The Top 22 Bible Verses that I Hate (And I’m a Christian!)

bible-burning

The Bible scares me. Can I be honest about that?

Sometimes when I read devotions with my wife at night, we hit a passage that makes me cringe. It’s an involuntary reaction to years of spiritual violence being done to me with that passage. I’ve chronicled a few of my absolute least favorite passages here.

The Bible scares me because my dad used to use it as a tool to keep my siblings and me in line.

The first ten here are from my dad. I still twitch when somebody reads them in church. Then I get ready to make a run for it.

#1 – Children Obey Your Parents
Certain verses still make me cringe, especially Ephesians 6:1 (hold your mouse over the verse for the verse pop-up). If you’re on mobile, it’s “Children obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” I distinctly remember around the time I was fifteen or so realizing that anything could be a sin against God if my dad gave me instructions otherwise. It was awful. Sin was completely arbitrary and at the whim of my dad. He had the power to make anything a sin if he didn’t like it. Nobody should have that kind of power.

#2 – Foolishness is Bound in The Heart of a Child
I really hate the verse that says “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child, but the rod of correction will drive it far from him.” Usually it meant that my dad was about to use “the rod of correction” on me. It was a board, not a rod, but I got spanked pretty much every day, sometimes more than once. I heard that verse so often that the only reason I had to look it up now was to get the reference (Proverbs 22:15).

That’s an awful verse, by the way, especially if it’s your primary philosophy of child-rearing. What about innocence? Delight? Joy? Wonder? All of these other things are in the heart of a child, but if you grow up being told that the only thing bound up in your heart is foolishness, that’s going to be hugely damaging. Also, you’ll lose foolishness which, in our world, is very much needed. “The foolishness of God is wiser than the wisdom of men” anyway.

#3 – Finally Brothers, Whatever Is…
Another one that I strongly dislike is Philippians 4:8. My dad quoted that one every time I wanted to do something that he didn’t think was profitable – usually read a fictional book. He usually only quoted “Finally, brethren, whatever is true” (emphasis his). My dad only ever wanted me to read two kinds of books:

  1. the Bible, and
  2. biographies of great Christians.

He made exceptions for the World Book Encyclopedia and other non-fiction books, but it drove him nuts when I read the entire Hardy Boys Mystery Series. (Seriously. Every one that he had, and every one that the library had.)

#4 – Redeeming the Time, Because the Days are Evil
I also got “Redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:16) quoted at me regularly. Dad always wanted me doing something productive. I never felt safe sitting down when he was around, because there was always something that I’d left undone or that I could be doing. “Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.”

#5 – Go to the Ant, Thou Sluggard
My dad loved Proverbs 6:6-11. Like a lot. He had no tolerance for any sort of laziness. See #6 for a story about not feeling safe when he was around.

#6 – A Wise Son Accepts His Father’s Discipline
My dad used Proverbs 13:1 to cow my siblings and me into listening to him. Dad wanted us to be like he was when he was our age. He was doomed to disappointment, and thank God.

#7 – A Wise Son Makes a Father Glad
Proverbs 15:20 made our wisdom dependent upon our father’s happiness. If he was happy with us, it meant that we were wise. If he wasn’t happy, it was because we weren’t wise. It couldn’t have anything to do with his mood at the time, of course.

#8 – Doers of the Word
He was a big fan of James 1:22 – “Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, who delude themselves.” This, of course, got quoted if he felt that his children weren’t doing what he thought God wanted them to do, which was all the time. It frustrated my dad to no end that no matter how much he read us the Bible or made us read the Bible, it could never make us little versions of him (a doer of the word, and not merely a hearer). He wanted to control us with the Bible. I think he thought that if we would only be doers of the word, then we would do everything he told us to without any argument. From teenagers. Why? See #1.

#9 – Be Ye Holy
I Peter 1:16 was the same thing. For us, “Holy” meant “different.” Holy meant that dad could arbitrarily define holiness as whatever he wanted and if we didn’t do it, we were disobeying God. Even worse was

#10 – Be Ye Perfect
Matthew 5:48 allowed my dad to set an absolutely impossible standard. “Be perfect, therefore, as your father in heaven is perfect”? Jesus said to do it, so it must not be impossible.

Some of the verses I dislike aren’t because of my dad.

(Most of the strongest ones are, though). I learned to hate most of the rest of these verses because of pastors – pastors who abused scripture just like my dad did. Some of them were worse, even. A few were from my reading.

#11 – The Proverbs 7 Woman
That’s not a typo. Proverbs 7 describes a woman who lures a man into having sex with her. “Suddenly he follows her, as an ox goes to the slaughter, or as one in fetters to the discipline of a fool.” (From memory). It’s like the poor idiot is just tricked by this devious Mrs. Robinson character, like he didn’t have a choice. It’s a case of blame-the-woman. Because she was asking for it by wearing that outfit.

