Five Bible Verses You Need to Stop Misusing

That verse you keep quoting? It may not mean what you think it means.

The other day, someone gave me a note with Nahum 1:7 printed at the top: “The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him.”For some reason, they neglected to include the next line, which continues the thought from verse 7: “But with an overflowing flood he will make a complete end of Nineveh.”

Okay, so maybe the fuller version doesn’t deliver quite the same Hallmark moment. And maybe that’s the problem with how many Christians use the Bible.

Christians read (and quote) Scripture in tiny, artificial fragments all the time. And by doing so, do we alter the meaning without even realizing it.

Digital Bible apps make it easier than ever to Twitterize holy writ. But we’ve been doing it for ages. Here are some of the most commonly misused Bible verses.

“’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you . . .’” (Jeremiah 29:11, New International Version)

Jeremiah 29:11 reads like a Christian motivational poster. (Wait. It IS a Christian motivational poster.) No wonder it was Bible Gateway’s second-most shared verse of 2013.

Woke up on the wrong side of the bed? Don’t worry. God has a plan for your day. Facing a rough patch at work? Take a breath. Your future is bright. Money’s a bit tight? Relax. God’s going to prosper you.

jeremiahExcept the words in Jeremiah 29:11 have nothing to do with bad hair days, corporate ladders, or financial success. In 597 BC, King Nebuchadnezzar invaded Judah. He rounded up 10,000 leading citizens of Jerusalem and dumped them in Babylon, 500 miles from home. They lost everything. They didn’t know what to do next.

From Jerusalem, Jeremiah wrote to the exiles — and told them to get on with their lives: “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters.” In other words: you’re going to be there a while. Yet God promised this wasn’t the end for them. In 70 years, the exiles would return home. This was the “hope and . . . future” mentioned in Jeremiah 29:11.

Incidentally, that hope and future was something most of the original exiles wouldn’t live to see for themselves. (Seventy years was a long time then, too.) The future described in this passage would be for their children and grandchildren.

In other words, Jeremiah 29:11 doesn’t guarantee your personal fulfillment.

“We know that all things work together for good to those who love God . . . ” (Romans 8:28, New King James Version)

Can we agree right now to ban this verse from greeting cards?

Romans 8:28 doesn’t mean that losing your job or getting cancer is somehow for your own good. In fact, a better translation is probably, “In all things, God works for the good of those who love him.” In other words, whatever your circumstances, good or bad, God is still fighting for you.

In Romans, Paul claims that Jesus came to rescue both Jews and Gentiles from death, creating a new human family. For Paul, nothing can thwart God’s purpose. “Creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay,” and so will we. The happy ending promised in Romans 8:28 is not just any good outcome, like finding a new job or selling your house for more than the asking price. It’s the ultimate happy ending: the renewal of all things.

To quote N.T. Wright, “The world is still groaning, and we with it; but God is with us in the groaning, and will bring it out for good.” That’s what Romans 8:28 is about.

“Ask and it will be given to you . . .” (Luke 11:9, New International Version)

It’s tempting (and lucrative, for some preachers) to treat this nugget of Scripture as an ironclad promise. Whatever you ask for — promotion, wealth, the spouse of your dreams — God will give it to you.

Unless, of course, Luke 11:9 is part of a larger narrative in which Jesus has already told us what to ask for. After a brief episode in which he defends Mary over her sister Martha for choosing what matters most — being a disciple, a citizen of his kingdom — Jesus’ followers ask him how to pray. Jesus tells them to ask for things like daily bread, the advent of his kingdom, forgiveness for sin. Only then does he say, “Ask and it will be given to you.”

It’s not, “Ask for anything you want.” It’s more like, “Ask for my kingdom, and you will have it.”

“I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13, New Revised Standard Version)

What happens when we treat the Bible as a random collection of freestanding verses? Well, for one thing, as Tyndale House Publishers editor Keith Williams told Christianity Today, “Philippians 4:13 is going to refer to an athletic performance rather than perseverance through need.”

For some, “I can do all things” means scoring touchdowns and clearing the bases. But that’s not exactly what Paul had in mind. Paul was sharing that he’d learned to be content no matter what his circumstances — rich or poor, hungry or well fed, in prison or out. What Paul was saying is not so much “I can achieve anything,” but “I can endure anything” — which, in his case, included prison.

“You will always have the poor among you . . .” (Matthew 26:11, New Living Translation)

It may not be one of the most popular Bible verses, but this is one of the more frequently misunderstood. As a kid growing up in church, I sometimes heard this text used put down other people’s efforts to fight poverty. There’s always going to be poor people. Jesus said as much. So why fight it?

Except the context of this verse suggests a rather different picture. Jesus was quoting Deuteronomy 15, which commanded Israel to cancel everyone’s debts every seven years. “There need be no poor people among you,” the writer insisted, “if only you fully obey.”

A few lines later, he added, “There will always be poor people in the land.” This was a concession to reality, not an excuse for apathy. In fact, it was all the more reason to be openhanded with the poor.

Jesus alludes to Deuteronomy 15 when he explains why it was okay for a woman to anoint him with expensive perfume shortly before his death, rather than sell the perfume and give the money to the poor. Mark’s gospel offers an extended version of Jesus’ line: “The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want.”

Maybe we’d be better off focusing on the latter part of Jesus’ statement.


What do all these misused Bible verses have in common? Well, each is short enough to fit into a single tweet, for one thing. But the Twitterized Bible often leads us down the wrong path because it reinforces an artificial structure on the text. (It’s not like the Bible originally came with all those verse numbers.)

But there’s an even more damaging effect. If I’m free to ignore the larger context, then it becomes easier to read the Bible like a narcissist. Suddenly, Jeremiah 29:11 is all about me, not some long dead exiles in Babylon. Philippians 4:13 is about my personal achievements, not the hope that sustained Paul in a dank prison cell.

The thing is, the Bible is not all about me. It wasn’t even written to me. And ironically, if I’m going to get whatever it has for me, I need to start reading it with that in mind.

Ben Irwin
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  • Mike Daniel

    Excellent piece, Ben! I loathe “bumper sticker theology”!

  • Ellen K.

    Not all Christians quote the Bible like that.

    • disqus_lcgocZ8O6h

      Surely not “all” but MANY do! I grew up hearing this kind of little bible quips and it is in lots of books, posters, feel good sermons etc.

  • Daffany Smith

    Thank you

  • disqus_lcgocZ8O6h

    Great post!

  • Lee Castello

    I think Mr. Irwin makes an incorrect assumption…namely, that the people who repeat these verse don’t understand the contexts. We understand Jeremiah 29 was written to Judahites about Babylonian captivity. We also understand that God always has a plan and set purpose for His covenant people. I bet Mr irwin doesn’t take exception to people quoting Jeremiah 29:13: “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Is this also only relevant to Babylonian captives? Of course not. It’s a universal truth. Those who seek God with all their hearts find Him. So also it is universally true for God’s covenant people that He has a set plan and purpose for our lives. And its a good plan with a bright future.

    • Jojo Lacanilao

      It’s funny how you actually proved Mr Irwin’s point.

      • Lee Castello

        How did I do that?

        • Jbuchanan725

          Depends on how you define “good plan and bright future”. Some would say that includes a sale at Old Navy, the closest parking space at the grocery store, or _________

          • auggie


      • RocksCryOut

        Jojo– It’s funny how you actually don’t even understand Mr. Irwin’s point…

    • Daniel Clingenpeel

      It actually is pretty amazing how many people within the Church actually know none of the Bible except for the biggies that are quoted most often…like Jeremiah 29:11. You use the word “we” when it should be “I”. You cannot speak for all Christians. If you think that most Christians know Scripture then you better start talking to people about how much they read and memorize and stop deceiving yourself. I remember one time my old senior pastor said to me “she’s been in church her whole life, why would you expect her to know anything about Scripture?” It’s sad to say but this woman of 60+ years that had, from infanthood, grown up in the church didn’t know much Scripture. The way that Scripture is supposed to be read is through the lens of first hand context FIRST and then after that how it applies to us. Of course God has a plan set in motion BUT this Scripture was not written with ME in mind by the writer. When people rip Scripture out of context and apply it to our lives without bothering to look deeply at what it actually meant back then they are missing a major point of Scripture. I bet he does take exception to Jeremiah 29:13 being taken out of context or he would have written an entire article stating that we should take Scripture out of context… “If I’m free to ignore the larger context, then it becomes easier to read the Bible like a narcissist.” That is what Scripture has been boiled down to, me me me, when it actually has everything to do with Him Him Him. This is evidenced by Joel Osteen sermons and the like. God will bless your life if you just do this. God will do this for you if you just declare it. The world doesn’t work that way and neither does God. The exile had nothing to do with me so why would I take that story and make it my own? In the broader context we see God doing a great work to redeem his people and that applies to us but that specific story doesn’t apply to us and therefore we need to be careful about how we view Scripture.

      • Lee Castello

        What makes you think that believers today cannot make legitimate personal application from 29:11?

        • Daniel Clingenpeel

          I didn’t say they can’t but Scripture was FIRST written for the audience at hand and the writer didn’t have me in mind at all. I believe we can apply it to our lives but too often Scriptures like this are used out of context and as a pithy retort to very real problems in people’s lives when a Christian doesn’t want to deal with those very real problems. For example, in a few months time my wife, without fail, will lose her job. The daycare she works for will be closing. For someone to walk up to us and quote Jeremiah 29:11, it would not be helpful. Why? A few things, first, the fact that the verse was written to a whole people group about their exile from the land that was promised them because of their inability to stay away from other gods as well as their inability to listen to their own God makes our problem of having to find another job for my wife seem oh so very trivial. Second, it’s a heart issue of people, Christians want to care but don’t want to get dirty so they say an “uplifting” Scripture out of context and hope that will hold a person over until they can get themselves out of the situation. “God has a plan for you”, what they mean by that is “I don’t know what else to say to you to comfort you so I’ll just put it all on God to do good things for you, this is awkward and I hope you don’t ask very much of me because I’m busy.” This leads to the third reason it’s not good to quote this in this situation, it puts the blame of my wife losing her job on God. So it is God’s plan for my wife to lose her job? It’s God’s plan that we might lose our home and have our son, who is less than a year old, be out on the street? That’s God’s good “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”?

          No, God is bigger than that and better than that. In this situation, there are people to blame (not individuals but the whole organization), not God. I realize God could be calling her to different things but this doesn’t scream “God’s Blessings” to us. My sister in law just
          lost a baby not too long ago. What is God’s plan in that? Was it God’s
          will that an innocent unborn child should die? If it is truly God’s plan to kill off her unborn child how does “prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” fit in to that? What do you say to her? Harm was present, hope was squashed, a future was snuffed out.

