Twisted Scripture: Ask And It Will Be Given To You
When we speak (be it words of comfort, or advice, or persuasion, etc.), sometimes we appeal to the words of someone whose authority on the subject can be agreed upon by both, the speaker and the listener. We do this knowingly or unknowingly, and examples range from as simple as, “my dad said it’s better if done this way…” to as complex as, “astronomers using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope have discovered that the universe is expanding 5 percent to 9 percent faster than expected” (Ashley Morrow, NASA).
Appealing to authority is a legitimate way the speaker can make his point, and I believe referring to the source of your opinions is a great way of communicating why/how you think what you think. However, I want to bring to your attention a certain kind of appeal to authority that worries me: the misuse (or abuse) of Bible scriptures. By this I mean the Bible verses that have been used in a way that convey a different idea than the one originally meant in its context; be it knowingly or unknowingly. You will encounter such Bible references when someone says it on television, when someone writes it in Internet articles, or when you say it to yourself as a motivational motto.
Today, I will discuss how Luke 11:9 has been misused; I hope reading this blog will relieve you of some unnecessary pressure you may have felt from the way this verse was twisted.
“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” (Luke 11:9, NIV)
It is likely that you know this verse. I think it’s also likely that you have heard (or read) this verse quoted in a context of encouraging you to ask God for anything you want/need. Perhaps even coupled with another verse along the lines of “whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours” (Mark 11:24), or “ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (John 15:7).
A careful reading of the context of Luke 11 reveals that the author had in mind a more-specific meaning to this verse; a meaning that is not as simple as asking God for whatever we want. If you take a look at the beginning of Luke chapter 11, you’ll notice that you might be familiar with this story. It’s the story of Jesus teaching his disciples how to pray.
He said to them, “When you pray, say:
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins,
for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.
And lead us not into temptation.”
After teaching the disciples what we know as “the Lord’s Prayer,” Jesus tells three short stories as illustrations of how even humans, who are sinful, know how to give good things to their children. His point being: how much more, then, would our Heavenly Father give good gifts to His children?
Sounds straightforward, right? I ask, God gives because God is good; and if I do not receive, either God is not good or I’m doing something wrong.
This is the trap in which we fall because “everybody wants to believe it” (quoting Sherlock Holmes, in BBC’s Sherlock). How convenient is it to believe that if I do not receive what I asked for, somebody else is to blame?
We must understand the phrase “ask and it will be given to you” in its appropriate context. Jesus has just taught us “the Lord’s Prayer,” and it is in this context that He said we can ask with the confidence that we will receive. Notice how the prayer asks for five things:
- May God’s name be hallowed, (always)
- May God’s kingdom come, (the last day)
- May God give us our daily bread, (day-to-day/present)
- May God forgive our sins, (past)
- May God lead us away from temptation. (future)
This prayer encompasses past, present, future, all days, and the last day; and notice also that Jesus prays for the glory of God, the provision of our needs, and the rescue from sins (those which we committed already or those that tempt us). It is in this context that Jesus assures us that what we ask for we will receive, what we seek we will find, and the doors we knock upon will be opened to us.
This does mean that we are wrong to think God will give us anything if we ask for it. Nevertheless, I believe this should not discourage us; rather, it should be an encouragement because it affirms that God’s will shall be done, not ours, and His will is far more loving and beneficial to ourselves and those around us. God’s will is for us to be satisfied in Him, sustained by Him daily, forgiven from the sins we committed and protected from the sins that tempt us. May our lives glorify Him only, amen.
Lastly, before I go, I want to offer you a simple tool that might help you recognize when Bible verses are utilized outside of its context. Whenever you notice that a Bible verse is presented to you without the verses that come before and/or after it, try this simple three-step method. Ask:
- What is the context of the verse? I usually search the verse on Google to see where it came from.
- What did it mean to the original audience? This step might take a bit of time because it involves reading the context that you found from step #1 and evaluating what the author is trying to communicate in his own flow of thought.
- How does it impact my life today? This is the step where you take into consideration that the Biblical idea from step #2 can be applied in different ways. I enjoy bringing this up in my personal conversations with other friends to see how different people find different applications. This, in turn, helps me find other ways I could apply the Bible in my life.
Asking these three questions is a good way to acknowledge that words have meanings defined by their spoken and/or written context; thus, we must understand them in their appropriate contexts. I think Wesley Baines said it best in his article, Learn What They Really Mean, where he laid out a list of verses that are commonly taken out of context. He writes that there is a pattern with misused verses:
“they’re focused on us, on our prosperity, on giving us strength, and on our personal good. God loves us all, unconditionally and eternally, and loves to bless us, but He also doesn’t guarantee that our lives will be easy or filled with plenty. This is because we live in a fallen world, and until Jesus returns to redeem creation, bad things happen, even to good people. Even to Godly people.”
I hope this blog was helpful in bringing awareness to misused Bible verses and equipping you with how to deal with misused Bible verses that you might find in your own life.
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20-21, NIV)
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