“God won’t give you more than you can handle” – why it doesn’t mean what you think it means.

I just finished up a 3 week series in our college ministry called “A Way Out” that took a look at 1 Corinthians 10:1-13 and what it has to say about temptation in our lives. The three weeks were broken down like this:

Week One – Looking Back (vs. 1-11) –Learning from past failure leads to living in present victory.

Week Two – Standing and Falling (vs. 12)We defeat denial in our lives through Honesty & Humility.

Week Three – The Door (vs. 13) –God always faithfully provides a way out of our temptations.

Verse 13 has been at the center of some bad theology over the years. Maybe you’ve heard it or said it or believed it too. It goes like this: “God will not give you more than you can handle in life.” This sentiment comes from a well intentioned place, I think… but it is misguided at best. In fact, this bad theology actually comes from a really bad proof-text reading of this verse. If you strip this verse of the context it sits in… and you do some crazy yoga to stretch it to its limits… then maybe you can get it to say that. But the context of this verse… and the actual verse itself, lends to a VERY DIFFERENT interpretation.

Here is the context: 1 Corinthians 9 talks all about Paul’s aim in life… “To win as many as possible for Christ.” He says “I have become all things to all people that I might win some.” He then goes on to talk about the fact that people who share the gospel for a living are deserving of being paid if that is their job. HOWEVER, Paul has seen that as a hinderance in his own life and ministry, so he has forgone that to focus on winning the prize (bringing others to Christ). He then talks about being disqualified after he preaches if he does not have control of himself (written, again, in the context of motives of sharing the gospel). You disqualify yourself from winning the prize (reaching others for Christ) if they question your motives, so we need to keep our motives for sharing the gospel in check. Money becoming the motive, in Paul’s eyes, is a form of IDOLATRY.

So temptation to idolatry is going to set up the next conversation. 1 Corinthians 10:13 is set against the backdrop of not giving in to the temptation of idolatry.

Now verses 1-11 make sense. Verse 12 makes sense. And verse 13, ultimately, becomes a solid promise of God about the temptations we face.

Let’s read verse 13 together in the ESV:

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

Verse 13 is a promise from God that in temptation: 1) you are not alone or isolated, 2) God’s promises can be trusted, 3) God promises that no matter what you have been tempted with or what temptations you’ve given in to, you’re never too far gone… you can always resist… there’s no temptation you will face that will be too much to resist, & 4) when temptation comes, God will show you the way out.

God’s promise is NOT that He will never put something in your life that you can’t handle. In fact, this flies in the face of other scripture if that is true. No, his promise is that the temptations in our life will NEVER be more than we can say no to… that, with His power, we will always have a way out. Even someone who feels absolutely stuck in the middle of addiction STILL has a way out. It may be a long road. It may be very painful. It may cost you something dearly. The doorway out may seem like it is shrinking smaller and smaller, but God is still standing on the other side of that door holding out his hand to us to grab it and walk through… and no matter the pain or cost, victory and freedom over sin is worth it.

And THAT is a promise worth clinging to!!!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s