          Look at the top of the article. Nahum 1:7, wow. When we take things out of context and even rip a verse in half and use it for our own purposes it greatly diminishes Scripture. It turns it into a self-help and self-gratifying handbook to God’s Greatest Life Just For You (that might just be Joel Osteen’s next book title). Scripture is not a self-help book. It is not a handbook for narcissism. God will not be guided by us if “we just declare that I get a good parking spot in Jesus name.” There are very real problems in this world, greater than my wife losing her job or us having to walk an extra 50 feet to go in to Walmart and buy a new television some other frivolous object.

          Know that I am not bitter towards God for any of this. I fully believe God is going to do great things in our lives but that doesn’t mean that terrible things won’t happen either and quoting Scripture frivolously seems to gloss over this. This life is messing and it could take living 60 or 70 years in pure hell before God’s plan unfurls for us. Quoting Scripture like that would be unhelpful to those who have to wait that long. A better way would be to come alongside them and grieve and just say “I don’t know what to do or say but here I am just to be with you now.”

          • Sir Walker

            Daniel, I MUST SAY that you are those most intelligent and honest person I have read any thoughts from regarding God and his will. I am can agree that we, as humans, in an attempt to comfort others or dodge the truth of hardship in our lives, us only the comforting lines in the Scripture as a way out never looking at the deeper context behind the words. FAITH is the key to access God’s will in my estimation. Still, bad or unpleasant thing may occur in our lives that have nothing to do with God’s will.
            The Church inspires many people through false hope and speedy recovery. God is still a mystery for good reason. His plan involved love, patience and longsuffering. The longsuffering part is hard for most people to come to terms with. We have to understand that Christ suffered a great deal in his time on earth and we will not get a pass as believers. We are joint heirs with Christ and the enemy will continue to attack every follower he can.

          • Kayla West

            I wonder if people would feel less misled if they were offered words like “God will do great things WITH your life” Or “God has a plan for ypur life” the good that will come from the suffering that my family has endured may not come in my lifetime. Yet, I still fully believe that God can and will take these tragedies and use them for His good and His will. I don’t believe he was responsible for any suffering or hurt or loss of hope. I know that any amount of evil or tragedy cannot stop or interfere with God’s ultimate plan. Not everyone misquotes these scriptures and I hope that the ones who do are unintentional in their error and are doing so out of love. Enjoyed the article.

          • daniel buck

            Right on, brother.

          • Eric Yang

            The problem isn’t the bible verse, it’s the people’s mentality with it. People think that because you’re a Christian your life will be a walk in the park when that’s obviously not the case.

            The point is that you will face hard times, but rather questioning why, you take it to prayer. Take a look at Job. He lost everything–family, possessions, etc.–but he stuck his faith even in the times of peril, and God gave it all plus more in the end.

            Again this is not going to be a fairy tale happy ending for everyone, but the words are there to provide encouragement, not to deceive the reader.

          • Queen Alice

            Well said brother. As Christians, we seek for our walk to be Christ-like. Well, Jesus was homeless, AND owned the whole world at the same time, ate with the outcasts, healed with no thought for recompense, and died a horribly painful death. AND rose on the third day, having defeated death, hell and the grave. His life was one of sacrifice. I have a hard time living in the summer without A/C. Our walk is part of a picture so huge we cannot hope to see the whole of it from our spot here in this life. Our task is to love one another as we are loved and to run with patience the race that is set before us, trusting in Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. I have just done what this article criticizes, but I agree that we need to be careful about the Bible becoming the ME book. It is about our redemption, but it is also about the redemption of the world. Of which I am a very small part.

          • RevPhil Manke

            That is only one way to see it, but their are more. You are making God in your image, and the Christ also. Christ may have experienced the crucifixion willingly once he saw and accepted Gods plan. He never sacrificed because it was not part of his thot system, only yours. He did not feel pain because He accepted He was not a body in Reality. Again, that is yours. It is also why He could not die, and lives still today. He, and God within Him, is not a body, not form, but The Holy Spirit Of Perfect Peace, or Love. The greatest realization is that He is our Brother and we have that same Mind of Oneness within, unchanged and invulnerable, Shining in His Love. You may not believe this, but truth is not democratic or conscensical. When you accept this as real, miracles will be your gift to give and receive. The Bible may indeed be a “me” book, but because you do not know yourself, you have not seen your meaning, or Gods.

          • Queen Alice

            Brother, I am questioning the basis of some of your dogma. In the Word, it tells us clearly that Jesus suffered and died for us. He was indeed human as we were and that fact is referenced many times. Indeed, there are several references in the letters from the apostles to groups of early Christians who “went out from us”. One of the early departures from God’s truth was groups who believed that Jesus was spirit and not flesh and blood. When He resurrected, He ate fish and offered His body to be touched by His disciples to show them His “physical-ness”. He also appeared and disappeared. So I think it is safe to take from this that a resurrected body is indeed like and unlike what we are used to here in this world. Jesus was most often called Rabbi, or teacher, while He walked among us, but now that He is seated at the right hand of God, I do not raise myself to the level of being His brother, I want only to be a sheep in His pasture. I do not possess the mind of God – I possess the mind God created in me. Miracles are based on faith – the faith to move mountains as the Word tells us. In my experience, this faith is hard – not impossible, but hard. And finally, I know myself pretty well and what I know is this: I am a sinner standing in need of a Savior and by the blood of Jesus, shed here in this world, I have the promise of being with Him after the death of my physical body. All of that is recorded in God’s Word, the Bible. I have no idea where you are getting your information from, but it sounds a bit like some of the Eastern mysticism teachings – it isn’t based on the Word my friend. Please get out a good old KJV of the Word and do some reading, the scales will fall off your eyes.

          • Tanna larmijo

            I believe it is meant for your inner demons if you seek negative,problems and hell that is what you will find. If you knock on the gates of hell rather than the gates of Heaven it will be opened ask the devil for a hand in your life and situations and he will definitely give.

          • Pastor Kel

            I love what you said here, Alice, but wouldn’t it be better to just read the Word in the Greek, Aramaic and Hebrew instead of an English translation? It certainly stops a lot of the bickering over meaning and translational accuracy, of course then you have to choose which manuscript you want to read from, another can of worms. That aside, you have done a wonderful job identifying the Gnostic heresy being espoused which seems to be later coupled with some Islamic thoughts and mixed together with an all spirit brahmanist view. Well done, Alice and thanks for knowing your Word!!

          • Steven B.

            I disagree with the assertion that the “writer” didn’t have you or I in mind. I believe that through the hand of men, the “writer” was God, and I think he did have me in mind. I think he knew that one day I would be reading it, and I believe that he intended for me to apply it to my life. I believe that God was fully aware that all of man kind was his audience, and I don’t think he calls us to have 2,000-yr-old goggles on to understand his word. The bible is more than just a historical account for us learn principles and life lessons from, it’s a living word that is meant to be used as means of communication between us and God. I think we forget that sometimes when we get hung up on “who was the original audience” or “how would they have understood this in their time?” I think God was smart enough to make sure that what ended up in the Bible would be applicable to everyone, and that he knew how WE would understand it, in OUR time.

          • Daniel Clingenpeel

            You make some right assertion but quite literally the “writer” that actually was writing all of these things done had a very immediate audience that they were speaking to. You should “get hung up on who was the original audience” otherwise you take things way out of context. I’m sure you do it also like most Christians, myself included, that picks and chooses which Scriptures to live by and say that the rest no longer apply. If we took Scripture that seriously, we’d still be stoning people for sins. The purpose of having 2000 year old goggles is to truly understand the history of the story of God and His people. When we turn it into a what do I, ME, MYSELF, get out of this we turn Scripture into a narcissists handbook and God into our own personal genie to do our bidding. No, Scripture is an overarching narrative of Creation, Fall, and Redemption and not some Hallmark card quote generator.

            Paul had specific people in mind when he wrote about “hey you shouldn’t be having sex with your mother-in-law.” Did Paul have me in mind? No. Did God? Yes. Did Paul even know that his writings were going to become some part of a Canonical Holy Writing? No. God did. I never said that we can’t apply Scripture to our lives. I also never said that Scripture isn’t alive and working in the world now. I am a pastor, an ordained reverend, that works everyday (even my days off) to bring God’s Kingdom forward. I see how Scripture is working for goodness of the world. I am, however, seeing how human beings, not just Christians, are being hurt when Christians misuse Scripture to try to patch wounds instead of getting their hands dirty. I am also seeing that the world at large hates God because of Christians who do this sort of stuff. I am seeing how misusing Scripture is molding how future generations will do “church” and when we break it down to a Joel Osteen type “declare, declare, declare” time then we are doing the world an injustice and giving God a bad name.

            Looking at Scripture through 2000 year old goggles also keeps us grounded, it helps us be more sensitive to people, it helps us communicate it better today when we look at it from back then. Don’t think that when pastors say this we actually mean that it doesn’t apply at all to anything in our lives. We actually mean that we FIRST need to look at context to see how it applied to them and then it helps gives us a bigger picture of what is happening in Scripture. If we reduce Scripture, i.e. Psalms, Proverbs, Creation, Revelation, Gospels, or Epistles to just “what can I get out of this for my life today” we are robbing ourselves of something far greater, the story of it all, Creation, Fall, Redemption. We are focusing on getting our lives sustained through a book instead of the living God. Don’t think they are the same because they aren’t. Keep in mind that Jesus came and tore at the Pharisee’s for following their Scriptures and broke all the rules because, quite seriously, they WERE ALSO taking their Scriptures out of context. (We just talk about this this last Sunday at church) In the end God is bigger than anything that is written down but He has left it to us, (even extra-canonical Scripture) to give us a clear understanding of what he wants from us.

            There are several ways we SHOULD look at Scripture. We are part of God’s cosmic redemptive story. We look at context, now, future, overarching themes down to specific words, we look at languages for different translations, we look at the words themselves that were spoken and then later on written down, etc. Bases need to be covered when using Scripture, otherwise we can accidentally turn all of Scripture into a Hallmark card.

          • evethegreat

            i learned so much from reading comments.. especially yours. thank you.

          • Joyce Ellis

            You are so right about all of this. At my church we are currently doing a book study on “Why do Bad Things Happen to Good People” by Harold S. Kushner. The study has sparked discussions on much of what you have commented. We also need to remember that men and women wrote down all the things that are in the Bible, and we need also to remember that it was MEN back around 400 CE who decided which of these writings would be included in our “modern” Bible. All writings that they deemed not worthy, or perhaps did not agree with how they interpreted God’s word, were to be destroyed. I wonder which of the writings available at that time would be included if current theologians were to do the choosing? We need to view the Bible for what it is. Part history, part myth, part poetry, part laws and so much more. As you say, it was written for the people who were living at the various times in history. That is not to say there are not lessons for us in this, but we do need to understand the context in which it was written in order to understand the lessons. Thank you for your comments. It has been helpful for me to read your thoughts and to put into some context some of my own thoughts and reasoning.

