These 13 Familiar Bible Verses Don’t Mean What You Think

🌺  Written by Brittany Ann

Ever read a Bible verse and thought you knew exactly what it meant, only to find out you might have missed the mark? Well, you’re not alone. We’re about to unravel some common misconceptions and shed light on the true meaning behind these well-known passages.

Get ready for a down-to-earth exploration that might just challenge what you thought you knew about these 13 verses. Let’s dive in and discover the deeper layers of wisdom these scriptures have to offer!

1. Philippians 4:13 Doesn’t Mean We Can Do Anything We Want

Father and Son walking down a paved road next to a tree, with arms up both showing their muscles (strength).
Photo Credit: Lightstock.

“I can do all things through him who gives me strength.” – Philippians 4:13

This well-known verse has inspired and encouraged millions of people to try hard, keep going, and accomplish their goals.

Unfortunately, the apostle Paul wasn’t making the claim that Christians can achieve any goal we set our minds to (like finishing a marathon, finding a job, or sticking to our diets). Rather, he was stating that he could endure any hardship or persecution for the sake of the gospel.

It’s not about accomplishing good things. It’s about enduring bad things. 

2. Matthew 7:1-2 Doesn’t Tell Us Not to Judge Anyone Ever

Two girls whispering about friends in the background.
Photo Credit: Lightstock.

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” – Matthew 7:1-2

While this verse seems very straightforward, again, we have to read it in context. Jesus wasn’t telling his followers they should never judge. Rather, he was warning them to be careful when and if they chose to judge, as they would be judged by the same standard.

This is why, just a few verses later, Jesus instructs his listeners: “You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

Similarly, there are many, many other verses in the Bible that tell believers to judge wisely.

3. Ephesians 2:8-9 Doesn’t Teach We Are Saved by Faith Alone

A woman wearing a green dress with a cross necklace, holding a round piece of wood that says, "love keeps no record of wrongs."
Photo Credit: Lightstock.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” -Ephesians 2:8-9

Many people believe Ephesians 2:8-9 teaches that we are saved by faith alone. Yet, the only verse in the Bible that contains the phrase “faith alone” specifically says that we are not saved by faith alone.

In Ephesians 2:8-9, Paul isn’t saying that our works don’t matter for our salvation at all. When read within the context of the chapter, we see that Paul is saying we can’t earn our salvation through the good works that we do.

4. Jeremiah 29:11 Doesn’t Promise All Christians Will Prosper

Man walking a path on a bible towards a cross at sunset.
Photo Credit: DepositPhotos.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11

Jeremiah 29:11 is such an uplifting, encouraging verse! It’s no wonder you often see it on Christian mugs, tote bags, t-shirts, and more. The only problem? It wasn’t written to us as Christians today.

In this passage, God is speaking specifically to the Southern Israelite kingdom of Judah. God is warning them that they will be conquered by the Babylonians because of their great sin while reassuring them that He will ultimately redeem and restore them.

God does not promise Christians peace and prosperity today. In fact, Jesus tells us, “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33).

5. John 14:14 Doesn’t Teach That God Will Give Us Everything We Want

Asian Women praying over her Mother in a hospital bed, extremely sick with COVID-19.
Photo Credit: DepositPhotos.

“You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” – John 14:14

When taken out of context, this verse seems to clearly state that God will give us everything we pray for. (Wouldn’t that be nice!) Unfortunately, when we read it in the context of the chapter, we can see that this isn’t what Jesus is talking about at all.

In this passage, Jesus is telling his disciples that those who believe in Him (not just anyone) will do great miracles. The key to this verse is in the phrase “in my name.”

Jesus isn’t promising to give us everything we ask for in prayer. Rather, he was promising the disciples that, if they would align themselves to God’s will, God would allow them to perform incredible miracles.

6. 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 Doesn’t Mean Women Can’t Preach

Women sitting next to their husbands in church, one woman praying, one woman reading her Bible.
Photo Credit: DepositPhotos.

“Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.” – 1 Corinthians 14:34-35

Many Christians wrongly rip these verses out of context to “prove” that women can’t be involved in ministry. And yet, we must remember that Paul was writing to a very specific people at a very specific point in history.

Elsewhere in the Bible, we see plenty of examples of amazing women involved in Christian ministry.

For example, the Bible holds Abigail, Rahab, Esther, Ruth, Judith, and Mary in high regard for the roles that they played in salvation history. The Bible tells us that women were the first ones to announce Jesus’s resurrection.

The Bible tells us that Moses’s sister, Miriam, was a prophetess (Exodus 15:20), Deborah was a prophet and judge who led Israel (Judges 4:4), and Phoebe was a deaconess (Romans 16:1–2). Whatever the women in Corinth were up to, the Bible certainly does not teach that all women must be silent.

7. Exodus 20:7 Doesn’t (Just) Say We Can’t Use God’s Name as a Curse Word

red painting of dove depicting the holy spirit
Photo Credit: Lightstock.

“You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.” -Exodus 20:7 (ESV)

While it is accurate to say that the command to “not take the name of the LORD your God in vain” means we shouldn’t use God’s name as a curse word, this verse means a lot more than just that.

It also means that we must be extremely careful not to carelessly throw around the phrase “God told me” or “Jesus says,” putting words in God’s mouth that He never said. We must never use God’s name as a weapon to justify our own misguided beliefs and opinions.

8. Matthew 18:20 Doesn’t Mean God Is More Likely to Answer Group Prayers

A group of Men and Women gathered together, holding hands in a circle, praying.
Photo Credit: Lightstock.

“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” – Matthew 18:20

While many people think Matthew 18:20 means that God is more likely to hear (and answer) our prayers if we get multiple people to pray with us, this isn’t what this verse is saying at all. This portion of Scripture isn’t talking about the effectiveness of prayer but of church discipline.

