I keep notebooks in my kitchen to write down the things my children say, such as the fact that bare (bear) feet say “Grrrr.” I want to remember the time we ate “flamingo” for lunch in our mango and watercress salad. Mistakes like these are a way children learn about language, and though it’s adorable when they’re 3, I certainly don’t want a 23-year-old calling a mango a flamingo.
But I wonder if this inability to mature in our contextual understanding is a bit like what has happened regarding some statements from or attributed to the Bible. One Christian misunderstands a text, it goes viral, and one day, I’m at the store and see a sign that says, “Flamingos: 99 cents!”
It’s easy to change a sign. But is it as easy to reinterpret some notoriously misunderstood texts?
1. “God won’t give you more than you can handle!”
Sometimes, a stranger or friend who hopes to offer encouragement will tell my friend Laura, “Well, you know God won’t give you more than you can handle.” Jonathan, Laura’s third child, was born premature and lived his first five months in the NICU. Since then, he’s spent more time in the hospital than many septuagenarians. Laura honestly tells me, “I have definitely been given more than I can handle.”
The oft-quoted statement “God won’t give you more than you can handle” isn’t actually in the Bible. Rather, it’s a misquoting of 1 Corinthians 10:13. Here is the passage in context:1