          • scriptdreamer

            I recommend you read Hank Hanagraaf’s, “Has God Spoken.” I believe it will help you understand why we can trust the bible as being divine in origin and not human…if we cannot trust the bible to teach us truthfully about Jesus Christ, why even go to church as God in Christ is unknowable because of all the various types of Christ’s out there, or worse, a figment of our imagination? How do we know any spiritual truths? Anything goes nd all beliefs are legitimate (though they cannot all be right, but can, in fact, all be wrong) and we end up reading books by non-Christian authors in our churches instead of the bible itself…

          • TexasSky

            His point is not that God was not speaking to us as individuals. His point was that we need to consider the entire circumstances and the context of the words. “Ask and ye shall receive,” is not a verse that turns God into the great Santa Clause in the sky. It is written to all of us, but there are strong conditions that many people ignore in those verses that matter. In Matthew that words are part of a sermon on the importance of putting full faith in God. It stresses “and doubt not”. It talks of mountain-moving-faith. The kind of faith that moves mountain would NEVER be a selfish, self-serving, get-rich-quick kind of faith. In John, Christ is speaking of his death and resurrection, and the promises made warn of terrible moments ahead that result on great joy (a woman in labor who gives birth to a wonderful child). In context, again, it is not a “get rich quick scheme.”

          • Ben Irwin

            @TexasSky:disqus and @robertmchenry:disqus … you’re both right. My point is not that God doesn’t speak to us through Scripture. The way I would put it (as others have) is that the Bible was written for us, but not directly to us. Each book has an original context, audience, etc.

          • Robert McHenry

            I don’t think the author of the piece would disagree with you… I think what he was saying that if you really believe that the bible was inspired or written by god… then believers should read it more carefully and refrain from taking bits out of context that might alter the meaning of the original text. And I also think he was poking fun at “prosperity christians” that seem to think the god is there personal piggy bank/slot machine…. I remember that when I was a kid, my mom instructed to make prayers of gratitude for what we had… and not to “ask god” for anything… (I think she thought it was rude).

          • Kevin Thomas

            I think it’s imperative that we ask timeless truth or specific teaching. We also need to understand what was going on historically/culturally, context, and also what the original language is saying…..

          • Vincent Allen

            Steven, As nice as this would be. Sadly it just is not the case. The more recent of the texts in the Bible were written 2,000 years ago. The older ones somewhere closer to 5,000 years ago. And to say the text was written with you or I in mind is a little mis informed. 95% of the worlds population was illiterate until as little has one hundred years ago. So for the balance of Christian history most people save the elite of the elite would not be able to read the words on the page. Furthermore, the Bible was not written in a common language until Martin Luther circa 500 years ago. And the Bible was not assessable in any way prior to the Guttenburg printing press. When you look at this in light of the fact that neither Orthodox Christians or Catholics feel called or compelled to read the scripture. Point of fact, is that prior to the 20th century much more attention was given to the context of a given scripture. We need to understand the way context works in the biblical setting. DA Carsons, head of New Testament theology at Trinity Evangelical in Chicago says, that biblical context is best understood as concentric circles. Starting with all of the data we know in the immediate setting, extending all the way out to the entire scripture, land, and culture. This is and has been the method that has been taught in seminaries for centuries. It is only now in our internet/tv driven post modern culture that we feel empowered to paste our beliefs onto God.

          • Donya Burnitt Singletary

            I don’t think that God caused your wife to lose her job but I think that He will take that bad situation and use it to bless you if you allow Him to. I also know that He didn’t cause you sister-in-law to lose her baby but with His help she can recover and use that experience a s a testimony to praise God who can and will help her get through it.And that is how you use those verses of the bible.

          • RevPhil Manke

            Everything you think is illusion if you see yourself as being separate and alone.

          • Queen Alice

            We are part of a cursed earth. By Adam all have sinned and come short of God’s glory, but through Jesus we have salvation. Part of being is cursed is being cut off, in a sense. God walked with Adam and Eve in the Garden, but when sin entered into the world, God cursed the world (interestingly enough for our sake) and cast man and woman, His creation, not His brother and sister, out. The Word is the wonderful story pointing to Jesus, our salvation and our way back to God.

          • josiah

            All scripture is inspired by God and He has all people everywhere in mind when He said it and had it written so all scripture can apply to all christ followers personaly is He or isnt He our persoal saviour?

          • Becky

            I agree. We have to quit sugar coating the Bible. We will have tribulation but our hope is in the Lord. There will be a new heaven and earth and joy unspeakable. I think while we are here we need to help others and yes grieve with others as well. I have lost a brother and sister to death and have overcome drug addiction with Jesus help but I still struggle with it. When I help others it takes me out of selfish motives. We as Christians need to represent Jesus correctly and I am glad I found your comment. God Bless you.

        • auggie

          The problem isn’t the personal application, per se. It’s the misuse of the verses to support us in our first-world goal-setting projects. The ultimate personal application to Jeremiah 29:11 is Jesus. He is the fulfillment. He bids us walk by faith, not by sight, though we don’t see his promises fulfilled before our eyes in the ways that we would find satisfactory. We are lifetime exiles in this world, but God planned to send his Son to prosper us and give us hope and a future. That ultimate day of prosperity and glory looked like a bloody cross, then an empty tomb, and a promise to come again. It’s about Jesus’ work on our behalf, not God’s plan to fulfill the American dream in our lives.

        • TexasSky

          Cannot is not the same as do not. Hundreds can, but don’t.

        • scriptdreamer

          I think it is proven over and over and over that many who claim to be followers of Christ are biblically illiterate. I’ve been at this for 25 years and most “believers” (not necessarily disciples) cannot scripturally defend the most basic of Christian doctrines

      • Sir Walker

        great point. I believe that the scripture gives us proof (evidence) of how GOD works and delivers his elect.

      • Judith MacKay Dahlen

        Yes. I have really been enjoying bible study sessions at church recently. In them we read different versions of the bible, the pastor refers to various translations and explanations of the historical context, and asks us our opinions. They vary. Perspectives and experiences are shared. People are encouraged to think. This is what we need to be doing. I really appreciate this article and will share it with the group. Having faith isn’t plugging your ears and chanting lalalalalalalalalala . It’s being open to broader purpose. Learning from the experience of others.

      • TexasSky

        My pastor used to say, “If the only time you read your bible is when you are in a pulpit looking up a verse that I told you to look up, or when you open a devotional page and read the snippet someone is using to teach a specific point, you are doing just what Satan wants you to do. You need to read it in context, letting God guide you. There is nothing wrong with coming here and looking up the verses I ask you to read in church, but go home, read the verses before and after those and make SURE that I didn’t make a mistake.”

    • JenellYB

      Google Kountz cheerleaders, Kountz Texas. . They took to Texas courts their demand use such, and in some exactly these, snippets of bible verses, on the banner they run through on the field during high school football games. Yes, a LOT of people use them just like this writer is pointing out. I hear and read on my FB pages regularly, people I know that use snippets of bible text in such inappropriate and inaccurate ways, and that is really what they think they mean. They don’t have a clue about what they mean in context. I’ve heard it in churches, too, and even from pastors preaching from the pulpit, applying such snippets of out of context scriptures applied to things they do no come even close to within context.

      • Erin Hans

        My favorite (sarcasm) is when people use these handy scripture snippets as posts on their home business/MLM Facebook pages and the like.

    • Isaiah Rivera

      It appears that you are limiting God and holding Him to a promise that was never meant for the modern church. So if God does not prosper someone for whatever reason, does this make God a liar? Lazarus the beggar was completely destitute in his earthly life, yet he was separated from the reprobate in Abraham’s bosom. You need to follow your assertions to their logical conclusions. As for verse 13, if this was the only verse in scripture that referred to those who seek God, you might have a point. Since scripture is riddled with passages that refer to those that seek after the Lord, it is a non issue.

      • Lee Castello

        You may want to read what I said instead of reading into what I said. What did I say about prosperity?

    • TexasSky

      The point of the article is that you need to read God’s word in context to get the full meaning of God’s word. If you argue with that, you don’t get the article or the bible.

    • Callie Knuckles

      I think the main problem with Christians today is that we live a self seeking faith instead of a God seeking faith. Most of the time, when scripture is taken out of context, it is because we don’t have our mind set on Christ and enteral things. For example, Jeremiah 29:11 is usually taken out of context when we think of prospering as achieving the American dream. This dream is different for everyone but almost all American dreams have one thing in common and that’s selfishness. The world drills into our heads that it’s all about us and how we can get ahead whether it’s getting a new car or that job we’ve been working hard for. If we would take our minds off of what WE want and focus on what GOD wants we would have less trouble interpreting God’s word.

      • Queen Alice

        Amen Callie!

      • Ross

        Definitely. But it isn’t just limited to America. The majority of people filter the Gospel through their cultural lens. I think that the different denominations come from different cultural viewpoints more than anything else; look at those promoting circumcision while Paul was writing his letters. Our Western culture has a large Greek influence, so ideas coming from Epicureanism; that the divine is so far away and doesn’t care for us, has a massive influence in our worldview. It also couldn’t be further from the truth. God’s Word, from Genesis to Revelation is a testament (or actually two of them 😛 ) to how much He does care… certainly more than to give us pithy verses in our time of struggle.

    • John C Osborne

      Jeremiah 29:13 is a biblical truth and is mentioned several other places in the BIble(New and Old). Our Bible Study group just covered this topic

    • Kevin Thomas

      Are you speaking as a Calvinist? Everything being predestined?

    • cypher20

      I’m inclined to agree with you, Jeremiah 29:11 certainly in my view has a primary meaning, but has a secondary meaning. And I think there is support throughout the Bible to believe that God loves us and has good plans for us even if those plans aren’t always (often aren’t) what we plan for ourselves.

      I do think he makes a good point overall in knowing the context of the Bible and not taking verses to mean what you want. Especially the example about “ask and it will be given to you”, if you read that divorced from context it means something completely different then if you understand it in context. So I do think it is very important we know the whole Bible and understand it in total rather then pick and choose nice sounding verses that reinforce our existing beliefs.

    • Tobylee Bird

      When God says He has plans for us it does not mean Lee Castello that the plans are what we would view as good ones we would choose,as he had plans for paul and many many many others who were beaten,reviled,stoned,murdered,poor,hungry–but their future is bright because thats the plan God had for them,as God is not speaking of prospering,having a bright future on this earth–He is refering to the end result[the kingdome]AFTER enduring this life unto the end of the race–and I do agree with Jojo,you did prove Mr irwins point–but nevertheless,God bless you,and,your family.

  • Steven Hunter

    Spot on!

