I’m guilty. In the past, I have misused Bible verses in conversation and while praying for others. I have shared memes that have single verses designed to encourage the reader. Not that this is bad, but it lifts up a person instead of lifting up God. Scripture is God’s Word to us. I’m thinking that it’s time we learn to handle it the way God intended!
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Let’s look at it this way. Would you like your spoken words twisted and turned around to mean something you didn’t say? It happens all the time in the media. The media uses a part quote from someone and writes a story based on that. Can we believe the media anymore?
Since the Bible is God’s very words to us (2 Timothy 3:16), we should learn to handle it carefully. It is way too easy to take words out of context, making it say something that suits our purposes rather than what God intended.
What Happens When Bible Verses are Misused?
When Scripture is mishandled, it could mean that it is:
- partially quoted to suit the speaker.
- intentionally misused to portray a different point of view.
- used to place the focus on self and not on God.
- or innocently misused in ignorance of the context.
There are five points to consider when we use Scripture out of context:
- We mishandle the Word of God.
- Mixing two or more Bible versions together leads to memorizing verses incorrectly.
- Our selfishness shows through misused Bible verses as they generally are meant to uplift ourselves instead of turning our focus on God.
- We pass on erroneous teaching to others.
- People have turned away from God when the result of their prayer, based on a misused verse, does not turn out as they believed.
Top 10 Misused Bible Verses
Please remember that as I share this with you, I am also paying attention as I need to handle God’s Word correctly as well. Many of these verses have passed through my own lips. There have been times when I have ignored the context in order to say something nice, like Jeremiah 29:11. However, it is my desire to change that in favour of the original interpretation.
Let’s go over the top 10 misused Bible verses together.
1. Jeremiah 29:11
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. KJV
For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. NASB
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. NIV
Wrong Context: As you can see, different versions have slightly different English meanings.
The NASB can lead one to think that God will make everything all right with no hardships, that the American dream will come true.
The NIV can make the verse seem like a blank cheque from God to “prosper” financially.
We often encourage others about their “hope and future” when their situation seems bleak or filled with health challenges. They pray this verse and when the answer doesn’t turn out as they expected, they question God and the Church and may even turn away from God.
Right Context: The chapter shows that it is directed to the Israelites and not an individual. The Israelites had disobeyed God’s commands which resulted in exile to Babylon. The good news is that God has not forgotten them. See #3 for the rest of the context.
2. Psalm 46:5
She shall not be moved.
Wrong Context: This is not the complete verse. This is a partial verse that leads you to think it is speaking of a woman. Many mugs, t-shirts, memes have been designed with this incorrect Bible verse. Often to support sales but also to build up a woman’s self-esteem.
Learning and using this verse in error, leads to 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. Is this how we should handle God’s Word?
Right Context: The full verse is God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early.
By examining the surrounding verses, this passage is about God being a refuge and strength in times of trouble. “She” is the “city of God” not a woman! God is in the midst of the city of God even though calamity is all around them.
See further context in #3, below.
3. Psalm 46:10
Be still and know that I am God.
Wrong Context: This partial verse is often used to indicate that we are to be still, be quiet and meditate on God.
Right Context: The full verse is Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.
This verse is in context with Psalm 46:5 that we looked at above. The situation applies to the Israelites. Though the earth is removed, v 2, God is their refuge and strength.
God is in the midst of His city and though there are wars and natural disasters going on all around them, He is telling them to be still, don’t be afraid, watch Him work as He overthrows their enemies and exalts His Name among the nations.
This is not a verse about meditative prayer but a Scripture verse to comfort the Israelites as they watch God glorify His Name!
4. Matthew 7:1
Judge not, that ye be not judged.
Wrong Context: This verse is complete, however, both Christians and non-believers use it in their attempt to prevent others from judging themselves or each other. There is little tolerance for others making judgmental comments.
Right Context: To sum it up, Jesus is teaching that we are not to judge others until we have repented and dealt with our own sin. We are to judge ourselves ensuring that we are not committing the same or worse sin.
The Biblical definition of the word “judge” is call in question or pronounce an opinion or separate someone concerning their actions. What would happen if the Church didn’t judge someone who was/is openly sinning? God’s Word says that believers are commanded to judge that sin. See the list below as we cross-reference similar verses.
The following verses clearly state why and when we are to judge our brethren.
- 1 Corinthians 5:1-13
- 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.
5. Romans 8:28
All things work together for good.
Wrong Context: People mistake this partial verse to mean that they will prosper if they love God. Basically, this misused verse has a focus on self instead of God.
