The top Bible verses are also the most misused

Pastor Timothy made a good point about the Top 5 Bible Verses of 2011 as listed by BibleGateway.com: None mention sin.

That isn’t too surprising to me, but here’s what bothered me more: Items 1, 3 and often 5 from the list below are also the most misinterpreted verses.  I have never — and I mean that literally — heard Jeremiah 29:11 used properly in church.  I can’t recall hearing Philippians 4:13 referenced properly either.  Even pastors and very committed Christians reflexively quote those improperly.

There is actually a great message in Jeremiah 29:11: God makes huge promises and keeps them. The Israelites had been taken into captivity because of their rebellion and worship of false gods, but God promised to bring them back. And He did. But He did not make a generic promise to prosper all people at all times.

People even throw that verse at non-believers, but that gives them a false sense of security or a bad reason to reject Christianity (deep down everyone knows Jeremiah 29:11 doesn’t apply to everyone in the manner it is used). God’s real message to them is the opposite. If they don’t repent and believe, his plans for them are horrible!

Here’s a post analyzing where people go wrong on Philippians 4:13.  It is simple as going back one verse to see what Paul’s proclamation about doing all things through Christ really means.  It isn’t about being able to accomplish anything, it is about being able to be content regardless of the situation.  The real meaning is even better than the wrong interpretation, but it doesn’t feed our worldly desire to accomplish whatever we want.

Please read the Bible in context so you’ll be part of the solution and not part of the problem.  It is the simplest and most effective way to properly understand what God meant.

BibleGateway.com, which has the Bible on line with multiple translations, has compiled a list of the Top 5 Bible verses that were searched on their site for 2011. The list is not that surprising when you look at it. Here it is: In descending order of popularity, here are the top five Bible passages of 2011: 1. JEREMIAH 29:11 “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) 2. JOHN 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (KJV) 3. PHILIPPIANS 4:13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (ESV) 4. PROVERBS 3:5-6 Trust in the LORD with all your heart; don’t rely on your own intelligence. Know him in all your paths, and he will keep your ways straight. (CEB) 5. ROMANS 8:28 We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose. (HCSB)

8 thoughts on “The top Bible verses are also the most misused”

  1. Well, I already said this, Neil, but I think Malachi 3:10 is a good contender:

    “10 “Bring the entire tenth to the storerooms in my temple. Then there will be plenty of food. Put me to the test,” says the Lord. “Then you will see that I will throw open the windows of heaven. I will pour out so many blessings that you will not have enough room for them.”

    You really have to read the entire section to get the context, but (and I’m talking to your readers here Neil; you already know this) the lesson is about how the Hebrews were to tithe (give a tenth of their agricultural products) to the Levite priests. Modern-day pastors like to change “Hebrews” to “21st century Christians,” “Levite priests” to “the local church” and “agricultural products” to “financial income earned from a job or trade.”

    I was very pleased to see that the site Neil directed me to, already has adopted the position that I’ve always held on this.

    http://carm.org/are-we-obligated-tithe

    Would that the last two pastors I heard speak about it, agreed.

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    1. The clergy insist that God prefers a cheerful giver…and I can think of nothing more problematic for that desired attitude, than telling people a certain percentage of giving is required, or that God will withhold blessings from them unless He receives every penny He is due. It makes him sound like an accountant instead of a loving and forgiving Father who doesn’t keep score.

      “Yeah, you in the audience. You HAVE to fork over a hunk of your paychecks every month, or the Almighty will accuse you of robbery. Now the plate is being passed around; hand over your share. Oh, and be sure and be cheerful about it!”

      Uh huh.

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      1. Just wondering out loud here. Leaving off the “tithe” (that awful 10%), if it is true that “the earth is the Lord’s and all that in it is” (which would necessarily include everything I have) and if it is true that “The Lord loves a cheerful giver” (assuming I do want the Lord to love me), isn’t there SOME sense in which refusing to give anything at all to God’s work is some sort of “robbery”?

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      2. You are correct, Stan, and I don’t have a problem with giving *something.* Heck, I’ll even allow that maybe it should hurt a little.

        What I resented was being browbeaten by three separate ministers (plus a couple of lay people) on the 10% thing. One of the ministers in question actually circulated an insert in the bulletin which read in part, “By the way…partial obedience won’t bring partial blessings.” He went on to quote a verse in Hebrews stating that “those who direct the church well are worthy of double honor. We’re to respect them and trust them, he added. “How convenient that the minister just happened to find that written in the Bible,” I thought. He delivered the same message a couple of weeks later, after which I left that particular church. I’d simply heard enough.

        Two others looked at their respective churches’ financial situation and instead of simply explaining the matter to the congregation and asking them to dig a little deeper into their pockets this month…delivered the same “lesson” in church. The latter actually said, “There are several people in here that could write a check and it wouldn’t hurt them a bit.” (He was later dismissed from his pastoral position.)

        I told myself that regardless of what I’d been told, I’d give precisely what I decided to give (as Paul commanded), neither more nor less. I examined my motivations for giving, and wound up deciding that the church itself would appreciate my gift even if God did not. (On a side note, I always give anonymously with cash. Maybe I should be keeping track of this stuff so I can get a tax write-off.)

        If a person *wants* to write his local church a check for 10% of his gross income right off the top, great. That’s the kind of cheerful and willing giving we’re talking about. I’m sure the church general fund (and the various projects and causes it supports) will appreciate it. That’s between him and God, however…and I objected to a pastor using guilt to manipulate me into making a donation, especially right after being told I’m supposed to be “cheerful” about it.

        Hope that clarifies what I was saying, Stan.

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  2. Good observation and points. The mindset that finds no favorite verses addressing sin, probably accounts for the misconstrued interpretation of those that make the most popular list. Good post.

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  3. We’ve had this discussion before, but, as one of God’s people, I’m still disappointed that I don’t have a promise from God that He plans good things for me. That would have been a nice thing. Ah, well. Let the flogging begin, Lord. Sigh. 😉

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  4. I’ve been harping on the misuse of Jer. 29:11 for a long time. Some of my favorite abused Scriptures are: 1 Chron. 4:9-10 (“Prayer of Jabez”), 2 Chron. 7:14 (“If My people who are called by My name….); Rev. 22:18-19 (adding to or subtracting from Rev.); Jer. 10:2-5 (hint – it is NOT about Christmas trees) and Exod. 20:5/Deut. 5:9 about so-called “generational sin).

    It’s amazing how many cult and other false teachings are based on abusing Scripture.

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  5. Indeed so true sometimes reading the bible is just not enough, a photo or picture worth thousands words isn’t it? but then again, each one claims the right to freely interpreted
    and that’s when the debates begin

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