  • Doug Wilkening

    And my personal favorite:

    Strike all my enemies on the jaw;
    break the teeth of the wicked.

    (Ps. 3:7)

  • Susan Price

    Thank you for this. I get so weary of people quoting scripture without any context or fuller meaning.

    • Windwalker21

      I agree. My sister kept quoting about the most important verse to remember was “Love your neighbor as yourself”, and I kept pointing out to her that she was forgetting the mosdt important part: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, all you soul, all your mind…and your neighbor as yourself”. She didn’t want her son to know about Jesus dying for our sins because she was afraid he would be traumatized by the idea (my nephew is eight). Instead, she is teaching him this half-verse until he is old ebnough to learn who Jesus is on his own. But giving him the half verse doesn’t save him. It only makes him kind toward others. He needs to BELIEVE to be saved, and that’s what the first half of the verse is about….

  • martha

    Have you never thought ” the future” is when we are in heaven? Our circumstances here on earth are refining us for our future in heaven. If you are going to take apart His word, then read all of it and get the real picture. Our lives don’t end when our bodies do.

  • Keith Roberts

    As a preacher for almost 40 years, I’ve always championed the rule of interpreting the Bible in context.
    However, there are times when the writers of Scripture took previous Scriptures out of their immediate context to encourage God’s people.
    In Hebrews 13:5-6, the writer uses statements Jehovah made to Moses and Joshua (out of their immediate context) as well as a quote from Psalm 118, to encourage Christians undergoing persecution.
    “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”
    “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?”

    • Jbuchanan725

      The key word there is persecution. I agree with you but one can’t compare not getting a parking space with persecution.

    • Seth Robinson

      Excellent point.

    • Carolyn Cole

      Awesome point!!

  • sheree Robinson

    I personally believe God
    uses the words through the Holy Spirit to communicate what He wishes the hearer
    to hear regardless of the words said when the speaker does so through the love
    of God. I remember one time when I spoke to a person about how worry doesn’t
    help anyone and used the SLR (My paraphrase) version of the examples of lilies
    of the field and the birds of the air; later she called me and told me she
    heard birds on the way home and she understood what I had been
    sharing. She went on to repeat what she said I had said and added some
    other words I know I have never used in that context — so I
    just thanked God for adding what He wanted her to hear and
    prayed that someone in her neighborhood would come along to help her. (I met
    this person at work and due to the nature of what I do I could not befriend her
    and still be her worker). I like Dr Swindoll’s quote that says
    something like Christians are so quick to shoot the sick instead of offer
    healing and I try to remember that example before attempt offering my thoughts.. So I
    applaud your desire for us to seek understand of the contexts of scripture so as not to
    use it to promote our own point of view and I also want to thank you for stepping
    out to get a conversation going. I also want
    encourage people to go ahead and offer God’s Words of comfort and to trust the
    Holy Spirit to interpret the words when spoken through the lens of God’s
    unwavering love. We have too many people afraid to act because they think
    they have to be perfect or have to understand it all before they can (fill in the
    blank) Thanks to everyone in the Body of
    Christ doing their part to live heaven on earth and with God’s help may we all pray “..even so, Lord, come quickly…

    • JenellYB

      In your example, that worked very well. but consider, people in many different situations, circumstance, and the idea anyone can just pluck a snippet out of context and apply it to themselves and their own situation, and by extension, others around them. I assume you realize there are a lot of really mixed up and messed up people out there. Not all of scripture is sweet and pretty stuff that goes well on a Hallmark card, There are snippets of scripture that read as God telling someone to go rape, pillage and murder. I have known people personally use such out of context snippets of text about “God providing our needs” to justify even such things as stealing!

      • sheree Robinson

        Thank you for acknowledging how God was able to turn words of a simple speaking child to His own. And trust me when I say I understand you do not mess around with crazy (for lack of a better collective term) and the point you made about people misusing scripture for their own purpose. If the five examples listed in the story were examples of harm or way off base from how they are usu used I likely would have kept quiet. And before someone jumps on example 5 being mean I work in a place all about poor and I agree both that the poor will always be with us and that we will always be called to help. So many times I have gone to God in prayer with the above verses and have come away with peace that He is in control and I do not have to do every thing myself. Know that I support context knowledge and welcome those with the gift of teaching to keep teaching. I would likely not have been able to understand the words of the Bible, much less, be able to apply them without those called to teach. May God cont to bless you as you seek to bring glory to His name even as I ask for prayer to bring glory to His name— each according to the gifts we have been given.

  • klquinn64

    I would argue the Jeremiah passage. If we only assume that the passages refer to the times they were written for then we need to throw away our Bibles. He also assumes we are all looking for personal fulfillment and wealth. Don’t assume to know me or what I believe…go back to children’s books, maybe they don’t mind blind assumptions

  • BM

    And the easiest solution? Stop reading and quoting any bible passage and simply practice the following three word phrase: “Do No Harm”.

    • Benjamin Widlund

      No: do good in His name, through Him, and praise Him. God does not call us to hide away and just avoid harming other people.

      • BM

        And whose god are you referring to? And by the way, who created your version of god/creator??

        • Benjamin Widlund

          Well, you know the answer to the first question, but nice rhetoric questions there. Furthermore your second question is based on premises you know I don’t share with you, so I’m just going to ignore that one too. Let me instead ask you a question in return, a question I’m actually interested to hear the answer to: do you think lack of harm is enough? Don’t you think that people actually being proactive and doing good deeds is a necessity for life as we know it? If so, then why settle with avoiding to do harm?

          • BM

            Pro-active as in spreading the Christian con? “Doing no harm” is one of the many forms of the Golden Rule, a rule by the way established and followed way before your Jesus came onto the scene. ( a longer commentary was for some reason flagged by the moderators.)

          • Benjamin Widlund

            Christian con? Well here we go again.. No, proactive as in, as above stated, doing good. Applying the golden rule in a negative sense, as Confucius and others have done, is in fact very much NOT the same thing as what Jesus said. The difference between not stepping on a begger (doing no harm) and giving him or her a meal (doing good) might illustrate the difference.

          • BM

            Did the historical Jesus even utter a version of the Golden Rule? Luke 6:31 = Matt 7:12-
            No he did not according to the findings of many contemporary NT scholars.

            Professor Gerd Luedemann [ his book Jesus, After 2000 Years, p.151] notes the ancient and diverse
            attestation of this saying in antiquity, including its earliest occurrence in
            Herodotus III 142, 3:

            “I will not do that for which I censure my neighbors.”

            pp. 151-152, ” In view of the widespread attestation
            of the Golden Rule in antiquity and its generality, it cannot be attributed to

            See also: Google: faithfutures org /JDB/ as the blog filter will not allow web addresses.

            And because of the common sense nature of the Golden Rule, most humans to include myself follow said
            rule and versions thereof.

          • Benjamin Widlund

            And how is that, in any respect, an answer to my question? You avoid to answer the implications of applying only a negative “golden rule”. Furthermore even if Jesus did or did not utter the exact words that we refer to as the golden rule, he makes the same message clear through out the rest of the gospel. So, how about answering my question?

          • BM

            And what Jesus’ messages are you referring to as most of the messages were made up by P, M, M, L and J???

            And once again, one of the first Golden Rules was noted by Herodotus in the 400’s BC, “I will NOT do that for which I censure my neighbors.” So why should I not use a similar version. And how many NOT’s are in the Ten Commandments something else created by the Jewish scribes based on analogous rules previously developed by the Babylonians and Egyptians. (e.g. the Code of Hammurabi)

            And again going back to one of my original questions, who created your version of the “creator”??

            Some added details:

            Jesus was an illiterate Jewish peasant/carpenter/simple preacher
            man who suffered from hallucinations (or “mythicizing” from P, M, M, L and J) and who has been
            characterized anywhere from the Messiah from Nazareth to a mythical character
            from mythical Nazareth to a ma-mzer from Nazareth (Professor Bruce Chilton, in
            his book Rabbi Jesus). An-alyses of Jesus’ life by many contemporary NT
            scholars (e.g. Professors Ludemann, Crossan, Borg and Fredriksen, ) via the NT
            and related doc-uments have concluded that only about 30% of Jesus’ sayings and
            ways noted in the NT were authentic. The rest being embellishments (e.g.
            miracles)/hallucinations made/had by the NT authors to impress various Christian, Jewish and Pagan

            The 30% ofthe NT that is “authentic Jesus” like everything in life was
            borrowed/plagiarized and/or improved from those who came before. In Jesus’
            case, it was the ways and sayings of the Babylonians, Greeks, Persians,
            Egyptians, Hitt-ites, Canaanites, OT, John the Baptizer and possibly the ways
            and sayings of traveling Greek Cynics.

          • Benjamin Widlund

            And again avoiding the question. Just answer it, directly, that is all I ask.

          • BM

            Doing No Harm works for me as it works for doctors and nurses. No added detail answer needed other than below. And you still have not answered the question, who created your creator????

            “Primum non nocere is a Latin phrase that means “first, do no harm.” The phrase is sometimes recorded as primum nil nocere.[1]

            Non-maleficence, which is derived from the maxim, is one of the principal precepts of bioethics that all healthcare students are taught in school and is a fundamental principle throughout the world. Another way to state it is that, “given an existing problem, it may be better not to do something, or even to do nothing, than to risk causing more harm than good.” It reminds the health care provider that they must consider the possible harm that any intervention might do. It is invoked when debating the use of an intervention that carries an obvious risk of harm but a less certain chance of benefit.

            Non-maleficence is often contrasted with its corollary, beneficence.”

          • Benjamin Widlund

            You actually think the mindset of your average healthcare employee is do no harm? All my friends who work in healthcare are motivated by a will to help, without this they would never in the first place have engaged in a profession where do no harm is justified as a motto. The policy is there and is, in this particular context (good selection on your part), absolutely justified, but if you widen the perspective? How about my un-stepped homeless man above? I do not think that do good and do no harm are in any respect mutually exclusive, I think “do onto others…” encompass do no harm. Just doing no harm doesn’t cut it, it leaves us as humans with a passiveness towards one another. I seriously wonder why it is so important for you, who clearly do not believe what I do, to discuss WHERE this idea comes from, rather than what implications it has in modern day society.

            As for your question, I’m not entirely sure I get what you mean if you are not referring to God being created by man, as fiction. If what you mean is who created God in the same respect as God created us, that is also a question based on philosophically faulty premises. If there is a God, and he is what the Bible teaches, he is beyond matter time and space and therefor the question is both irrelevant and impossible to answer.

          • saneandreasonable

            Another adherent to the Jesus Seminar folks who somehow “know” that Jesus never said the things he did in the NT. And another atheist fool quotes the other fools.

  • Tye Darkcolor

    The first example, Nahum 1:7 NKJV

    The Lord is good, A stronghold in the day of trouble; And He knows those who trust in Him.