Right Context: The full verse is And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
Did you see the qualifier in this verse? Those who love God and called according to His purpose.
God wants us to conform to His Word. Conforming to His Word is considered ‘good’. God is the definition of ‘good.’ God will work out all things, whether good or bad, for His purpose, for His glory.
Not everything will work out for everyone but for those who love and know God, who has called them, will things work out according to His purpose, His plan for their lives. Keep the whole passage in mind, not only a portion.
6. Matthew 6:33
All these things will be given to you.
Wrong Context: This is a misuse of the full verse. By looking only at this partial verse, you are led to believe that all you have to do is name it and claim it, or blab it and grab it. This is from the prosperity gospel message and the full text has nothing to do about financial security.
Right Context: The full verse is But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
Start reading for context at Matthew 6:24 to learn that you can serve only one master. Choosing to serve God will lead to having your physical needs met, not your desires and wants. This passage teaches that God looks after the needs of His children.
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7. Luke 11:9
Ask and it will be given to you.
Wrong Context: This partial verse is used similarly to Matthew 6:33, above. It is used to promote the prosperity gospel of claim it in the Name of the Lord and you will have it. Claim that parking space. Claim that … whatever. The prosperity gospel is twisted truth and therefore false.
Right Context: The full verse is, And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.
Starting with Luke 9:1, we learn that Jesus teaches His disciples how to pray which leads into a parable about persistence. The prayer and the parable teach us to Whom we pray, what we pray for (our daily needs and forgiveness of sins) along with persistence in prayer. This model teaches us that when we ask for needs met in accordance with the Father’s will, we will receive accordingly.
God has a will for our lives. Our prayers should line up with His will and not for our own selfish gain.
8. Matthew 18:20
Where two or three are gathered, there I am with them.
Wrong Context: Many churches use this partial verse to call for prayer circles in small groups because Jesus will be there with them. That is not the intent of this verse.
Right Context: The full verse is For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.
Let the examination begin with Matthew 18:15. The passage is about following the steps Jesus provides to deal with sin in the church. When this is done, Jesus is with them in their decision. This is a promise of His sanction of their decision, not His presence in prayer.
God is everywhere, so He is already there with the believer when he is praying in secret or in corporate prayer. So, this verse isn’t a confirmation that He is present only when two or three are gathered together.
This verse also goes along with #4, Matthew 7:1 as it also deals with sin in the church.
9. 1 Corinthians 10:13
God will never give you more than you can handle.
Wrong Context: This is a total misquote of the verse it is based on. God won’t give them any more than what they can handle. If that’s the case, why do some people feel like they have been wrung through the washer?
And, if this was true, then why would we need to depend on God if we never had any tough times? And, what happens to the faith of those who believed that God wouldn’t give them too much to bear?
This is definitely another of the misused Bible verses.
Right Context: This is the correct verse. There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.
We’re going to have temptations. However, God always provides a way out of temptation. God knows how much we can handle, however, it is up to us whether we will take that way out that He provides or indulge in the temptation.
Related Post: 10 Things the Bible Never Says – Common Bible Misquotes by Christ-Centered Mama.
10. Philippians 4:13
I can do all things through Christ.
Wrong Context: This makes a person think they can do anything they set their mind to. The message is “you can do it!” Maybe it’s hitting a home run, or climbing the corporate ladder, or being the best of the best. But is this correct?
Right Context: The complete verse is, I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.
Paul was under house arrest when he wrote these words. In his letter to the young church in Philippi, he used this as an opportunity to model how to be content in any situation. Persevering through times of need was a regular habit for Paul. It was the supernatural strength of the Lord that helped him through every situation, good or bad.
And when you are going through tough times, God will also be your supernatural strength to get through them.
Well, that’s it for the top 10 misused Bible verses. Can you think of any other verses that can be added to this list?
In conclusion, remember to pay attention to the context of Bible verses so you can avoid any errors. Treat God’s written Word with care and respect and you won’t fall into misunderstanding the true meaning of His words.
If you’re not sure about how to evaluate in context, this post will help you with the questions you need to ask. 3 Elements of the Inductive Study Method.
Cindy Barnes has been called by God in the early 80s to be a teacher of His Word. She is a serious student of the Word, focusing on the Inductive Bible Study Method since 2007. Her passion is to teach women how to study the Bible using this method. In addition, she desires for women to develop an intense yearning to draw closer to God through reading and writing out the Bible.
Cindy teaches hundreds of women in her private online Bible Study Group who express their joy of growing deeper in their spiritual walk.
You can stay in touch with Cindy on Facebook through 215 Ministry.