The topic of misused Bible verses has been on my heart for a few months now. Though I have mentioned it briefly in other posts, it is time to talk about it now. We hear them, read them and pray them all the time but most of us are not aware that they are taken out of context.
In my research, I read many other posts concerning the misquote and misuse of Scripture. Often it is done in error but sometimes it has been done on purpose, to suit a point the author wants to make.
What Happens When We Misuse Scripture?
There are five things that happen when we use Scripture out of context:
- It is memorized incorrectly
- We mishandle the Word of God
- The misused Bible verses are generally focused on ourselves and not on God
- Erroneous teaching is passed on to others
- People are turned away from God when the result of their prayer does not turn out as they believed
In this post, I would like to show you how we can correct our use of misquoted Scripture.
There is one main solution and it is ‘context.’
Observation, Context, and Application
I teach in my Inductive Bible Studies that “context is king.” This means that it is important to keep the verse in context with the preceding and succeeding verses as well as within the context of the chapter, the book and the Bible as a whole.
We need to remember not to isolate one verse to say what we want it to say, to support a theory we have or the way we want a prayer to be answered. Everything must be in context. If, after reading the context, we disagree with the Bible, then we have a problem. We must let go of our erroneous teaching and embrace the truth as shown in context.
To borrow from the Inductive Study Method, we ask the questions who-what-where-when-why-how as we observe the text. This is a great practice to do whether you are studying inductively or not.
Who or what is the topic? What does it mean? How does it apply to me?
By answering these questions, you will be able to keep the verse intact to use correctly.
Top 3 Misused Bible Verses
Please note that as I share this with you, I am also paying attention as I have also mishandled the Word due to learning it incorrectly. I am letting the errors go and accepting the verse within its context. As you and I pay attention to the Scriptures, we will begin to use it correctly and leave aside what we initially learned. Are you with me on this?
1 ~ Jeremiah 29:11
11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.
Hallmark cards are designed with this verse but usually with the New International Version to incorporate the word “prosper.”
Have you read the whole chapter? What is it about? Well, let’s look at it. Jeremiah the prophet sent a letter to the Israelites who were taken captive into Babylon. In Jeremiah 29:5 it says to build houses, plant gardens and eat the produce. In other words, get settled because it will be awhile before you will be released.
As you continue to read the text to capture the context, you will see that their time of captivity would be for 70 years and most of the older generation would not return to Jerusalem. When God says in verse 11 that He knows the thoughts He has for the people and their future, it was for their release from captivity. The Israelites had lost everything and God is assuring them that they would prosper in physical and spiritual salvation, not money as we tend to think.
Reading further, Jeremiah 29:12-14, we learn what will happen after they are released from Babylon. He would gather them from all nations, wherever they had been driven and would return them to the place they came from.
So, based on the whole chapter, you now know the who, the why and the when. Now, can you put verse 11 in perspective and answer the questions what does this mean and how does this apply to me?
Does it apply to us today? Have we been exiled to captivity?
2 ~ Psalm 46:5
She shall not be moved
I see this verse, well, a small portion of it, quite often. Do you think this is speaking of a woman? The quote above is definitely misused. The full verse is God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early.
Now, let’s look at the context.
Starting at verse 1, the psalmist begins with God is his refuge, his strength and his help in trouble. Then he mentions the earth, mountains, and sea. Verses 4-8, read as 4 There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High. 5 God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early. 6 The heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved: he uttered his voice, the earth melted. 7 The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah. 8 Come, behold the works of the Lord, what desolations he hath made in the earth.
The context is speaking of the “city of God” which is often spoken of with the female pronoun. Knowing this, is it correct to use this verse in application to a woman as “she shall not be moved?” When we do, we are shaping the Word of God to say what we want it to say. And in this case, we are changing the focus of the Word from God to ourselves. So, would you agree?
3 ~ Matthew 7:1
Judge not, that ye be not judged.
I am sure you have heard this verse quoted many times and more than likely by non-believers. But is it true? Again, let’s review the context of this verse to discern the meaning.
Since this verse is the first one of chapter 7, we need to review the previous verses in chapter 6. Jesus is teaching on several topics as part of the Sermon on the Mount where He began with the Beatitudes and now has moved on to how to pray, where to store your treasure, how many masters you can serve, not to worry about your wardrobe, seek after the kingdom of God and do not worry about tomorrow. Then in chapter 7, He continues to teach, beginning with the topic of judging others. So let’s look at this closely.
Judge not, that ye be not judged. 2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. 3 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? 4 Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? 5 Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.
Answering our questions, who and what, what do we learn?
First of all, Jesus is teaching publicly and telling the audience not to judge others so they themselves won’t be judged. Further to that, He tells them when you think of judging your brother, remember your own sins and flaws. What does this mean? It means that you are not perfect either. Your sins and flaws need to be dealt with before you pronounce judgment on someone else.
Context within Context
To keep this verse in context, let’s look elsewhere for similar verses. The following verses clearly state why and when we are to judge our brethren. Remember, all these verses support each other in context. And also remember, do everything in love with much prayer. (Click on the links to read them.)
- Matthew 18:15-17
- John 7:24
- Matthew 7:16
- Leviticus 19:15
- Galatians 6:1 tells us how to restore a brother who has fallen.
In conclusion, I hope this starts you on your journey of reviewing passages within their context so you can rightly handle the Word of God. I know, it’s going to be hard at first but now that you are aware of the importance of context, you will find it easier to continue on from here. These three verses are just a start as there are many more that are taken out of context. While it may take some time to adjust to this way of thinking about context, it will become second nature and you will spot when Scriptures are misused. How you handle that will be up to you!
As always, I invite your comments and look forward to hearing from you. Please let me know what you think about these verses. Another verse you can look at is 2 Corinthians 10:5 and is explained in What Does it Mean to Take Thoughts Captive.