Copyright 2016 by Bob Rogers
(NOTE: This is the second in a series of blog posts I am doing on some of the most commonly twisted and misinterpreted verses in the Bible.)
As a hospital chaplain, I seek to guide patients to find the spiritual strength to handle their problems. After hearing their story, I sometimes ask, “How are you handling that?” Many people will reply, “Well, God doesn’t put on you more than you can handle.” Others will say, “The Bible says God doesn’t give us more than we can bear.” That sounds nice, but it’s not what the Bible says! People get this idea from a misreading of 1 Corinthians 10:13. Here is what the entire verse says [italics mine]:
“No temptation has overtake you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make a way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” – 1 Corinthians 10:13, NKJV
Many people seem to think that this verse says that God will not allow you to be tested beyond what you can bear. But read the verse again. Is that what it says? No! It says God will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able. Some people correctly argue that the Greek word can be translated “tested” or “tried,” instead of “tempted.” However, almost all translations prefer the word “tempted” in this verse. Why? Because of the context. A rule of thumb for Bible interpretation is to read the context. So when we read the whole chapter, we see that 1 Corinthians 10 is about temptation. The first part of the chapter gives a series of warnings against falling into disobedience through unbelief. Verse 12 warns, “So, whoever thinks he stands must be careful not to fall.” Fall into what? Temptation. And verse 14 says the solution to the temptation is to “flee.” So the context of 1 Corinthians 10:13 shows that it is about temptation.
But if 1 Corinthians 10:13 does not say God won’t put on us more than we can bear, do other verses teach this? Ironically, Paul says in 2 Corinthians 1:8 that “we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself.” In other words, God put more on him than he could handle! But he goes on to say in the next verse, “But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.” The scripture frequently says that when we cannot handle things, God can give us the strength we need (See 1 Samuel 30:6; Philippians 4:13). (Unfortunately, Philippians 4:13 is also misinterpreted, and we’ll discuss how in the next blog post.)
Here is the bottom line: God is not saying that we won’t face more than we can handle, but He is saying that He will give us the spiritual strength to handle whatever we face.
Back at the beginning of “The Great Recession” in early 2009, our church went through a study on how to get out of debt, using the teaching materials of Crown Financial Ministry. Here is a summary of 10 wise and Bible-based principles for getting out of debt:
1. Pray for God’s provision (see 2 Kings 4:1-7 for an example).
2. Start giving regularly (Malachi 3:8-10).
3. Don’t go further into debt. Stop charging with credit cards!
4. Establish a written spending plan by writing down every penny that you spend for a month, and then developing a spending plan that is realistic and living within your means.
5. Open a savings account and contribute faithfully to it until you have $1,000 in savings for emergencies. (This prevents further debt because you can use your savings for unexpected expenses.)
6. List everything you own and see if you can sell unnecessary assets to eliminate debt (Proverbs 27:23).
7. Make a list of everything you owe.
8. Establish a debt repayment schedule. Pay off the smallest debts with the highest interest first. When that debt is paid, apply that payment amount to the next second debt, and so on. See Crown Financial Ministries for free calculators and tools that can help at www.crown.org/Tools/Calculators.
9. Consider earning additional income.
10. Consider a radical change in your lifestyle (Romans 12:1-2).