One Big Mistake Many People Make When Studying the Bible

Contributing Writer
One Big Mistake Many People Make When Studying the Bible

Many people are trying to do a better job of reading and studying their Bibles, and that is to be commended. However, for far too many people there is one mistake that is made probably more than others. This can lead to disastrous results when you are trying to study, understand and most importantly apply Scripture to your life.

I think you are seeing how much context matters. Let’s now expand that context and look at the complete thought from this portion of James.

As you expand the passage, you are now beginning to get an even clearer picture as to what is going on and why this person or people are not getting their prayers answered. We have a group of people who are fighting and quarreling with each other because they can’t get the stuff they want, and they are upset because someone else has it. All of this is happening before you ever get to the point of “you don’t have because you don’t ask God.” However, you can’t stop there because we don’t have the full context yet.

When you consider the full context, we see that not only is this person not receiving because they are not asking, they are not receiving because they are asking with wrong motives.

Let me ask you this question. Based on James 4:3, what is the basis for this person praying and asking from God? I hope you came up with an answer along the lines of selfishness. This almost seems crazy, but it happens all the time – people are asking God for stuff for their own pleasure and nothing else. Is there any wonder these types of people were not receiving anything from God?

This is not only true for those living when James wrote this, but people who pray this way today are still not receiving anything from God. When you consider the full context of the verse you can see this is way more than just “you have not because you ask not.”

Since we are talking context, just look at the next verse in James.

James is not pulling any punches. These people are selfish, greedy, covetous, jealous, fighting, arguing, and now he calls them adulterous, meaning they identify as Christians, but are more interested in the things of the world. Is there any wonder why God would not answer their prayers? I think you see this is not just because they didn’t ask God for what they want.

This verse is one of many I could have used to make this point. I hope it is clear to you why the context is so important. If you neglect this, you can end up changing the tone, texture, and meaning of what the Bible says.

I want to encourage you to take the time to study the context of what you are reading. When you do, you will begin to understand Scripture a lot better, and most importantly you won’t add meaning to verses that were never truly intended in the first place.

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Clarence Haynes 1200x1200Clarence L. Haynes Jr. is a speaker, Bible teacher, and co-founder of The Bible Study Club.  He is the author of The Pursuit of Purpose which will help you understand how God leads you into his will. His most recent book is The Pursuit of Victory: How To Conquer Your Greatest Challenges and Win In Your Christian Life. This book will teach you how to put the pieces together so you can live a victorious Christian life and finally become the man or woman of God that you truly desire to be. Clarence is also committed to helping 10,000 people learn how to study the Bible and has just released his first Bible study course called Bible Study Basics. To learn more about his ministry please visit