    So reading the context will help us to understand that The Lord is not good? It’s wrong to say just that He is good without talking about Ninevah?

    So reading the context will help us to understand that The Lord is not a Stronghold in the day of trouble? It’s wrong to say that He is a stronghold in the day of trouble without the essential context {which would show us that He is not}?

    So The Lord does not know those who trust in Him? We shouldn’t be going around comforting ourselves thinking that He actually does know those who trust in Him and if we had read the context then we would know how wrong we were to dare desecrate Scripture in such ways?

    Is the issue with the quote seemingly without context? Interpretation? Both?

    I agree that context is very important. I would also say the context in which a verse is quoted is also very important.

    Let me try one…

    For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope. (Romans 15:4 NKJV)

    This would lead me to believe that other older Scriptures were written for me also so that I can learn and have hope etc.

    But maybe I’ve taken that out of context too 🙁

    • Carolyn Cole

      I whole heartedly agree with this response! Very true!!

  • Grant Campbell

    Another one you left out, which a lot of our more sort of charismatic brothers and sisters always take way out of context, is Ephesians 5:18.

  • Hyperion Vars

    I would argue that the most horribly misused quote from the Bible is: “an eye for an eye” as the battle cry to actively seek revenge. It has gotten more people killed, it has driven the evil engine of vigilantism and far worse.

  • RocksCryOut

    So here’s what we’re supposed to understand from this article:
    1. God does not have a future and a hope for me.

    2. God is not using difficult circumstances to work good in my life.

    3. Don’t bother asking God for anything.
    4. The impossible is, in fact, not achievable, even through Christ’s strength.
    5. Don’t try to understand WHY the poor will always be with us– just eliminate their debts and everything will be o.k.

    Maybe the Bible wasn’t written TO me. But it was written FOR me and that would have been a redemptive point for you to have made here; perhaps offer some hopeful verses that, context and all, really do speak of God’s desire to give people hope and help on a daily basis.

    • Judith MacKay Dahlen

      A lot of poor are with us because their jobs have been shipped overseas by Christian folks who believe God has blessed them with their fortunes. If that shoe fits, I hope it pinches enough to get the wearer to remove it and walk a different path. The direction to forgive debts every so many years compassionately acknowledges the context in which we all live. Everyone has different skills, supports, mishaps and disasters. If the shoe does not fit, don’t wear it. However, we could all work to promote a better style of shoe, and better paths to walk on.

      • RocksCryOut

        That wasn’t prejudiced or over-generalized at all, Judith. Thanks for that.

        • Judith MacKay Dahlen

          It’s not prejudiced at all. It’s a fact. My own daughter’s job was shipped out of the country. I suggest your response was defensively couched in prejudice. Or simply that you’re wearing an ill fitting pair of shoes. We don’t have to condemn one or the other. If you’re looking for justification in the Bible, every seven years there should be do overs for people, no usurious interest rates the poorer you get. There used to be usury laws. My mother warned me about usury when I was a kid. They were repealed and now the worse off you are the more interest you pay, as if punishment were in order for falling on hard times. And you know very well many hard working people fall into that category. Where does the model of the Good Samaritan, as opposed to the haughty Pharisee play into your idea of virtue? Jesus was a social justice kind of guy, not a wheeler dealer.

          • RocksCryOut

            Your sure do write a lot about everything other than the subject of the article.

          • Judith MacKay Dahlen

            How do you figure? The article points out how scripture is cherry picked to justify acquisitiveness and marginalize the poor. If the shoe fits, and it very well may not, wear it. Otherwise articles of this sort encourage us to re-examine how we interpret biblical history and lessons and what we let pass in our own communities. It stimulates very important discussion.

          • RocksCryOut

            I figure because, twice now, with the writing of a single sentence, I have been able to goad you into blithering on about shoes.

          • Judith MacKay Dahlen

            I’m sorry you don’t get the shoe bit. Others probably do. It’s in reference to an old saying when criticisms are leveled: ” If the shoe fits, wear it.”
            If something applies to you, consider, or own it. If not, don’t get tail in a knot. Oh… and by that I mean, don’t get jerked out shape. Oh…and by that I mean… don’t take offense. Are we clear… oh… and by that… I mean do you understand? LOL

          • Windwalker21

            You know, RocksCryOut, it seems like you’re using this forum more for an opportunity to goad people, as opposed to actually contribute to the discussion…

          • RocksCryOut

            What was your first clue, Windwalker? ROTFL

    • WatchHawk

      If you actually think that’s what he is saying, you did not even bother reading the entire blog. ALL he is saying is – yes, the principles in Scripture about God’s character and His plan for His people apply to us – but people just chop up verses completely out of context, turning the Bible into a book full of little self-help Joel Osteen feel-good prosperity quotes, and think that it applies where it does not. Because they do not know the context of the Scripture and therefore what it is actually talking about.

      tl;dr – He is not saying that God does not have a plan for us or that through Christ in us, we can overcome. His point is that instead of taking verses for their true meaning – knowing what they are saying in context – we only take pieces of them to apply them to our lives wherever we feel like it to make ourselves feel better. As he says, instead of Philippians meaning that we can ENDURE anything in Christ, it means that yes, I will hit a home run at the game tonight.

      • RocksCryOut

        Read my post again. Mr. Irwin really wasn’t being very helpful here. That’s all I was saying.

        • innercityyouthministry

          “Perhaps his next article could supply a list of verses that actually apply and provide help to our daily lives instead of implying that there aren’t any.”

          If you want motivation, grab a self help book. The Bible is Gods Holy word, showing us his glory and power, not self help tidbits.

          • RocksCryOut

            Ah. So you agree with Mr. Irwin that the Bible really isn’t all that helpful. Thanks for clearing that up.

          • TheStudent

            Its shocking me that you gained nothing from the blog, and while everyone is entitled to their own opinion, I must say that your accusations are fairly inaccurate from the context of the authors purpose. The point was what my colleagues above were saying, that Irwin is pointing out that we can learn from the bible, but applying to our daily problems seems pointless when it is comparing something mundane to the suffering of the people in the bible.

          • Ross

            We are seeing oppression, but it isn’t physical oppression, it is mental and spiritual. To trivalise our problems and say that they are nothing compared to the people in the Bible is saying that you don’t need God to cast your cares upon.

    • Katrina Blakely Dunkin

      My thoughts exactly. The Bible is God-breathed, applicable for all time. That’s why it is called His LIVING Word and those passages can be applied in a self-centered manner, however, God’s future and hope for us…is for His glory…and consequently…all things work together for good for those who love Him and are called because God is sovereign and He works all things out according to His purpose for His glory and that will ALWAYS be good for us…even if it doesn’t make sense and doesn’t feel good. For Paul it was prison and a thorn…scripture should be read in context but also as a whole with the entire Word of God. The Bible is not the “words” of God it is the WORD. It should be interpreted in light of itself.

  • BelgianFriar

    well said. I would add Matthew 18:20 to this list. From what I see, “where two or three are gathered in my name…” is not a verse about comforting us when attendance is low in our bible study or worship service, but about the presence of Christ when we come together for the purpose of authentic relational healing and reconciliation.

  • Don Ruhl

    Taking Romans 8.28 along with verse 29, shows that the “good” that God works all things together toward, is that we be conformed to the image of God’s Son. Verse 29 begins with “for,” showing that verse 29 is a further explanation of verse 28.

    Good article, and I may use it as the basis for a sermon. Thanks.

  • FrMicah Hirschy

    Very interesting article, I am from a rather different Tradition (I am a Greek Orthodox Priest) and I seldom if ever comment on these sites but just wanted to say that I appreciate the article. I would also like to bring up for conversation what y’all (I am also from Alabama) think of how the early Church interpreted Scripture (Including Christ Himself). They did not try to exegete a historical-contextual meaning (an aside- I do not have a problem with this and it has value) they searched for Christ in the field of the Scriptures. Example: Christ applied the story of Jonah to Himself, His descent, and His glorious Resurrection. In fact the Early Church saw Christ as the center of the OT. It was, and continues to for Orthodox Christians, filled with Types, Prophecies, and Theophanies of our Lord. May the Grace of our Lord be with you.

  • edik415

    Rats! You mean, if I want to really follow this Jesus guy, I have to read the WHOLE Bible and not just pick out the verses that make me feel happiest? Bummer.

  • Rich Helm

    I wish Mr. Irwin would have covered a 6th misused Bible quote; Judge not, lest yea be judged. Maybe in another list.

    • Judith MacKay Dahlen

      I don’t see judgment in this article. I see common sense. No one’s saying you shouldn’t learn from the Bible. In fact, he’s saying we all SHOULD learn from the Bible and to do so we need to really examine what we’re reading and understand it’s context! That doesn’t throw out the lessons you’ve learned, unless you’re clinging to snippets that justify a limited outlook and poor behavior. On that we must all judge OURSELVES.

      • Rich Helm

        I wasn’t saying that there was any judgement in this article.
        I was saying the that Bible quote; Judge not, lest yea be judged, is usually misused and should have been on this list.

        • Judith MacKay Dahlen

          Ah. Gotcha.

    • crashtx1

      I would say that is probably the #1 most misquoted scripture today.

  • Judith MacKay Dahlen

    I’ve just discovered this forum today. It is exciting! So welcome. I look forward to more such discussions. J.

  • Lee Castello

    Some of you must be really mad at St. Matthew for his use of Isaiah 7:14.

  • Carey Jane Clark

    Your points are well taken, but I do find it interesting to note in your last example that Jesus quoted a portion of the Deuteronomy passage without citing its context. Perhaps the Jews at the time would have been able to call that to mind? While I do think it vital to keep in mind the context of the verses we quote and recognize that their meaning is better understood when we read and understand the whole passage, I do also believe that the Holy Spirit is able to bring to our memory a scripture in a moment when we are needing encouragement, correction, or direction. On those occasions, in my own experience, at least, it’s more likely to be the sound bite version, and not a whole passage.

  • Jamocha Quebus

    I’d rather listen to a Born Again, blood bought, spirit filled Christian quote Biblical verses regardless of his lack of scholarly exegetical knowledge, than hear Barack Obama a pseudo “Christian”, twist and mock the Holy scriptures to justify his socialist agenda while underhandidly promoting Islamic ideology and placing Muslum Brotherhood operatives in the Department of Homeland Security (Mohamed Elbiari)

    • John Michael Crofford

      That attitude is wrongheaded. You would rather listen to someone ignorant affirm your faith than have someone fairly erudite challenge your faith? Ignorance does not lead to good things.

  • Elaine Gales

    This is worth reading. Make your own conclusions but know that we don’t get everything we ask for, we don’t accomplish everything we set out to accomplish and we can never know how much not getting these things was for our good; but it’s still alright because if you are a believer, He will be with you through it all.