#12 – Ask in Faith, Never Doubting
This came from the faith healing community. My little sister had crohns disease. We were told that James 1:6-7 meant that the reason God wasn’t performing supernatural healing was a lack of faith. Lack of faith anywhere could stop an all-powerful God from performing a miracle. She suffered in the hospital for weeks while we waited for God to perform that miracle. The miracle finally came: My dad gave in and let the doctor perform the surgery that the doctor had been begging to do for weeks. My sister’s crohns been in remission for over ten years now.

#13 – Let God Be True and Every Man a Liar
I heard that in a church my family visited one Sunday and was furious. I always did everything I could to be as honest as I could. Romans 3:4’s “Every man a liar” meant that I was a liar, and I would be damned if I was a liar. (No, literally, Revelation 21:8). For someone like me, who valued truth above all else, that Bible verse was a slap in the face. One of my friends innocently put that verse up recently because he had found comfort in it (I can’t imagine how) and I nearly bit his head off. I apologized when I found out why he had posted it.

#14 – Lust = Adultery
Matthew 5:28 has been misused to hurt men and women, always with the conviction that the person misusing it has the best of intentions. They just want people to obey God (and not commit adultery). It makes men and women alike ashamed of natural, God-given automatic reactions.  Jason Staples has a wonderful (if a bit technical) article explaining how this has been misinterpreted.

#15 – The Narrow Gate
Too many times, Matthew 7:13-14 was used to trick uncertain underage Christians into being uncertain that God was going to save them, or “doubt their salvation,” as the expression goes. The road is narrow, and few enter it. Are you sure that you’re going to? I think if I heard a pastor say this today, my commitment to nonviolence would wane.

#16 – Well done, good and faithful servant
If I’ve heard someone say that they hope God will tell them “Well done, good and faithful servant” one, I’ve heard it a hundred times. Matthew 25:23 is the parable of the talents. I hate this verse because it’s been misused to make Christianity about doing. So many people are jerks because they’re hoping that God will reward their meanness that they confuse with faithfulness in part because of this verse.

#17 – Depart from Me into the Eternal Fire
Matthew 25:41 freaks me out. There are arguments that “eternal” is either a mistranslation or a misunderstanding, but I really don’t want to believe in a god who burns his enemies forever. I really want to see this as hyperbole, and I do, but it would be a lot easier if this wasn’t in the Bible.

#18 – Go Ye Into All the World and Make Disciples
I memorized Matthew 28:19-20 in Vacation Bible School when I was twelve. It convinced me that every Christian was supposed to become a pastor or preacher or missionary. It took me a very long time to get over that. I waited for a long, long time for God to call me into ministry (because that was how it worked). The call never came. Or maybe it did when I started blogging, who knows.

#19 – They devoted themselves to the Apostle’s Teaching…
I want this verse to go away. I’ve seen some absolutely psychotic churches that take Acts 2:42 and pretend that they want to follow it precisely. They somehow manage to ignore the next verse about signs and wonders, and the following verse endorsing church-sponsored communism, and the one after that about being together in the temple every day.

Acts 2:42 is not a model for the modern church. It’s just not. Well, maybe it is. But not the way I’ve seen way too many churches pretend to do it.

#20 – Degrading Passions
Romans 1:26-27 is the only one of the anti-gay clobber passages that my research hasn’t totally demolished as being against same-sex… sex. I still don’t think being gay and acting on it is sinful, but that’s because I’ve changed how I read the Bible. I read it through Jesus now. Still, I’d like this one to go away.

#21 – If My People, Who Are Called by my Name
II Chronicles 7:14 doesn’t mean what way too many pastors pretend it means. It has absolutely nothing to do with America. There is no pestilence (except maybe global warming), and verse 13 makes it clear that “heal their land” has nothing to do with stopping abortions.

#22 – Seek Ye First
This came to mean that we must put God first in our lives. God must be first above everything else. I rode an emotional roller coaster about seven years ago because of this verse. I get what Jesus is saying, I do, but I’d still like it to go away.

This is the part where most bloggers would fix it.


This is the part where many evangelical bloggers would say that it doesn’t matter if we like these words or not; they’re God’s word and we have to submit to them. Some would say “Suck it up and deal.” I can’t. Or I won’t. Or both.

I’m not going to say that these verses are fine and dandy just because they happen to be in the Bible. I still don’t like them.

My wife and I now attend a Presbyterian (PCUSA) church in Colorado Springs. Sometimes those verses come up. I still get a little nervous, but our minister always finds a way to preach on those passages in a way that reframes them for me. I’ve come to peace with many of these passages and found ways to read them that are profound and beautiful – and that don’t make me twitchy. But I still get nervous when I walk into an evangelical church anyway, so when any of those verses come up, it’s strike two.

