Jesus continues to be one of the misinterpreted and misquoted figures. While we want to get the words of Jesus right, we often fall short. Sometimes, this is because of our limited understanding of scripture. Other times, it’s because we accept the words of the world. Many of us don’t realize that we’ve bought into these misinterpretations. It’s imperative that we truly hear the words of Jesus to understand what God is saying to us and how He is leading us. Here are five things Jesus never said.
“It is wrong to have many things.”
In Matthew 6:19, Jesus says, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth.” Many people take the term “lay up” to mean “having possessions.” However, it is not about having possessions but letting those possessions rule your heart. The best way to understand the term “lay up” is to think about it as a hoard. Jesus is not saying that you can’t or shouldn’t have many possessions in this life. Jesus is really trying to warn us against becoming materialistic and letting our possessions supersede God. If you look at various texts in scripture, you see that Jesus didn’t lift up poverty as a great virtue. There was only one time when Jesus told a young rich ruler to give his possessions to the poor. The reason Jesus said this wasn’t because He couldn’t have wealth. It was because his possessions possessed him.
“God will never give you more than you can handle.”
This is a statement that many Christians believe Jesus said. It’s also a statement many Christians share with others when they are going through dark times. While it’s a quote that many people share and hold onto during their lowest points, truthfully, Jesus never said this. In the Book of John, chapter 16, Jesus told His disciples that the world would persecute, hate and even kill them for proclaiming the gospel. Jesus then tells them He is going back to Heaven to be with the Father. He adds that He should go so that the Holy Spirit can come and live inside their hearts. Jesus says, “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in Me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Notice, Jesus doesn’t say you won’t experience trials and sorrows. He says there will be many sorrows. Jesus tells us that we can rely on God’s power through the sorrow, temptations and trials of life.
“God calls us not to judge.”
Many people believe the Matthew 7:1-5 passage is Jesus telling us not to judge. Usually, Christians bring this passage up when someone is doing something wrong. Often, the reply is, “Who am I to judge?” The belief is that we are all sinners, so God is not ok with us judge. This doesn’t quite capture what Jesus is trying to say. While many people think Matthew 7:1-5 is a prohibition against all forms of judgment, it isn't. It’s really a warning against hypocritical judgment. Jesus is trying to tell us that we can’t judge others when we are guilty of the same sin. When the verse is interpreted in this way, you declare a judgment on the same person you are calling out for being judgmental. This passage stresses the importance of context. If you read the surrounding text, you can better understand the verse. If you read the full passage, you see that Jesus is calling out those for improper judgment. The truth is, we will all be judged by the same measure that we apply to ourselves. If we cannot apply this standard to our own lives, there is no way we can or should apply this standard to others.
“Follow your heart.”
This is another quote that people use when trying to help others make important decisions about their life. While it may sound spiritual, even biblical, this is something Jesus never said. In fact, scripture tells us the opposite. Let’s take a look at Jeremiah 17:9, which says, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” Truthfully, we are told in scripture that our hearts will fool us. The heart will also let you down, fail you and lead you astray. We can’t just follow our hearts and trust the direction it is leading us. The only heart Jesus wants us to follow is God’s. Take a look at Psalm 37:4, which says, “Take delight in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Many people take this to mean God will give us everything our heart desires. God is actually saying here that when we surrender control of our life to God, He becomes our greatest passion. When we do this, God will help us create new desires and fulfill them. Ultimately, when you have God’s hearts, He will give you the desires of your heart.
“You get what you deserve.”
This is a popular idea. For every action, there’s a reaction. For every choice, there’s a consequence. So it would only make sense that if we make certain decisions, we will have to deal with the ramifications. The truth is, Jesus never says, “You get what you deserve.” He actually tells us in Matthew 9 that our sins are forgiven. Even on the cross, He tells the remorseful criminal nailed next to him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with Me in paradise” (Luke 23:40-43). Jesus didn’t say he had to earn what He was asking Jesus for. This was freely given to him. As believers, we receive grace and have endless opportunities to show our Lord our love and obedience. Instead of getting what we deserve, we receive the gift of grace.
We must avoid turning the Bible into a collection of one-liners and quotes and pay attention to what Jesus is really saying to us. If we are living by the Word, we have to understand what is being professed.