In the history of human kind, few people have been as widely quoted as Jesus. Which also means few have been misquoted as often as Jesus. I don’t mean we quote verses incorrectly; rather we associate thoughts, opinions, words and phrases with Jesus and the Bible that actually may not be there.
Here are a few things I hear frequently hear that we may need to rethink …
If You Had More Faith God Would Answer Your Prayer.
There was a man who had a son who suffered from convulsions, and was unable to speak. The father brought his son to Jesus for healing and said, “If you can do anything … help!” Jesus replied to the father, “If you can? Everything is possible for one who believes” (Mark 9:23).
The father then said to Jesus, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)
What happens next is interesting. Jesus does not say, “I’m sorry, I’d love to help you out, but you need more faith before I can do anything” – not at all. Rather, he heals the boy in the midst of the father’s struggle to believe.
In fact, if we read through the Bible we see God at work in the lives of people in the midst of their doubt and unbelief. We see this with Sarah in Genesis 18, the people of Israel in Exodus 14, Naaman in 2 Kings 5, and Zechariah in Luke 1—to name a few.
We cannot forget the Bible is the story of God’s work, renewal, faithfulness and redemption in the midst of the unfaithfulness of humanity. He does not demand we believe and trust so he can work. He works, and invites us to believe and trust.
Doubting Is Dangerous.
Did Jesus say “Stop Doubting?” Yes. Is there more to the story? Yes.
Of all the disciples, the only one who was has an enduring nickname is Thomas, a.k.a. “Doubting Thomas.” We have traditionally thrown him under the bus for doubting Jesus rose from the dead, and condescendingly shake our heads at his resistance to believe.
But let’s not forget, he is not the only one who did not believe. When the disciples first hear of Jesus’ resurrection from the women who went to Jesus’ tomb, “they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense” (Luke 24:11).
All the disciples doubted, but Thomas was the only one with the courage to admit he needed proof. He said, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe” (John 20:25). And when Jesus finally encountered Thomas, he did not rebuke him. Rather he gave Thomas what he needed. He invited Thomas to touch his wounds, and only then did Jesus tell him he could stop doubting.
The beauty of this is Thomas had an encounter with Jesus none of the other disciples did. He is the only one who touched the wounds of Jesus, because he had the faith to doubt. Nowhere does Jesus condemn doubt; rather he meets people right where they are in it.
Here Is How You Can Get To Heaven.
What’s remarkable about Jesus is how little he talked about what happens to us when we die. He was far more concerned with what happens to us while we live here and now. I say this, because Jesus commented very little on heaven as a place somewhere out there we can go when we die.
However, Jesus talked nonstop about our life here and now. Make no mistake Jesus proclaimed the gospel, and the good news about the Kingdom of God (or the Kingdom of Heaven). But his desire was to see this Kingdom come to earth. By comparison we speak about the gospel being how we can leave earth to get to heaven and have eternal life after we die.
Which raises a question: Why does our gospel get us ready to die while the gospel of Jesus gets us ready to live?
Perhaps we should listen closely to the words of Jesus, and move from being consumed with where we will go when we die to being consumed with how we live here and now. How would that change, not only us, but also our world?
There Will Always Be Poor People Among You. Period.
I have a t-shirt that has the words “End Poverty” on the back. Several times when I have worn the shirt I’ve had people say dismissively, “Jesus said, ‘The poor you will have with you always …’” True, he did say that. But that is not all he said.
According to the gospel of Mark Jesus said, “The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want” (Mark 14:7). Jesus quoted from Deuteronomy 15 where God told his people, “There need be no poor people among you, for in the land the LORD your God is giving you … he will richly bless you” (Deuteronomy 15:4). God told his people there is no good reason for poverty to exist.
But God seemed to know how we operate, so he said, “If anyone is poor among your people in any of the towns … be openhanded and freely lend them whatever they need …” And “There will always be poor people in the land … be openhanded toward those of your people who are poor and needy in your land” (Deuteronomy 15:7-11).
If anything, Jesus’ quote about the poor is a challenge to be generous, lending freely and openhanded toward them.
Jesus certainly had a lot to say; it’s no wonder he is often misquoted. However, when we take the time to truly hear what he has to say to us we will be both comforted and challenged by his words. And when we truly hear him, we will have much more to rethink.