Thank God I haven’t had to walk into many evangelical churches lately.

I know these passages come from sacred scripture. I know that much of the church considers them to be (at the very least) part of God’s word to man. But that doesn’t mean that I have to like them. I think that God is okay with me being upset about how these passages have been misused. I don’t think God would begrudge me disliking some words because they were used to hurt me – even if God inspired those words. I think maybe God is a little heartbroken over that, honestly. I don’t think God will mind if I don’t like some passages that were used to hurt me. And I’m still growing. Maybe one day I will come to see real truth and beauty in some of these passages. Some of them.

What verses would you add to this list?
Have you found any alternative ways of reading some of these passages that make them beautiful?

Peace be with you.

 

David M Schell About David M Schell
I am a doubter and a believer. I have a Master's in Divinity from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, but because faith grows and changes, I don't necessarily stand by everything I've ever written, so if you see something troubling further back, please ask! Read More.

10 thoughts on “The Top 22 Bible Verses that I Hate (And I’m a Christian!)

  1. In # 11, the Bible isn’t saying that the man doesn’t have a choice. They use the analogy of an ox to the slaughter because he is going to his doom and is too dumb to even realize it. He definitely made a choice though, otherwise he wouldn’t be receiving judgment for it.

    • It still places the blame on the woman for being seductive and the man for being stupid. The woman is cast as the temptress and the man as initially unwilling. Did you like the Graduate reference?

      • Well, being a temptress is wrong. I would say in that situation the woman definitely shared the blame. And I did like the graduate reference.

  2. I love Philippians 4:8, but it drives me crazy when people use it as a justification for avoiding “unacceptable” media and forcing others to do so. That IS an abuse of the verse. People take it and flip it into the negative – instead of saying “think on what IS true,” it turns into “avoid like the plague what ISN’T true,” which means that when books/movies/music are mixed with good and bad (as most are), they take the verse to mean those things are to be thrown out, when I FIRMLY believe it means to find the good in those things and focus on them. That the good can redeem the bad.

    I’m actually putting together a blog series on that verse in the… well, maybe not near future, because it’s taking FOREVER, haha, but it’s looking at each attribute in that verse and listing movies that I believe exemplify that particular attribute… even if they aren’t family friendly ones.

    Abuse of that verse (or, well, any verses, but that in particular from this list) is infuriating because so many people DO end up hating it because of how they’ve always heard it used. Makes me crazy and also sad.

  3. I was going to let this one pass by — but you specifically asked, so here goes.

    #1 – Children Obey Your Parents

    “Children owe their parents respect, gratitude, just obedience, and assistance. Filial respect fosters harmony in all of family life.”

    #2 – Foolishness is Bound in The Heart of a Child

    Every believer starts out a child before God. Yet, in some respects, we are supposed to be as little children before God. In some respects, were are supposed to have a mature faith more than desiring milk for children.

    There is a good and a bad part of childhood as childhood. Some of it — wonder, delight, joy, complete trust — should be retained. Other parts — foolishness, selfishness, idolatry, intemperence — should be discarded as we grow into geniune wisdom.

    #3 – Finally Brothers, Whatever Is …

    Fiction is supposed to be true. By this I mean that through fiction, we can experience moral and spiritual truths more deeply. Similarly, unedifying fiction which is merely a sack of irredemable lies should be avoided, such as Lady Chatterly’s Lover, &c. Setting aside sexual content for a moment, bad pulpy fiction is bad for you merely because it describes the universe in terms which are an impossible moral plane. Meanwhile, Lord of the Rings, though fiction, is morally true, and morally better, than a whole lot of non-fiction.

    #4 – Redeeming the Time, Because the Days are Evil

    “And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit …”

    compare:

    “Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses.”

    Drink, but do not be drunk. In context, it is not event that: Do not be drunk with the spirit of the age, for these “days are evil.”

    #5 – Go to the Ant, Thou Sluggard

    “And I commend joy, for man has no good thing under the sun but to eat and drink and be joyful, for this will go with him in his toil through the days of his life that God has given him under the sun.”

    You shouldn’t be slothful. You should be productive. Here, it isn’t really bad advice, if all that means. You can relax, but if you do it to the point of lazing about, that is a problem. You can watch a movie or what-have-you, but if you watch movies to the point of laziness, you have a problem.

    #6 – A Wise Son Accepts His Father’s Discipline

    “… but a mocker does not respond to rebukes.”

    Some translations say “listen.” You should listen to your father — though it is possible to obey only just instruction, you have to hear what he has to say and respect his person to determine whether it is just instruction.

