Ever sat in a sermon or heard someone quote a scripture and think, “that’s not what was meant?” This happens quite a bit in our sound bite driven society. I thought I’d put together a list of scripture I often hear quoted out of context. To be fair, this could be a deeper discussion. We won’t dive into honoring God’s word or being legalistic about a specific meaning. We’ll just look at popular misquoted scriptures and their context. Maybe next time you hear someone say, “you were made for such a time as this” you’ll chuckle inside.
For Such A Time As This
It’s the fourth quarter with less than a minute left in the game. The Christian coach sets his players down and tells them, “you were made ‘for such a time as this.” … Maybe not. The reality is that the story of Esther isn’t a Disney Princess story. It’s the story of a people on the brink of genocide being saved by woman brave enough to risk her life. Let’s not forget that during this time the King wanted to “sample” of the best women to replace his current queen. Esther was selected for a night to see if she could please the king.
I seriously doubt that anyone hearing this scripture will need to win over a despot king sexually and then risk their life and position to do anything in life. However, I believe that all verses have the power to inform and encourage. The verse reminds us that like Esther we have a purpose in life. It just might not be to hit the game winner, but it’s an important purpose none the less.
A Plan To Prosper You
If you live near Hobby Lobby the chances are this is either on your wall or at least on their shelves. Like the Esther scripture, this verse is meant to encourage an enslaved people. The catch is that the encouragement is really for the next generation. Grandpa you’re probably not going to make it but the good news is I have a plan for you grandkids. If you’re enslaved with no hope, then this is a good message. If you’re in the middle of your morning coffee, it might not be the best news in the world.
Here again, the scripture doesn’t have to paint a rosy picture, Jesus’ purpose wasn’t rosy. However, it was great and God has a purpose for you as well. Honestly, there’s enough bickering about this scripture being misused that there’s no need to bring it up here. The point is to understand the context and then understand that God always has a plan for our future no matter how dark it looks today.
I Can Do All Things
Tim Tebow probably made this verse one of the most famous. His football will to win might be unmatched. Believing he can do all things through HIM who strengthens him he simply won games. This is definitely a great life verse, but do you know what the context is or why this might be the most out of context Bible verses used today?
Paul was writing this letter and right before this famous scripture he’s talking about being content. He’s been shipwrecked, stoned, beaten and imprisoned. He’s saying I know what it is live at the lowest of lows and I’ve found contentment. I’m content because of the power of Jesus. I can do ALL things through Him. In other words, “I can be content when things don’t go my way because Jesus empowers me to.” Not really the rally cry of defeating enemies but more so being content if you feel defeated.
This verse is a great Biblical affirmation, so I’m not saying don’t use it. It’s just a tad out of context if you’re using it to try to lift a large amount of weight at the gym or win a football game.
Train Up A Child
OK, I’ll admit, I placed this one in here. The idea that if you raise up a child in a Christian home, they’ll turn out great is a nice idea but it’s not reality. My kids are great but they test me sometimes. Your kids and mine are their own people. While we can lay a foundation and pray for them it doesn’t mean they won’t go prodigal or be perfect. While I don’t want my children or yours to do that, sometimes it’s that journey to the dark side that causes them running back. The fallacy of this scripture is taking it blanket a promise. It’s not a scriptural promise from God, but rather wisdom that if you do what you should as a parent then chances are really good that your children will turn out good. Keep in mind that the person that wrote this asked God for wisdom and then failed to follow Him in his old age.
He Will Give You The Desires Of Your Heart
This verse gets quoted quite a lot by Pastors getting into their private jets. All you got to do is pray and your big genie god will give you your desires. Name it and claim it! Bless God! This is one of the more egregious uses of this verse. This is the sort of paradox of following Christ. First you have to empty yourself of your desires so that He can give you new desires.
I like how Jimmy Evans, Author of Marriage on the Rock puts it. “God doesn’t give you your wants. He changes your ‘wantor’ so you want what He wants. (paraphrased)” If you delight yourself in God and God’s will, then you’ll naturally come into alignment with what He desires for you.
For Nation Will Rise Against Nation
How many years go by and how many times will religious people quote this verse. The Bible says and it’s true. The end is coming. However, it might not be in 1988 or 2000 or whenever we’ve predicted a number of times. Wars have happened for thousands of years.
Let’s be real. Since Jesus left, we’ve been waiting for His return. Each piece of this conversation could fill hours of theological discourse. No one knows the hour but the Bible did give us clues. Yes, war is a birthing pain of Jesus’ return but it’s not the only clue. Is Israel at peace? What about the antichrist? Instead of worrying about the end of the world every time an earthquake happens or a war breaks out, let us focus on our mission at hand. As long as there is breath in your lungs your job is live out your life as a light to others and reach the lost. It’s definitely not hoarding canned goods and toilet paper.
An Eye For An Eye
As a believer we’ve been guilty of a lot of misquoted Bible verses, but a lot of non-believers try to use the Bible out of context as well. They read this passage in Exodus as grounds for revenge. In regards to the Old Testament it’s important to understand the immediate scriptural context and the bigger picture context of the old testament. In this instance, it’s a law designed to protect a pregnant woman and her unborn child. It would have been easier to write a life for a life but they didn’t have an “action Bible” to read like I did.
The greater context is that the old testament points us to a need for a savior and grace to follow Him, because none of us could uphold the Levitical laws.
For God So Loved The World
Wait a minute! how can this verse possibly be taken out of context. Mainly because it’s often as a standalone verse. Instead of reading verse 17 or perhaps any of the verses around it, it’s taken as a one off. Of course, it’s true! I don’t have any issues with anyone quoting any of these verses, however, without understanding the context it.
In this context, John is saying that men loved darkness and are condemned! Hellfire and damnation! Except, that God’s love cuts through all of that and that God loved us so much he gave His son. There’s no greater love that that. John’s illustrating why our need was so deep and why God’s love is so great. That’s the message and it’s often marginalized on the sidelines of a sporting event.
Context Matters… at least some
Other popular misquoted Bible verses are found in Matthew regarding “judge not” which describes how the church should go about judging other believers and how to handle our own personal affairs. In Revelation, it says that Jesus knocks on our heart, but not save us but rather He waiting for us to break out of our Luke warmness. There’s also other funny scriptures in Proverbs that seem to suggest bribing officials is appropriate or harmful misquoted scripture in Deuteronomy that seemingly forbids interracial marriages. It doesn’t, it’s specifically classifying a people by their faith.
The truth is that any verse by itself can be taken out of context and used to suit someone’s purpose and have been for hundreds of years. This is why we have some false denominations in the faith. However, that’s why we have to study the word and listen to what is being preached. We can’t just be hearers of the word, we have to be readers too! In a world that increasingly wants to confuse it’s important for us to know what is true. It’s also important for us to understand that each verse can have multiple meanings. A word of encouragement to an enslaved people in the past can still be used to encourage today. That’s ok! Enjoy the Bible, study it, and if you hear something out of context search it out and figure out what that really means.