptation is often to continue to misinterpret Exodus 20:12 as an adult. While I hold love and deep regard for my parent in my heart, it’s not a relationship I can safely maintain at a close distance. I desire above all else for my parent to know Christ, and I continue to pray for that. But because I chose to step away from that unhealthy relationship, I’m often tempted by sadness or guilt to step back into a codependent relationship. I’m also tempted to be concerned about how others may judge me for this decision without really understanding the circumstances.
While our feelings are important, we can’t live by them. The Lord reminds us, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond any cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). If a parent is inhibiting our relationship with the Lord or is abusive, we probably shouldn’t be spending a lot of time with them (1 Cor. 15:33, Prov. 22:24-25, Prov. 13:20). And as adults, if we have children, we have an added responsibility to consider.
This is exactly how Satan tempts us- he attempts to feed our pride, guilt, insecurities, and desires in order to derail us from a relationship with God. While God does desire reconciliation with others, we can’t reconcile with someone who doesn’t repent or desire to change unhealthy behaviors. Misinterpreted Scripture can lead us astray when we don’t continually seek God for truth. How many other people today know Scripture, but don’t believe in Jesus? I’d say quite a few, and these people can be the most dangerous to Christians.
We are not alone in this temptation, as Jesus was tempted by misinterpreted Scripture in the wilderness. The devil uses Psalm 91 to try and persuade Jesus to jump off the highest point of the Temple (Luke 4:9-11). He quotes the Word of God directly to Jesus.
“He will order his angels to protect and guard you. And they will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone” (Luke 4:11 NIV, Psalm 91: 11-12).
In this temptation, Jesus knew what Psalm 91 actually referred to. It didn’t mean that He should be foolish and test God, but rather God protects His people for eternity. On this earth, we will have struggles and peril, but the Lord is the ultimate protection for our souls.
So what can we learn from Jesus when He was tempted by Satan misinterpreting Scripture?
First, Jesus put God first above any other relationship. It’s important to look at Satan and his motives. He is here to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). Satan has rejected God, and he does whatever he can to derail our relationship with God. He is the original narcissist who uses lies to maintain “control” because the truth exposes his lies and destroys him.
When someone is giving us an interpretation of Scripture, we should always look at the character of the person. Does this person follow the Lord? How well do they know Scripture? Can we trust this person? Do they have accountability? Does this person genuinely care about my well-being? Does this person have an ulterior motive- control, ego, power, influence, etc.? Maybe we’re not sure of the person’s motives at first, but we can take the time to step back and evaluate before automatically jumping into agreement.
When my husband and I were going through a membership class at our church, we didn’t know our pastors very well, but we took the time to get to know them, evaluate what they were saying by going back to our Bibles, and asking questions. Our pastors welcomed questions and responded in humility and love. They willingly set up extra meetings at our request so that our questions could be answered. We observed those in the church- how they were living and interacting with others. Ultimately, we were won over by the love of the church and the truth that was shared with us in love. This was nearly a year’s process, but when we took the time to step back and evaluate, we were able to see the true motives of others.
Secondly, Satan knows Scripture well, but do we? Jesus knows Scripture. Jesus fights Satan with the truth. He openly rebukes Satan using the Word of God. When we know the truth, it’s much more difficult to be tempted to believe a lie. That’s why we need to be absorbed in God’s Word every day. We need to continually be reading and living out the truth. We fight our enemy, the devil, with the Word of God.
Lastly, we have to be able to weigh Scripture in light of Scripture. While that may seem contradictory, it actually isn’t. Thanks to Study Bibles and Bible apps, we can be shown where a cryptic verse is talked about in another part of the Bible to give context. We can also read commentary from Bible scholars or talk to pastoral staff on a particular set of verses for clarity. If we read Scripture in the context that it’s meant to be read, we will have the right interpretation. Taking Scripture out of context is dangerous because if our minds believe something to be true, we will live by it. Instead of living out the truth in freedom, we will be slaves to a lie. When we live by the truth of God’s Word, we are not easily swayed to give in to the temptations of the devil. Relying on Scripture’s true intention, we walk freely in the truth.
Ultimately, we should come before our Father in Heaven for guidance in prayer. God loves his children dearly, and we are to seek Him with all our being (Jeremiah 29:13). He has blessed his children with the gift of the Holy Spirit to guide us in the way we should go. We are never alone.
In your life, where have you been tempted to believe misinterpreted Scripture? Or where have you actually believed lies because of misinterpreted Scripture? How is God continuing to work in your heart to re-shape that lie with the truth?
**This is my second article looking into how Jesus responds to difficult people and circumstances. Check out the other articles below:
Pt. 1: False Accusations
Photo by Thiago Matos : https://www.pexels.com/photo/mirror-fragments-on-gray-surface-with-the-reflection-of-a-person-s-hand-3022456/