    #7 – A Wise Son Makes a Father Glad

    Fathers have a tough time, as they’re woefully not up to the task of being as the Father in heaven. Fathers on earth are the images of the Father in heaven, and yet because they are flawed they fall short of eternally fulfulling this passage. This is always true the Father in heaven, of course.

    #8 – Doers of the Word

    Here I’m not sure your dad was wrong. You should, and always, be doers of what God wants and not merely hearers. Everyone. At all times. Am I misunderstanding?

    #9 – Be Ye Holy

    You should be holy. Everyone. At all times. Always.

    #10 – Be Ye Perfect

    You should be perfect. At all times. Always. Terrifying, isn’t it?

    Do not at any time be satisfied by imperfection. Instead, consider it a mortification to remind us of our total dependence on God, who has given us everything, especially everything through which we have good.

    #11 – The Proverbs 7 Woman

    You’re reading into the text on this one. Some women really are temptresses. Not all of them, of course, but some really are.

    #12 – Ask in Faith, Never Doubting

    You should ask in faith, never doubting. God does work miracles. God does not always work miracles. Requiring God’s miracles unless someone is healed, however, offers the very serious temptation of treating God like a genie, as if you’re a terrorist who took one of his children hostage and demands that he intervene.

    Pray always for healing, and pray always for a cure — and get the surgery. Sometimes surgeries fail, even basic surgeries, and miracles happen. The important thing is to recognize that God is doing the healing either way — through his servant, the doctor, or through a direct act of grace.

    #13 – Let God Be True and Every Man a Liar

    Really, reading the rest of the chapter is especially key to this one.

    #14 – Lust = Adultery

    Lust does equal adultery, or at least fornication. However, sexual impulses do not equal lust. You are not sinful for feeling the need for sex. You are only sinful for playing with the idea in your head, and that’s for one or two reasons:

    a. You want someone for their body and not for their person.
    b. You want some person or body without having made the committment of marriage.
    c. You’re knowingly playing with an internal passion with good intentions, but because you aren’t married you know it can lead to a. or b.

    “The struggle against carnal lust involves purifying the heart and practicing temperance. … Purity of heart will enable us to see God: it enables us even now to see things according to God. … Purification of the heart demands prayer, the practice of chastity, purity of intention and of vision. … Purity of heart requires the modesty which is patience, decency, and discretion. Modesty protects the intimate center of the person.”

    #15 – The Narrow Gate

    Nobody should be sure he’s going to heaven, unless he has been given some kind of incredible revelation outside of the normal kind of salvation. To assume you’re going to be with God is presumption.

    #16 – Well done, good and faithful servant

    Look at the words. “Well done” is part of it. You should be doing. However, you should also be “good and faithful.” In fact, your “doing” should spring from being “good and faithful.”

    After all: “Faith working through love.”

    #17 – Depart from Me into the Eternal Fire

    Hell is eternal. Yeah, that’s terrifying.

    #18 – Go Ye Into All the World and Make Disciples

    Everyone should share God, even those who are not formally missionaries.

    #19 – They devoted themselves to the Apostle’s Teaching …

    You should go every day. Daily Mass, natch. 😉

    #20 – Degrading Passions

    That’s a pretty clear passage. If it makes you feel better, you and I are or were probably on that list, too —

    #21 – If My People, Who Are Called by my Name

    You’re on the mark on this one. Abortion is wrong, but Americans are not his chosen people. There are other things which have to do with the Church, and those might — well, that’s another topic.

    #22 – Seek Ye First
    “This came to mean that we must put God first in our lives. God must be first above everything else.”

    Yes. That’s right. Maybe clarify?

    Is it maybe possible that you were missing that some things in ordinary life, though not topically religious, are things of God? In every interaction, right down to the combox, there are opportunities to seek God.

    We do seek God in things religious, but we do also seek God in things not explicitly religious. “Behold, I make all things new.”

  4. Pingback: 10 Scripture Passages that I Love | David M Schell

  5. Even last year my first knee-jerk reaction would have been to argue the validity of these passages and what they are really saying/mean. But today I just want to add like ten more to your list. But I’ll limit myself to just one: “All things work together for good…” Because that’s the one 50% of my church friends quoted at (not to) me after my mother was violently killed. A couple went so far to say that her death was a good thing and pleased God, just for the mere fact she was such a great person and now God and her got to chill together in Heaven. Not. Cool.

  6. «Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give;
    not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.» 2 Cor. 9:7

    «For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says the Lord» Is. 55

    «One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables.» Romans 14

  7. Revelation 3:16: “So because you are lukewarm–neither hot nor cold–I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” The abuse and manipulation I experienced because of this verse was appalling. If you weren’t jumping up and down during worship, you got the lukewarm label. Also, Luke 9:26.

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