From my 2009 Journal. It was game night at our missionary boarding school. The staff had planned a relay where both the boys and the girls had to run to a suitcase, open it, put on all the clothes, run back to the starting line, strip off those clothes and hand them to the next child. The second in line would then put on the clothes, run to the suitcase, pack them all back inside, and return to the starting line to tag the next child.
In the midst of our fun, one Auntie abruptly stopped the game and quoted Scripture: “A woman must not wear men’s clothing, and a man must not wear women’s clothing.” End of game.
At first, I was mad, but then I thought, “Oh no! What if we were doing something wrong?”
So when I got back to the dorm, I looked up the quoted Scripture where the same passage admonished the Israelites to wear fringes on their garments and not to wear clothes of wool and linen woven together. How could this staff member apply one rule and neglect another? I felt vindicated, self-righteous, disgusted. We’d been cheated out of our fun and made to think we might be sinning in our play time.
God’s answer to me? “Give up your self-righteousness, Karen. I will honor the Auntie for following her conscience, though misguided.”
We had a pastor once who frequently misquoted Scripture. It was due to a little lack of training, a lack of study and preparation, and a whole lot of fear-based, emotion-driven beliefs. Or perhaps he wasn’t really called to be a pastor! He thought he was doing right, but he ended up splitting the church.
I feel passionate about proper exegesis of Scripture. So much ignorance, false teaching, and silly conclusions result from improper understanding of context. When someone misquotes Scripture, however, what should be my response? First, recognize the error. Second, correct the error if given the opportunity. Third, be gracious. Love trumps proving I’m right.
Need an example?
The prophet Amos sets forth the argument that God always gives His children a warning before He punishes them.
There’s a cause and effect in the following scenarios:
- God has spoken: a prophet must prophecy.
- A lion roars: people are in fear.
- A trumpet sounds in the city: there’s an alarm and people fear.
The opposite is also true. If there’s no cause, then there’s no effect:
- You wouldn’t find two people meeting together to go for a walk unless they agreed ahead of time to do so.
- A lion won’t roar if he doesn’t have prey.
- A bird can’t be ensnared if there’s no trap.
Conclusion: If you see misfortune or evil occur, you can know that the Lord caused it.
And the misquote? People use Amos 3:3 “Can two walk together unless they agree?” to persuade a believer not to marry an unbeliever.
In context, it’s an argument for Israel to believe and understand that Amos’s prophecies are right. And in context, it’s about the absurdity of something occurring that wasn’t planned. To update the analogy: No one is going to show up in the conference room if a meeting hasn’t been scheduled.
Now there is wisdom in cautioning a couple regarding their disparity in faith; just don’t abuse Scripture to make your point.
What other Scripture misquotes have you noticed?