Some of the most misused Bible verses

I am a preacher. I am a student of preaching. My mind is trained to not only glean spiritual nourishment from the sermons and teachings I hear, but also to filter out bad theology.

Every now and them I hear seemingly ‘innocent’ messages where a pastor/teacher will misuse a verse of scripture to justify a principle (usually a good one) he or she is teaching.

Occasionally it happens out of ignorance because the speaker simply didn’t properly understand the meaning of a passage. But, most often I hear these verses misused by seasoned veterans who should know better.
What’s the big deal? Well, first off – God’s word should never be prostituted or misused for any reason. Second, It’s Hypocritical. In the circles that I grew up in (Biblical Fundamentalists) there was a fierce cry against Liberal theologians and church leaders who misused scripture for their agenda – what makes the fundamentalist above the rules?
So, what are some of the most “Used out of context” verses in the Bible? Here is a short list and a more accurate interpretation. (IMHO of course)

5.) Proverbs 22:28
“Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set.”

This is a favorite verse of very conservative fundamentalists. They use it to preach a theology of not changing. Use the old music, the old KJV Bible, wear the dresses ladies etc.

If you were preaching that verse with that interpretation 2,000 years ago people would look at you like you’re an idiot. Why? Because the verse teaches you not to steal your neighbor’s property. That’s it. They didn’t have a courthouse with drawings and property appraisers and records. They used landmarks. To steal land, you simply moved the landmarks – thus, “Remove not the ancient landmarks.”

Funny thing: All the Landmark Baptist churches out there have a name that means: Don’t steal land.

4.) Revelation 3:20
“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.”

This verse is used often as a plea to unsaved people to ask Jesus into their hearts for salvation. Problem: The people it was written to were saved, believers. The verse is referring to the fellowship God wants to have with his children.

3.) Philippians 4:19
“And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”

Oh, we’ve all heard sermons on how God will meet all of our needs. But, that isn’t taught in this verse. Paul says specifically to the Philippian congregation that God will meet their needs because they have met the needs of others, namely him on his missionary journeys. So, the actual Biblical principle is this: God meets the needs of those who meet the needs of others.

2.) Matthew 7:1
“Judge not, that ye be not judged.”

This is quoted with the same frequency of John 3:16. It is does not teach us not to judge others, however. It is proclaimed to Pharisees who are being judgmental towards minor offences, while they are exceedingly wicked in their own right. In all actuality Jesus says in the same chapter (verse 15-20) to judge, or discern between the ‘pearl’ and the ‘swine’ – between true believers and false prophets.

AND, the # 1 most abused scripture:
Proverbs 29:18 “Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.”

The verse is the classic campaign, building project, goal setting, mission launching verse of the Bible. BUT it has absolutely NOTHING to do with ‘vision’ as it refers to organizational leadership or goal setting. It has everything to do with Biblical Revelation (400 years ago English readers would have understood ‘vision’ to refer to Biblical visions – aka revelations). Read the verse in ANY other modern translation and you will know why it is ONLY quoted from the King James Version. I.E.: “Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; but blessed is he who keeps the law.”- NIV

I heard this one misused just this past weekend.

Well there you have it, feel free to debate.

– Brad

3 thoughts on “Some of the most misused Bible verses

  1. WHat about turning the other cheek, etc.. Does this mean that I am not suppose to defend myslef if my brother was to brutally attack me or some stranger was to punch me? Just curious. I have never understood it completely..

  2. Obviously this is a case of over literalization. Jesus was teaching a community that was enslaved to the roman empire to do more than what was expected. To give your coat when your shirt is requested, to go 2 miles, when required to go 1. In the case of turning the other cheek – it doesn’t teach us to accept abuse, but rather to hold back – show temperance, long suffering.Ofcourse if you were brutally attacked by your older brother there is nothing you could do about it anyway!

  3. You are right on your misused verses, especially the last one. “Where there is no vision, the people perish!”

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