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Why People Don't Get the Same Interpretations from the Bible and Sermons

Rev. Margaret Minnicks is an ordained Bible teacher. She writes many articles that are Bible lessons.


The Holy Bible is the world’s most popular book, especially for Christians. At least one Bible is found in almost every Christian household. However, everyone does not read the Bible and understand it the same way. There are several reasons people can read the same passage without getting the same meaning.

One Bible: Many Interpretations

The main reason people do not get the same meaning from reading the same passage is that everyone does not bring the same things to the table. Their background could be different and everyone doesn't see what's in the Bible through the same lenses. Also, everybody is not at the same place spiritually.

The interpretation that ten people get from the same biblical text is often so different that it is almost as though they are not reading the texts.

A farmer might understand Jesus' parable about seeds a different way than a cook might understand it. A shepherd brings a lot to Psalm 23 and can understand why David said, "The Lord is my shepherd" along with other metaphors about sheep. A math student might take Jesus' statements literally when He told Peter to forgive seventy-time seven. That's why it is so important for preachers and teachers to do a word study before teaching a lesson.

Once a pastor preached an entire sermon about "high places" from the historical books of the Bible. Many people in the congregation thought he was talking about places that were high on mountain tops when the biblical phrase was really the location where pagans worshipped idols.

It is also interesting that one person can understand a passage one way when he first gets saved and understands it a different way years later after he has grown spiritually.


One Sermon: Many Interpretations

The Holy Bible is not the only thing that people do not interpret the same way. People can hear a preacher's Sunday morning sermon and many can walk away from the sanctuary with different opinions. Some of the reasons are the same as why people get different interpretations from reading the Bible.

  • When a person hears a sermon on Sunday morning, he hears it in the context of what happened before he got to church that morning or what problem he has that needs to be solved.
  • People go to church wanting a word given expressly for them to get them out of the trouble they are having at the time. They are waiting for that word, phrase, or story that helps them get some comfort. They seek that "on-time God" for immediate help.
  • Every person in the sanctuary deserves to hear from God through the sermon. That's why it is so important for the pastor to seek the Lord about what to preach to God's people. God knows the needs of the people, and the preacher comes up short when he preaches what he wants to preach instead of what God gives him to preach.

Listening to God

When a person picks up his Bible to read, he should do so expecting to hear from God. He should pay attention to the words he is reading and not put his own spin on them. No one knows God's words any better than God Himself. When a person reads the Bible, he should do what Mary told the servants at the wedding in Cana when Jesus performed His first miracle. Mary, the Mother of Jesus said, "Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it" (John 2:5).

Another thing to consider is that preachers prepare sermons based on what they have heard from God for a group of people at a particular time. When they deliver a message to a congregation, it will reach people in different ways. Some will hear what pertains to them and nothing else. There is no need to argue around the dinner table if you did not comprehend what was meant for another family member.

Keep in mind that listening to a sermon is much like reading the Bible. You hear it in your own context and nobody else's. It is like putting on your own pair of eyeglasses which helps you to see clearly. However, putting on someone else's glasses will make things look foggy because the glasses were not custom-made for you.

Another thing to remember is that the preacher is not to blame if you do not get anything from the message. Perhaps you are too wrapped up in your own cares to listen to what the man or woman of God is saying. You might be distracted by too many things to listen and hear what God is speaking to you.

  1. Read the Bible as if God is speaking directly to you.
  2. Listen to a sermon as if God is speaking directly to you through the man or woman of God who delivers the message.

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