Replace the Life Verse You Took Out of Context

There are many motivational Bible verses widely used out of context. It’s understandable why that happens. We read a verse either in Scripture or on a meme or quote picture on Pinterest. The verse makes us feel loved and empowered so we claim the verse for our lives without pausing to find out its context.

Here are three verses that are often taken out of context along with suggestions of Scripture verses to cling to instead. 

Jeremiah 29:11

“For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans to prosper and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”

Many Christians use this in tough times to assure themselves that God has a good plan for them. Other Christians use this verse to speak to them when they feel nervous about a life transition like choosing a college, starting a new job, moving to a new area.

What does this verse mean in context?

Jeremiah chapter 29 is God speaking through Jeremiah to the Israelites who were in exile in Babylon. The “you” in verse 11 is plural. God had good plans and a future for the Israelites for when they returned to the Promised Land after the 70 years of exile were over. This verse is not referring to you, an individual Christian living in the 21st century.

Does that mean that God doesn’t have good plans for you? No. We see the principle here that God has good plans for His people, but other Bible verses convey this aspect of God’s sovereignty for the individual Christian living today.

Use these verses instead:

For a season of transition, take comfort in Ephesians 2:10 which says, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Wherever He takes you, He has a plan for how you can serve Him there.

picture of open Bible with Romans 8:28

For a season of suffering, cling to Romans 8:28. Paul speaks to believers who are going through suffering and says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” 

Philippians 4:13

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

Sorry, Stephen Curry. Paul did not write this verse with sports in mind.

Nor did he write it for all the Christians who want to “believe in themselves” or “reach for the stars” and “realize their dreams.”

What does this verse mean in context?

In Paul’s letter to the people of Philippi, he thanks them for the gift that they sent which was probably an offering of money so he could afford the basics of life. Then he thinks back over his life and the times when he had plenty of money and provisions and the times when he had nothing. Paul remarks that whether he has plenty or he has little he has learned to be content either way. What’s his secret? Christ. Paul lived dependent on Christ regardless of the status of his bank account.

The 2011 translation of the NIV Bible does a good job of lessening the possibility of the verse being used out of context when it says ” I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”

Does that mean that God doesn’t want us to dream big and work to achieve our goals? No. God encourages us to work hard and rely on Him for strength and direction.

Use these verses instead:

Jeremiah 32:27 says, “I am the LORD, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?” 

 

 

 

Jeremiah 32.27

Ephesians 3:20-21 says, “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”

Of course, we will have to work hard, too.

2 Timothy 1:7 says, “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.”

Galatians 6:9 says, “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap if we do not give up,”

Matthew 18:20

“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

This verse conjures up an image of an intimate prayer meeting or Bible study. The members of the meeting are disappointed that more people didn’t join them, but they are comforted to know that as long as at least two people came (or, even better, three people) they know for sure that God also showed up.

What does this verse mean in context?

It’s all about church discipline. In Matthew 18, Jesus is explaining to the disciples how to confront and restore a fellow believer who has sinned. First, you confront them individually. If they are unwilling to listen, then you take two or three others with you as witnesses in case they are willing to repent and be restored. If that doesn’t work, then you bring the matter to the church so the church as a whole can urge the believer to stop sinning.

So, if you have two or three witnesses to the verdict in the church discipline case, Jesus is right there with you authenticating the decision.

But back to the prayer meeting with the low turnout. What verse can they use to know that God is hearing their prayers?

Use this verse instead:

Psalm 145:18 “The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.

 

psalm 145

God is with us all the time not just when we are praying corporately. If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, the Trinity dwells within you.

What Bible verses do you often hear taken out of context? Comment below!

 

15 thoughts on “Replace the Life Verse You Took Out of Context

  1. Oh my goodness I love this! I try not to take scripture out of context, but it can be easy to when you’re used to hearing it for a specific purpose. Thanks so much for writing this!

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  2. Hearing Jeremiah 29:11 out of context is a big pet-peeve of mine, but I try not to let it get to me. I know people don’t mean to take it out of context, they just don’t know any better.

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  3. A lot of Scripture can be used in multiple contexts. When Jesus quoted Scripture, it seemed like He was taking it out of context, too, but He was creating new context for it. God is able to have several layers of meaning in His Word, not just the literal level. For example, the gospel is in the genealogy between Adam and Noah, but if you just read the text for what it meant on the first layer, you would never see the other layers. You may or may not be right about this verse in Jeremiah not being for His people in general.

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    • I think we could apply the Biblical principles from some of these instances, but not the verse directly. I included Jeremiah 29:11 on this list not just because of who God was talking to, but because He is talking to them about a specific moment in time, that is, when they would return from exile. So we can say, just like God has a plan for those returning from exile, God has a plan for me. But we couldn’t not say that God is speaking to me directly in Jeremiah 29:11.

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