  • Luke Barnes

    I think perhaps all of this might be settled by pointing to the fact that verses and chapters are later additions to the biblical text. These books, for the most part, were meant to be read in their entirety.

  • Esther

    This is one of the best articles I’ve ever read. Excellent. Thank you. Thank you for daring to shake our ignorant interpretations and misunderstandings. This is fantastic.


  • Lea Davis

    Thanks, Ben, for this wise piece. We apprentices of the Kingdom do need this guidance, so we don’t keep on running ahead with our own ideas of the journey. Re-shaping busy, busy lives to include regular and frequent in depth study of and reflection upon whole swathes of the Word is strongly recommended. Ps 119, for example, suggests to us where the Word needs to be our lives. If we take one or two verses out of their own context, such as the excellent examples you have given, instead of creating a pathway or sound surface for our thinking and living, they become pebbles in our shoes, often causing us to stumble and lose our way. This kind of habit of selecting and using favourite viruses as plumblines and lodestars for continuing to live as we please, is what I have come to call the ‘cafeteria’ approach to discipleship and the Word – where one takes only what one likes the taste of, that agrees with one’s constitution, that doesn’t upset the applecart of one’s life. The result is a relatively unlived life in Christ, and that’s an enormous shame.
    Bless you, Ben, in your work for the Kingdom.

  • seeyouatthethrone

    Excellent article. Thanks!

  • AFoxMcLeod

    I absolutely agree that Scripture, taken out of context, can be a false thing at best and an evil thing at worst. The point in using these Scriptures pertaining to the promises and character of God for our daily lives is to acknowledge God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. Of course He has a plan for each of us! Of course when we ask His WILL, we will be more willing to receive it. (That doesn’t mean you’re ever going to strike it rich OR that the adoption papers are going to go through immediately) To hinder someone from using Scripture to testify that God still works in the same ways as He did when time began, is wrong (even though it may reference Babylonians or Amalekites, Jews or Gentiles). It’s all God’s Word. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, “16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” …of course, I’m not condoning the actions or voices of those that would take Scripture out of context to hurt others or lead them astray.

    • Luke Barnes

      The irony in quoting 2 Timothy is that the only scripture widely available at that time, and what he was talking about, was the OT. See why context is so important on a variety of levels?

  • Harvey Yoder

    My favorite misused and misinterpreted verse is “Be still and know that I am God,” which really is saying, “Lay down your arms and acknowledge God as sovereign”, the context being, “He makes wars cease… he breaks the bows and shatters the spear… he burns the shields with fire.”

  • Harvey Yoder

    The text below is Psalm 46.

  • Susan Meadows Mains

    I am grateful that the Holy Spirit is free to speak to me in a personal manner and in any manner He so chooses. I do agree with Ben’s admonition for us to be careful not to interpret the Bible to fit our own personal desired narrative. There have been times, however, when I have appreciated wrestling with different “bumper sticker” verses that have challenged me and have brought me to a deeper understanding of the God I serve. Aren’t there verses (Hebrews 4:12) that speak of God’s Word being quick and powerful and sharper than any two edged sword (I certainly don’t want to be accused of taking any verse out of context so excuse me while I go look it up, read it in context, study it and be able to write a thesis on it)?

    • Audrey

      THANK YOU.

  • PCamuck

    I always find it ironic that people on proof text and “Bible tweet” the good happy passages. But when you bring up “if you eye offends you pluck it out” everyone all of the sudden wants to have a conversation about context.

  • luke

    Lmfao at all you idiots.

    • Sam

      Actually it’s more like:

  • Steven Yeauger

    The problem with this article is I don’t see evidence that the bible is God-breathed. Its so much more than just a history lesson, it remains applicable to this day. Its instructions for your life from genesis 1 to revelation.

    However I agree that too many people make it all about them. It should be about sharing what the Word teaches us

  • Emilie

    How about we celebrate our freedom to express freely our opinions and our faith instead of bashing our brothers and sisters in Christ. Christian faith has so much to do with living the neighbor! Judging on the comments I read, there’s not a whole lot of love. Yes, verses are misquoted and misinterpreted, but when YOU become the perfect Christian, let me know.

  • Sam

    Well said, it’s especially poignant after reading a blog entry (sorry I don’t have the link anymore) about how proof-texting isn’t wrong. This reads as a response to that kind of thinking.

    Have a particular issue or lesson you want to teach? YOU CAN FIND IT IN THE BIBLE! And, you can take that pithy quote out of context and teach a lesson on how we should or shouldn’t do X. Or how X happens because of God’s plan. Or we can offer cowardy platitudes to feign empathy and use the BIBLE to back it up!

    Completely false and a completely improper way to use God’s Word! The Joel Olsteens of the world seem to be able to capitalize on this and we (as true students of the Word [I know that risks the no-true-scotsman fallacy, but it still holds true]) need to fight this kind of movement.

    I am always amused at how a blog entry can be well thought out, balanced, fair, and biblical. Then the comments go off the deep end either in disagreement or in agreement (then there’s the occasional troll). Why do some of the comments take this to the extreme and say that we cannot learn anything from the Bible? Why do others take the extreme to say that we cannot apply anything from the Bible to our lives? What is wrong with people? There’s no mention in the blog about NEVER being able to apply the Bible to our lives. There’s definitely not even a hint at the idea that we cannot learn from the Bible. Why do you take it that way?

  • Tabster

    May I translate this into Spanish?

  • Laurie Flanigan

    I agree that Jeremiah 29:11 is not about personal fulfillment, but in light of the rest of what this blogger says here, especially when he points out, “… that hope and future was something most of the original exiles wouldn’t live to see for themselves.” coupled with what Hebrews 11:13-16 says,” These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.” I think he’s pointing out the penultimate meaning when he says, ” The future described in this passage would be for their children and grandchildren.” I believe Jeremiah 29:11 is ultimately about their future and hope in heaven. Because of that, and because of the fact that this verse shows God’s unchanging character as being out for the good of his children, I think it’s an appropriate verse to put on cards and calendars. I’m sure there are some people who misuse the verses mentioned in this article, but when I and many other people that I know read them isolated from scripture, we think of their proper meaning because we know the scriptures they come from. Jesus himself used single verses when he confronted Satan in Matthew 4. Maybe it would be better to share the correct meanings of these verses with people who don’t understand them rather than agreeing to ban them from greeting cards. Maybe we need to be more like Philip in Acts 8 instead. “29 And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.” 30 So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31 And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. 32 Now the passage of the Scripture that he was reading was this:

    “Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter
    and like a lamb before its shearer is silent,
    so he opens not his mouth.
    33 In his humiliation justice was denied him.
    Who can describe his generation?
    For his life is taken away from the earth.”

    34 And the eunuch said to Philip, “About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” 35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus.”

  • Robert McHenry

    I have got to say this… after reading some of the above piece and some of the comments… I am really glad that I am an agnostic/atheist… my moral compass may have been developed and shaped by Jesus’s teachings… but I believe in the simple golden rule… treat others the way I want to be treated… and I always try to remember that the plank in my eye is likely bigger than the splinter in yours (which I am aware is flipped).

  • Dean Scholl

    Too much nit-picking…and not enough soul winning….

    • tarcil

      I don’t see how fidelity to the Word of God is “nit-picking”. What’s the use of winning a soul if you’re not winning it to God’s truth?

  • DJAY


    Jeremiah 29:11
    New King James Version (NKJV)
    For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.


    Jeremiah 29:11
    New International Version (NIV)
    For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

  • DJAY

    That verse you keep quoting may not mean what you think it means.
    Jeremiah 29:11
    New King James Version (NKJV)
    For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.
    Jeremiah 29:11
    New International Version (NIV)
    For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

  • Jesi

    Can we add John 6:53 to this list? 😉

    • BM

      Why bother as said passage fails rigorous testing for historic authenticity. For example, see the studies of Professors Ludemann and Crossan et. al.

      • Jesi

        Are you claiming that the doctrine of Biblical Infallibility is false?

        • BM

          Of course !!! Might want to take a course on rigorous testing of history.

          To wit:

          Rigorous analysis of the sayings and ways of the historical Jesus is based on the number of
          scriptural attestations, archeology, previous stories and the stratum or time period of their “recording”, separates the actual utterances of Jesus from the embellishments and fiction. Most of the conclusions are on line at sites such as Faith Futures. Again, also see the studies of Professors Crossan, Ludemann and Meier.

          • Guest

            Oh, I thought you were Christian, if you’re not, then the doctrine doesn’t really matter to you, or concern your faith in any way. I have studied history, Saint Augustine is wonderful! I was mostly commenting on John 6:35 as a Catholic, a bit of wit. 😉

          • BM

            As per Professor Gerd Ludemann, if you are looking for the historic Jesus, you will not find him in the Gospel of John. (Jesus After 2000 Years)

          • Jesi

            That’s weird, my comments were deleted. Anyhow, I was just being a bit silly as a Catholic, bringing up the passage in John, since most Protestants don’t believe in the doctrine of Transubstantiation.

          • saneandreasonable

            He quotes liberal theologians that don’t believe. He is a atheist troll that wants to bring negativity to the forum.

  • Lyn Gigi Zaspa Bautista

    It’s always good to put your hope in the Lord specially to His words of promises. It is a comfort to a wary soul and healing to a wounded emotions.
    when I fail to something would it be nice if I remember Jeremiah 29:11?
    And if I feel scared and weak to do what I need to do would it be great to know that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

  • Gregory

    These Hallmark verses are fine for cards. I believe Mr. Irwin is calling us to have a more reasoned, mature understanding that considers the whole Bible and not just a few snippets that have been repeated to us. He is not saying that God does not offer hope, but objects to the use of verses that characterize that “hope” as financial gain or personal success when often those verses may be in a larger context. Taken holistically, the Bible shows that we will have good times and bad times here on earth, but that if we have God as our refuge, we can make it through.

  • James Everett

    Praise God that He has given us spiritual insight into His word that we did not earn nor deserve. Any wisdom we have from the word was not earned or merited, but freely given by a God who desires to have that word used to build up His Kingdom. He is so good. We can get so caught up in our own self-righteousness that we sometimes forget that wonderful truth.
    Ben surely wasn’t saying that there is no personal application; He was saying that the personal application in the verses may not be exactly what can be assumed when first read. Take Jeremiah 29:11 for example. Do we have a hope and a future as Christians? Yes! And here’s why: The Israelites being enslaved for seventy years or for their lifetime was a shadow of greater things to come. As they were once enslaved, so once was I. As God set them free because of His faithfulness, I have also been set free by Him! And not only have I been set free from my sin because of His sacrifice, I can also look forward to a time when I can be utterly set free from the bondage of this world at the return of our Lord Jesus! That ultimate redemption leads us to worship God for who He is and how good He is; it does not put us into a state of rejoicing over personal gain.
    The application of Jeremiah 29:11 is realizing how faithful God is, how unworthy we are, and worshipping Him for the promise of eternal life spent in a restored relationship with Him.

