So a few years ago, my dad (who is non-religious) misquoted Jesus at me. He did not know he was misquoting Jesus at me, but he said, “It’s like Jesus said, ‘Give a man a fish, he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish, he eats the rest of his life.'” And as I told my dad, it’s actually a Chinese proverb–perhaps from Confucius, perhaps not. What Jesus would say is, “Give a man a fish.”
It’s a terrible phrase we think is Biblical, is scriptural, but is not. But the worst one easily has to be, “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.”
First of all, there’s the weird implications of does God cause bad things to happen in our lives? Did God want me to be in a car accident and lose a leg, knowing I’d be able to handle it? (This is hypothetical.) Is part of the divine plan my outrageous suffering, and since I’m not dead from it, I guess it’s my lot in life?
Second, perhaps God does give each of us more than we can handle. We’re called to take up our cross and follow Jesus! And he got nailed to his, and left to die! And depending on your theology, he did falter–he prayed for the cup to be taken from him, albeit for a moment. He cried to God, feeling forsaken. And, oh yeah, he died in a brutal, violent manner, executed by an empire at the behest of the powers that be.
So where does this come from, this “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle” nonsense? I think it’s a misreading of 1 Corinthians 10:13,
No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to [humanity]. And God is faithful; [God] will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, [God] will also provide a way out so that you can endure it1 Corinthians 10:13, NIV (egalitarian brackets)
(It’s dumb that quotes are that much bigger than actual text, but I’m too unwilling to worry about it, I think.)
This is plural. God will not let y’all be tempted/tested beyond what y’all can bear. Do you know what I can bear by myself? Some stuff. Do you know what I can bear with you and they and all of us? A whole lot more!
Consider this–the way out God has offered may very well be our strength in numbers, our embodied relationship to Christ and each other by being actually connected with, and caring for, one another! This made me so mad, folks. I feel like we’ve all been duped into some individualistic nightmare.