Most Misused Bible Verses

misused bible verses
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This week, we’re talking aaaalll about context! So many times, when you are listening to a podcast or sermon or looking at a post on Instagram, a single verse is referenced or quoted. It sounds like one thing, but when we evaluate the context (the chapters surrounding that verse, who the author was, who the audience was, the historical component, etc…) it actually means something totally different than what we originally thought. In this podcast episode, we are going to be talking about a few of these verses that you may have heard before, and breaking them down in their context.

Before we dive in, don’t be embarrassed if you’ve used these verses out of context or didn’t know what their context was. The Christian walk is all about sanctification. we’re all called to learn and grow in our knowledge of the Bible, so don’t be embarrassed!

Why Context is Important

So, why does context even matter?

Here’s a practical illustration. Let’s say I told you that I went for a walk on the lake the other day. If you don’t know my current situation and context, you may think that I either walked by the lake or that I sound crazy, or like I am on drugs. However, if you know that I live in Wisconsin, that it’s winter, and the lake is frozen over, this statement makes a lot more sense.

When we read the Bible, our goal is not to say “this is what the passage means to me,” or “what can I get out of this,” rather, when reading scripture we should be seeking to derive the authorial intent and meaning of the passage. If we don’t take into account the context, we are more likely to misinterpret the passage. 

A common objection is that “I’m not smart enough. Where do I even start?”

Good theology and the study of theology is for everyone- not just for seminarians. It’s an essential aspect of a healthy, growing walk with the Lord.

So, where do you start? Every time someone says that a verse proves something they are saying, open up your Bible to the chapter the verse is located. Read the entire chapter to see what the verse’s context is!

So, the next time you hear someone using these verses out of context, you can say “What in the actual context!?!?” (We’re kidding- kind of)… In all seriousness, there are a lot of verses that we could discuss, but these are two of the most commonly taken out-of-context verses that we see in society and Christianity today. Stay tuned as we will periodically bring back this series with new verses that we will break down!

Interpretation vs. Application

Before we jump into the examples we mentioned earlier, it’s important to differentiate between application and interpretation.

Interpretation is what an author intends the passage to mean. Some people hold to a textual or reader interpretation, where the reader determines the meaning. Our culture has wired us to look at Scripture to see what it means for us. But, there is only one accurate interpretation of each biblical passage.

Application is how a person applies a passage to their life. So, there can be multiple applications of a passage. Take Ephesians 5:18 for example: “Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit” The problem isn’t with wine. This does not mean that getting drunk with beer is ok or that getting high on drugs is ok. Paul means that being inebriated with substances to the point where you are not in control of your faculties is sinful. When we look at the surrounding verses, the context, starting in verse 16, he is talking about using our time wisely.

People then apply this verse in different ways:

  • Some abstain from alcohol altogether
  • We know someone who is known as “Two-beer Doug” because he will drink, but will never drink more than two beers

How people APPLY it may look different, but the meaning of the text does not change. Now that we’ve gotten these foundational principles clear, let’s talk about some “buzzy” verses that are taken out of context.

Jeremiah 29:11

Jeremiah 29:11 is a favorite verse of many prosperity gospel preachers.  

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” 

People will use this verse to preach that God will only give you health, wealth, and happiness. God wouldn’t want you to be unhealthy or poor, etc…

So, our biggest question when we hear people use this verse to claim that this is what God wants for them is do you think that the apostles just failed to name and claim this verse? Most of the apostles suffered gruesome, grizzly deaths of martyrdom…. I guess they just didn’t have enough faith…

In all seriousness, let’s take a look at this passage because misusing this passage can cause great harm to people who suffer in this life. So many people were taught using this verse that they would be protected as followers of Christ only to lose their faith when it never happened in the way they expected. What happens when their mom gets cancer? What happens when they lose their job? Their faith will be shattered because its foundation was shaky.

So, let’s dive into the context!

Historical Context

These words were written for Jewish exiles in Babylon. As punishment for their sins, God sent Babylon to destroy Jerusalem and carry away Jews to Babylon. While this process was not yet complete, we see at the beginning of chapter 29 that it had already started.

In verse 10, we see that after 70 years they will be able to return to Jerusalem. God says he will not forget them nor forsake them.

This verse does not have a primary application for us today. It applied primarily only to Jews during this time. But, it does have a general application for Christians, who are God’s people, today. Christians can have confidence that God will never leave nor forsake them, that He loves His people, and that He has a plan for His people.

With that being said, it is important to note that it does not mean that all of God’s people will be prosperous or free of suffering in this life. Think about it- many of the people Jeremiah was writing to would not even experience going back to Jerusalem. Their descendants would!


If this passage causes you to reflect and take comfort in the sovereignty of God and the assurance you have in Christ and in the life to come, that’s great! But, if this passage causes you to reflect and take comfort in this idea that God will bless you materially or physically later on in this life here on earth you are missing the broader context of the passage and of the message of Christ. 

Think about it- going back to what we said earlier, many Christians have suffered incredibly difficult lives and deaths. Just take a look at church history! Christians are actually told to expect suffering and persecution, both by Jesus in John 15:20 and by Paul in 2 Timothy 3:12.

 “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”

2 Timothy 3:12

Yet, we have a God that will not forsake us. He came down and suffered FOR His creation.  

Let’s not take comfort in potential worldly comforts but in God, His sovereignty, and His Gospel truth.

Philippians 4:13

So, I (Nathaniel) have a friend who said they were at the gym and this guy was trying to bench a lot. He got himself super hyped up and yelled PHILIPPIANS 4:13!!! before benching. Sadly, we’ll never know if he was able to do it.

 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

Philippians 4:13

When it comes to this passage, it is commonly believed that you physically can do anything as long as you tack Christ onto it. We’ve seen this on t-shirts and tattoos, and as sports fans, we’ve seen it written by athletes a lot! Most people think that it means that we can do anything, (almost positive self-talk) and throw Christ in there.

While the idea that we can do anything with Christ is admirable (He says that with faith the size of a mustard seed, we can move mountains), that is not the idea that this passage is trying to convey. We need to look at the context that Paul is writing this.

Surrounding Passage

Looking at the context of the preceding verses, let’s start with verse 10: 

“I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.  I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance, and need.  I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

Philippians 4:10-13

See how in the preceding verses Paul is saying that no matter what he will be content. Whether he has no food or an abundance of food or whether he is brought low or abounding. In all these situations he has learned how to be content. This passage is not about the misconception that we just need to believe in ourselves or believe that whatever we set our minds to Christ will enable us to do.

The NIV renders Philippians 4:13 as “I can do all THIS, through Christ who strengthens me.” He can be content when he is in need and when he has plenty. He can be content whether he is well-fed or hungry, whether living in abundance or without basic amenities. How so? It is through Christ who strengthens him that he can have this contentment.

One Degree Shift

The One Degree Shift for this episode is a little different… Ecclesiastes 10:19 is Nathaniel’s “life verse” (just kidding- he’s being facetious). Read the verse and its context to figure out its meaning!

 “Bread is made for laughter,
    and wine gladdens life,
    and money answers everything.”

Ecclesiastes 10:19

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