  • pastordt

    Well done – thank you!

  • jjuni

    would’ve loved to see 1 cor 13:4-7 on here. tired of it being misused for weddings!

  • Tsega Tereffe

    I guess it was wrong that I was saved by reading John 3:16 without understanding the context? There is a time for devotional reading of the Bible and a time to study a Bible passage in its context. Both approaches were used in the Bible and we are perfectly fine to do so in this day. We don’t need to go to seminary for God to speak to us through the Bible. though it is valuable to study the Bible in its context to get a deeper understanding of God’s message to us, we don’t need to feel helpless and wait for theologians to explain things to us. After all there are so many different theological interpretations of Biblical passages based on the commentary writer’s school of thought and that venture itself is a risky one.

  • Denver

    I can appreciate the caution that should be taken when taking verses out of the bible that they should not be taken out of context. But beyond that, much of the bible’s scripture and its meanings CAN BE subjective. Fellow men who have read this and continued to bicker back and forth upon the true meanings of scripture. Just remember that Jesus came to fulfill the law and replace it. The legalism of Christianity is for the pharisees. We shouldn’t try to fight for who is right and who is wrong. I may be young, but I’m just saying, fighting about the interpretations of scripture do not progress the kingdom, at least not that I can see, not have ever seen. Why is there so much conflict between men of faith?

  • Tanya Marlow

    Thanks for this – I’ll look out for your book.

  • Samantha Drennan

    Yeah because God forbid we let people read the Bible in a way that encourages and sustains them. Let’s put them down and tell them they’re doing it wrong.

    • tarcil

      You seem to have missed the point of this article – that picking and choosing verses like that, using them completely out of context, distorts the original message. The Bible isn’t about you or me or any other particular human being – it’s about God. Read in that light, with the good news about Jesus and what he’s done for you, is the most encouraging and sustaining way to read the Bible.

      • Joe Halstead

        Exactly! Otherwise, if we read the Bible to mean, “all I have to do is ask for a wonderful job and a big house, and it’s all going to be mine,” we’re reading it all wrong.

        Along the same lines, quoting Bible verses so as to spread the message that God will prevail, but I’m not going to do anything to try to be better or anything, I’m just going to lean on the fact that God will take care of me, is a similar thing I see all the time on Facebook. This may sound bad, but when I see people I love struggling with some really bad habits, and they’re constantly posting Bible verses on pictures of the sun bursting through clouds, it makes me almost certain that they don’t intend to do ANYTHING to change their own situations. Unfortunately, I’m almost always proven right. I’d like to be wrong, frankly.

  • Danna

    Well said….if you think The Word has one application…the literal one. But God is not in a box we create…He is bigger than the version we create of him when we study the bible. The truth is the Psalms say His ways are manifold….and guess what? The Word is alive…and it has historical, prophetic and personal meaning, to name a few. Let us not make a new doctrine where there is none. His ways are ABOVE our ways and His thoughts are ABOVE our thoughts. Who are we to tell GOD what he could use to speak to his people?

  • Rich Miró

    The Problem is this:: God has done so much more with a few people who didn’t know the context, but just knew Him, a few verses they stood on with unwavering faith; than all the Pharisees did with their libraries of understanding and context.

  • todd tarantino

    I totally agree with this. I see Christians everyday misusing scripture from the bible. In fact, in most cases (but not all) I find these same Christians are the among the same people who follow “the prosperity doctrine”. The blessings of God will almost always include blessings which will be applied to and FOR his Kingdom. We are in the end of times as we speak, and Jesus Christ is calling for warriors, not people who are quick to put God in a box. The truth is if your truly a disciple of Christ, your life is going to be spent in the trenches as a soldier facing many tribulations, just as Paul did in his day. The more impact you make for God, the worse of a fight it’s going to be and the more persecution to come with it. Most so called Christians do not want to hear this and sadly they will never leave their comfort zones. Another common phrase I hear is “let go and let God”. This does not in any way mean that God is going to clear up, get rid of, or make any situation in your life that proves difficult magically disappear. His grace is sufficient for us. God helps them who help themselves. He is not a maid or a genie. So if your a real follower of Jesus, your future is not going to be “bright” by this lifetimes standards. But it will be by the next life’s. That is our promise.

  • David Peterson Harvey

    Yes! Yes! YES!!!! This is the right article at the right time. This has been a subject of late with me as people have misused some of these very verses with me. YOU ROCK!

    • BM

      The five chosen passages have some significant historical issues as those who supposedly said them did not exist or were put in the mouths of people like Jesus who was deified by the likes of P, pseudo P’s, M, M, L and J. For added details, see the reviews published at the Early Christian Writings and Early Christian Writings/Theories. This blog does not allow specific web page addresses but Google, Bing or the Yahoo search engines will easily get you there.

  • Charles Collier

    No, Mr. Castello…not EVERYONE who quotes these Scripture understand the context, which is WHY they continue to be misconstrued

  • Marc Mansfield

    You’ve also got to be careful of becoming prideful after reading this sort of message. I’ve thought these things before, but it’s easy to read this and be like “Yeah that’s so true! Come on you hypocritical Christians.” It’s easy to take new knowledge and become judgmental toward others. Take this with a grain of salt and humble yourself before the Lord, realizing that you need Him for everything. The more you walk with Him and spend time in the Word, the more you will see a consistency in His character and this verses can definitely apply to your own walk with Him. James 3:17

  • Jonathan Mayer

    Doesn’t Philippians 4:13 say, “There can be miracles if you believe?”

    But in all seriousness, even though I agree with the author’s sentiment about taking verses out of context, I’m not sure I agree with his minor premise that a piece of comfort written to the exiles was meant only for the exiles. That would mean that when the Church sings the Psalms, the Gloria, Nunc Dimittis, etc. we’re somehow misusing scripture.

    It would also seem to negate many Old Testament prophecies that were clearly speaking about two or more events simultaneously, and thus to two or more audiences.

    I don’t think it’s narcissistic to say that the Bible was written to us. “How can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard?” and “These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”

    • BM

      John 20: 31? Is it authentic or just more words invented by John to make his Jesus a god to compete with Greek and Roman gods? Many experts who have analyzed all the passages of the NT for historic accuracy have concluded that John 20: 31 is historically nil.

  • Chase Blankenship

    I wonder why people even want to be a Christian when they don’t believe that God’s word is the living breathing word of God? It would be a lot easier to just be an atheist
    If God isn’t speaking to you throughout his whole word that takes away from his diety and you are taking power from God by putting him in your tiny box of that was 2000 years ago

  • RevPhil Manke

    God is never fighting anything. That would be your ‘ego’ casting God in your image, and may also be the most misused idea in biblical tomes.

  • kellymitch

    I think there are many more verses taken out of context. Usually used to brow breat those they think are “sinners” and it is their job to point it out to everyone.

    • crashtx1

      Unfortunately both sides do the same thing, one to beat down and the other to try to excuse or justify sin.

  • Emma Gray

    I think the main problem with modern interpretation of the Bible is the assumption that we can know the exact intention of the author (or the assumption that we know who the author is at all).

    I’m not a person who believes the Bible the direct word of God or infallible, but what would be the point of being a Christian if the Bible was to be looked at as a history book (and an inaccurate one at that)? That’s great that Jeremiah was originally written for the Babylonian exile, but there are some seriously terrible things going on in our world today and no great, thundering voice of God to be found. Can’t a person find comfort in the words of God from another difficult time? Isn’t that what faith is?

  • Jessica Curtis

    One of my least favorite quoted verses is “Spare the rod, spoil the child.” Many people believe it comes from Proverbs 13:24, but it actually comes from a poem written by Samuel Butler. The actual Bible verse states, “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.” I had a philosophy instructor argue that it meant the Bible was in support of corporeal punishment, and I know lots of other people believe the same thing. The problem is the verse wasn’t meant to be taken literally (and it’s not even the entire verse, which is another issue). It was symbolic and the quote literally means, “Gently guide your child so that he can learn to make his own decisions and not rely on you for his entire life.” It has nothing to do with striking your child, with your hand or an object. Anyone who uses that Bible verse to support beating their child is just looking for excuses to get away with it.

    • Tye Darkcolor

      So Proverbs 23:13 is symbolic?

      • Jessica Curtis

        It’s referring to the rod used by a shepherd to gently guide their sheep. In this passage, the rod is meant to symbolize the gentle guidance a parent gives to a child to help them grow and learn proper decision-making strategies.

  • Joshua Parnell

    Wouldn’t this mean that Matthew was making a big mistake when he used Isaiah 7:14 and Hosea 11:1 as messianic prophecies?

  • Clark Bunch

    Quoting verses out of context can be dangerous. The Bible is not going to the grocery store with a list in hand, wandering up and down the isles and putting a few carefully selected items in our basket. Perhaps the best way to study scripture is still to go verse by verse through a chapter at a time, studying whole books and not just “verses.” Having said that, I’m not sure this list represents the most commonly misused. 2 Chronicles 7:14 was a promise made to the nation of Israel; the United States is not Israel, and God now deals with individuals not nations per se. I cringe when people start quoting it, implying that we can pray and fix our nation’s youth, the economy and strength our position as the only first world nation.

    I like the Romans 8:28 verse. I will not agree to quit using it. No, it does say everything that happens will be good. It still means, however, that every event can be used by God to bring about good. In Genesis 50 Joseph tells his brothers that they meant him evil by selling him into slavery but because he was in Egypt many people were saved from famine. In similar fashion Peter’s sermon in Acts 2 describes the evil men of Jerusalem crucifying Jesus but also how it was by God’s “definite plan and foreknowledge.”

    Bible verses can be used wrongly. But the answer can’t be for believers to stop quoting the Bible.

    • Joshua Parnell

      2 Chronicles 7:14 is a promise made to “My people, who are called by My name.” At the time, that was Israel. Now, that would be Christians, no matter what country they’re in.

      • Clark Bunch

        But the promise to his people is that is they x,y and z he will heal their land. The New Covenant is not about land; we are living stones (2 Peter) that God is using to build His Kingdom not made with hands. That Kingdom will be of people from every tribe, tongue and nation. Land promises are Old Testament.

        • windycitygurl

          Interesting topic- covenants, We find a lot of context in them.

  • Clark Bunch

    I read an article about things Christians need to quit doing. One suggestion was quit trying to reduce complex theology to 140 character tidbits that can be tweeted. But I also follow Pope Francis’s Twitter feed and thinks its okay.

  • Alexis Topolu

    The bible was written by men to make themselves feel important and to control the masses.