9. Matthew 5:38-40 Doesn’t Mean We Should Allow Others to Mistreat Us

woman offering comfort with box of tissues on couch
Photo Credit: Lightstock.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.” -Matthew 5:38-40

Unfortunately, many have used Jesus’s command to “turn the other cheek” to say that Christians should be doormats, allowing others to mistreat them. Thankfully, this is not the case.

It is wise and biblical to set Christian boundaries with toxic family members, friends, neighbors, and co-workers.

10. 1 Corinthians 10:13 Doesn’t Mean God Won’t Give Us More than We Can Handle

A womans hand passing an apple to a man's hand in a garden.
Photo Credit: Lightstock.

“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” – 1 Corinthians 10:13

You may have heard the phrase “God will never give you more than you can handle.” Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. While 1 Corinthians 10:13 does promise us we won’t be tempted beyond what we can bear, this verse isn’t talking about the general hardships, grief, and suffering people often apply it to.

In fact, the apostle Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 1:8, “We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself.” God does give us more than we can handle… so that we can learn to rely on Him.

11. 1 Timothy 6:10 Doesn’t Say Money is the Root of All Evil

Photo Credit: Lightstock.

But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction.For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.” -1 Timothy 6:9-10

It is a theme in modern Christianity to have discomfort with money because of a misunderstanding over this verse. The evil is not money itself; this verse describes an individual who “longs” for this money and “loves” it, speaking of a heart condition that puts money before God.

When we create a false idol out of money, whether we have that extra cash or not, it will cause “many sorrows.”

12. James 5:16 Doesn’t Promise Every Prayer Will Get a Yes

Photo Credit: Lightstock.

“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” – James 5:16

Righteousness does not mean perfection in the sense of a person without any temptation, who shows up to church every Sunday and never forgets to bless their food before they eat it. Rather, righteousness is a state of the soul after one has repented and chosen to follow Jesus.

Therefore, righteous people’s prayers are powerful and effective because they are in a state of rightness with God through the blood of Jesus and live a life focused on His will for themselves and whomever they are praying for.

13. Luke 2:7 Doesn’t Mean a Pregnant Mary was Turned Away to Have a Baby in a Barn

Photo Credit: Lightstock.

“So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” – Luke 2:6-7

An “inn” within Jerusalem’s culture of the time was a guest space and often an upper room of a typical village home. Not a bed and breakfast.

The home’s main living area would have a small, clean space dug out for the family donkey or livestock. Reading the passage through an understanding of the place’s culture and time, one would not even consider a pregnant woman, especially a descendant of David, to be turned away. Within the culture, turning away a guest would have brought disgrace upon the household and the entire town.

Instead, this describes a packed house where the hostess made a place for an honored guest with the means left to them. It is still a humble beginning for the newborn Christ but not a story of a hard-hearted innkeeper.

15 Commonly Accepted “Biblical” Truths You Won’t Find Anywhere in the Bible

Eve reaching for an apple
Photo Credit: Depositphotos.

Want even more Bible misconceptions? There are tons of them out there!

From Eve and the apple to Jonah and the whale, you might just be surprised to find out the Bible doesn’t include the details you think it does!

Here are 15 Commonly accepted “Biblical” truths you won’t find anywhere in the Bible

Sola Fide: Is Faith Alone Enough for Salvation?

child and grandma holding hands
Photo Credit: Lightstock.

While it’s certainly true that God can and will forgive us and love us no matter what we do, does that mean our good deeds don’t matter at all?

According to the popular Protestant doctrine of sola fide, we are saved by faith alone. But what does the Bible say?

Sola Fide: Is Faith Alone Enough for Salvation?

How to Read the Bible (Easy Instructions for Beginners!)

Woman sitting alone and reading book
Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Want to learn how to read the Bible for yourself, but you’re not sure where to start or how to understand it?

Reading the Bible is a lot easier (and way more enjoyable) than you might think. You just need a step-by-step guide to help you get started.

How to Read the Bible (Easy Instructions for Beginners!)

Are Tattoos a Sin? Here’s What the Bible Says

man crossing arms with tattoo
Photo Credit: Lightstock.

What does the Bible say about tattoos?

Surprisingly, very little.

There’s only one verse in the entire Bible that even mentions tattoos (Leviticus 19:28), and it isn’t as straightforward as it initially appears.

So whether your body is covered in Christian tattoos or you’re considering getting your very first Bible tattoo…

If you’re wondering, “Are tattoos a sin?” or “Can we go to Heaven with tattoos?” this post has everything you need to know.

What Does the Bible Say About Tattoos? Are Tattoos a Sin?

5 Common Misconceptions About the Bible

Young Woman holding Bible
Photo Credit: Lightstock.

Think you know the Bible? Think again.

While holding a few misconceptions about the Bible may not always be dangerous, unfortunately, there are 5 incredibly common biblical misconceptions that can prevent us from reading, understanding, and enjoying God’s Word as much as we’d like.

5 Common Misconceptions About the Bible

Brittany Ann Equipping Godly Women

About the author

Brittany Ann is an ECPA bestselling author of “Fall in Love with God’s Word” and “Follow God’s Will” and the founder of EquippingGodlyWomen.com, a popular Christian-living website dedicated to helping busy Christian moms find practical ways to go "all in" in faith and family. Her work has been featured on CBN, The Christian Post, Crosswalk, and more.

Join the Discussion

Comment policy: All opinions are welcome here and friendly, edifying debates are encouraged. However, comments that are rude, hateful, malicious, or spammy will be immediately deleted without warning. Your email address will not be shared publicly. 

  1. I'm a pastor ~ and male ~ and I find your posts not only challenging but enlightening.
    Thank you and God bless you.

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}