    • crashtx1

      I find it interesting when someone who is obviously not a “member” of a group takes time to open an article directed to members of that group and then insult them. I don’t understand the logic. I don’t troll atheist websites or fishing websites just to cast dispersions.

      • windycitygurl

        Shhh – maybe they will learn something. What? It could happen.

    • rationalized

      If that is the case why do you worry about what we believe in or you and your community is scared of acceptance of our beliefs?

      • Alexis Topolu

        You are making some assumptions here, what do think ‘my community’ is? Atheist? I am not one. i am not scared of anything here or worried, did I say I was?. I am making a statement about the bible and whether or not you believe in a God who is expecting Christians and possibly Jews?? to follow these books that men put together over the years, you have to question where some of the writings, esp old testament really came from. I am not much of a bible scholar, I wish I could be, but at what point did God ever say ‘I am providing this book for you’? Ten commandments, yes, if you believe the Bible anyway. I don’t know, I just questions things, I don’t want for there to not be a God, or his Son….. I have always felt, if you have faith and therefore the Bible is really all we have to go on, that you have to understand the writings as a whole and understand the times they were written in.

  • Emily Heitzman

    Excellent post, Ben! Prooftexting is such a common practice, and yet, when we do it, we do a major disservice to the many different stories and writings in the Bible about who God is and how different people have understood God to be present in the midst of their life circumstances. I think that prooftexting is one of the most dangerous forms of biblical interpretation… It causes us to have a “black and white” way of thinking about God, humanity, and faith, and it allows us to take one or two Bible verses out of context (historical and literary) and use it/them to prove or disprove what we already believe about God and humanity. We use verses out of context to condemn and judge others, to support and affirm our own life choices or economic circumstances while ridiculing others’, or to put a band aid on the real deep pain, suffering, and injustice our brothers and sisters around us and around the world face because we don’t know how else to deal with it.

    And it is so hard for people who have been raised to read the Bible in this way – in “treat[ing] the Bible as a random collection of freestanding verses” – to get out of this way of reading the Bible and thinking about God.

    One of the things I work hardest on in my ministry is to teach young people how to read and interpret the Bible texts within their cultural and literary contexts and to see themselves in the Bible stories and see the Bible stories in their own lives. And it’s amazing to hear the kinds of thoughts and reflections my youth and children have about who God is in the midst of their life struggles.

    Oh, and I love the Willy Wonka meme! It made me literally laugh out loud.

  • Joe Halstead

    I fully agree with your conclusion about the fostering of narcissism through the isolated use of Biblical passages. It really fits the way people tend to use Facebook and other social media.

    • windycitygurl

      Now there’s a helpful and useful comment. Reach out and trash someone today.

      • Joe Halstead

        I am confused by your comment. Are you saying that I effectively trashed someone with my comment? Who, and how?

  • CNMiles

    Pretty cynical, I’d say. I agree we shouldn’t just prooftext Bible verses from our mobile phone, but who’s to say the use of those verses are not correct, nor that God isn’t using those specific verses to encourage and motivate people for their good. No, those verses may not “preach” without good context, but the Holy Spirit can inspire people through them on a personal level, just. like. the. new. testament. Often in the NT, verse fragments are taken out of context and reinterpreted for circumstantial and prophetic relevance. That doesn’t mean we build new or strange theology on our personal devotions, but if God can speak through an ass, well, he can also speak through the Scriptures. This article rubbed me the wrong way all the way through. There was no Christ-like redemptive point to it. All Irwin seems to want to communicate is you’re stupid if these verses have encouraged you in anyway and that Christianity is often hopeless and offers no promise of abundant life. Thanks for that. I’ll remember not to read you’re “sobering” articles in the future.

  • Random Person

    great now we’re arguing about how to preach the gospel exactly what Jesus wanted =]
    Oh wait he didn’t. I think it’s better to just tell everyone to read the full context to fully understand,; not put them down for quoting one verse. You never know , a person could hear one verse take it there own way and that was just to introduce them to Jesus until their walk deepens and they read every chapter and every verse. Don’t put down any spreading of Christ. I know that might not be the intentions here but that’s what it’s coming off as.
    This article is very informative and I agree with most points, I just question the delivery and some responses.

  • windycitygurl

    I read Jew’s News, and they tell us that certain words we hold to, do not mean what we think they mean… OK I can deal with that. So if we misinterpret or use verses incorrectly–where does that leave us?? The HOLY SPIRIT guides us in our faith. Generally, I don’t ‘use’ verses except for one that has been a personal comfort to me for many years. Ps 27 The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom then shall I fear? Say what you want– we humans were never expected to go it alone.

    • windycitygurl

      I read the posts on this page and all I can say is…. “I wish I was as smart as all of you. Unfortunately– most of the
      preachers/pastors I have heard have different takes on the Bible also, They do not all emphasize context, personal bible study, or leaning on the HOLY SPIRIT to guide us to understanding…. so go ahead and hit at the followers and ignore their leaders if that makes you happy. For myself, I think the spiritual leaders ought to take a look at themselves too.

  • ghettopriest

    This is a well needed article. It opens the door for much needed discussuin

    • A Million Halleleujahs

      What you said!!!

  • Earl Guillotte

    What about God church it’s not a bulding and its not about money. We talk about how we feel what About God

  • Glenn Amburgy

    When you take the text from the Bible out of context all you have left is a con. You must frist know the history, then the audience, then the context in order to understand God’s Word. We would do well to know that God has created in His people a new spirit and killed the old. As long as we follow the Spirit of God which has been put in us He will lead us into all truth. He has promised in the Book of Hebrews chapter 8 verses 7 – 13 and chapter 10 verses 14 – 18 to write His Word upon our hearts which is our new spirit. Romans 12: 1 – 2 tells us to stay in the Word. 2 Corinthians 3: 17 – 18 tells us that God will do the transforming, and 2 Peter 1: 2 – 8 gives us great hope that God will do this.

  • Caitlyn Malone

    Mr. Irwin, thank you very much for this enlightening read. However, there is one verse I would like to add to your list.
    1 Corinthians 10:13 (NLT) says, “But remember that the temptations that come into your life are no different than what others experience. And God is faithful. He will keep the temptation from becoming so strong that you can’t stand up against it. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you will not give in to it.”
    I believe this is where Christians get the phrase, “God won’t give me more than I can handle,” which should be obviously false. The verse above refers to temptations, and goes further to say that when your are tempted look to God and he will show you the way out. This verse doesn’t refer to the trials and tribulations you will face in life. It never says God won’t let you you experience great stress in your life or deal with a great challenge or even keep you from being pushed to what feels like your breaking point. When we buy into this misconception that God won’t give us more than we can handle, we buy into the idea that it’s up to us to make it work. And when it doesn’t work, and we’re exhausted and worn out, we blame ourselves, because obviously we’re doing something wrong. And this is where we’re missing it; it has very little to do with us.
    Just my two cents. I hope I’ve shared something important with you as you have me.

  • Brianna

    Is this supposed to be a slam on Christians? Because how can quoting verses from the Bible be using them “Out Of Context”? None of this even made sense. Like In Jeremiah 29, when it talks about God having a plan for you, Mr. Irwin can you point out to all of us where it says His plan is for you to have a perfect life without any difficult times or issues just because you’re a Christian? Oh. Right. It doesn’t say that anywhere.

    • A Million Halleleujahs

      WOOOOOSA, Brianna! Maybe you should read the article again….slower. This WAS NOT a slam on Christians. It was identifying how Christians and anyone else can pull verses from the Bible and apply that SPECIFIC verse to fit a PERSONAL situation. If one was to go through and pull specific verses from the Bible, they could piece together an entire article stating how the acts murder, rape, incest, and adultery are absolutely fine to partake in….if the verses were taken out of context. There is a story leading up to a verse and the remainder following the verse. Each verse is part of a larger picture or story. He explains this very well. I love the Lord and the Bible. He meant no harm. He took time to point out the obvious that we ARE NOT taught in the pews of the church or from a slew of verses passed down from our Grandmas or Mamas. Chill! 🙂

  • DaveMBeck

    Actually Romans 8:28 is even more nuanced than that – the “good” of verse 28 is conformity to the image of Christ in v. 29. The link “for” or because = purpose. So the good of 28 isn’t a panacea, it’s God superintending through every event in life, tragic or terrific, to mold us into the image of His Son.

  • Becky

    Me and my husband were just discussing the term, “Why do bad thing’s happen to good people” and he said why do we regard ourselves as good? He is right. None of us are. I don’t mean to imply that we should feel bad about ourselves but come on. This society, ,especially Christian America thinks we are untouchable and we say things that are biblically incorrect. We should be servants to others instead of masters. What if we lost everything tomorrow? How many would still serve Christ being poor and persecuted?

  • Becky

    As for the verse For I know the plans I have for you says the Lord…. I know he spoke it to me. I was working as a c.n.a. in a nursing home and I was caring for a man who was rude and mean to me every day. I would see this verse posted on his wall in his room and I would read it when he made me feel bad. Five years later I was one of his favorites although he was still mean and hateful to others. I leave that one to God. Nine years later I am home helping my Mother take care of my Dad who is recovering from a stroke. That is what this verse means to me. God had plans for me and he used my circumstance for his glory. Now I want to be a occupational therapist..

  • Desiree Nicole

    2timothy 3:16 all scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:

    Ephesians 1:5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,

    galatians 3:29 And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise

    . so yes I kno these promises are for alll of us, Im receiving them & you can too just keep praying, god is a miracle working he is wwell equipped in the art of saving! don’t let an online article tell you the promises of God aren’t for you BECAUSE THEY ARE HALLELUJAH, he’s add close to us

  • rationalized

    I think most misused Bible verse is Romans 10:9 “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.” Many denominations are based on this passage. They ask you to say sinner’s prayer and then they declare that you’re saved. Not one instance in the Bible where you would find anybody got saved by stating sinner’s prayer. In fact, Paul is writing this letter to the church of Romans who were already saved. Devil has confused the church. Jesus Christ said in John 3:3 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.[a]”. Then when Nicodemus asks to explain this Jesus explains in verse 5, Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit.” Such denominations stop at verse 3 and don’t go beyond it. Now if you look at book of acts, starting from Chapter 2:38, you would see people got baptized and they got filled with the Holy Spirit; fulfilling what Jesus Christ had said “Water and Spirit”. There are several such instances in Acts 8:16, Acts 10:48, Acts 19:5, and Acts 22:16. So it is overwhelmingly clear how we get saved but devil would like you to think differently as in the garden of Eden he told Eve, you will certainly not die. Devil is deceitful, sly, and subtle. Just recently, I heard one preacher preaching that you don’t need to follow these bible passages because they were done to distinguish Christians from others. Come on, if you’re saying these verses are not true, then how I can trust rest of it? May God open your eyes to see the truth which I say is the true grace of God.

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