When you first saw this title you probably thought ‘what on earth has happened to Alan’? And if you read that by itself, you would have every right to be concerned. However, if you read the statement below, you would have a different view.
“Do you want to know who has been very influential in my life? Yo mama“
Can you see how the context makes all the difference? Yet many christians are fed many scriptures out of context or . We cannot just pick and choose verses and say that it is for us. Yet many churches are doing just that and are pulling out scriptures as proof texts for their doctrine, twisting scriptures and some are even using it as their declaration for the year.
Here are a few examples.
In one of my previous churches, the proof text that was given that women shouldn’t wear jewelry was 1 Peter 3:3 which stated
Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear
But lets look at the context and the surrounding verses
1Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word,they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, 2when they see yourrespectful and pure conduct. 3 Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— 4but let your adorning bethe hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.
We can see from the context that the bible was not prohibiting women from wearing jewelry but saying that true beauty is not found externally but internally. Context changes EVERYTHING.
Another scripture verse that is often quoted out of context to prove that God plans to prosper us is 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.
Even though all of the bible is FOR us, not all of the bible is TO us. Does this verse mean that God always has ‘good’ plans for us? Lets look at the context again
10 This is what the LORD says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. 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. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.” (Jeremiah 29:10-14)
So the first question to ask is who is this adressed to? Who is the ‘you’ in verse 10? Verse 1 in the same chapter tells us that it is “to the surviving elders among the exiles and to the priests, the prophets and all the other people Nebuchadnezzar had carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon”
Is Jeremiah 29:11 supposed to be aimed at everybody?
Because if it is – God’s lying!
I’m really struggling with this one at the moment. For those that aren’t sure, Jeremiah 29:11 is when God says “I have plans for you, plans to prosper you, not to harm you” – now, I’ve been a Christian my whole life, and my whole life I have known everyone around me to interpret this verse personally – youth leaders and church leaders use it as an encouragement to others, God has plans for you, which are prosperous and not harmful… but the honest fact of the matter is, not everyone in life will have prosperous lives, that aren’t harmful.
Take for example my friend Sophie, she was diagnosed with Cancer due to exposure to Asbestos several years ago – she was a committed, submitted and trustworthy Christian, even though she spent most of her life in hospital – she made 4 friends in hospital who had the same diagnosis as her, who were roughly the same age… and she lost every one of them to the illness until last year, she was the only one left. Now we all had faith that God would heal her from this cancer, she would have an incredible testimony and use it in evangelism and Christian Theatre, and that God had this amazing plan for her life. Earlier this year, she died, the day before Summer Theatre School (best event of her year) – aged 18.
Now I’m sorry – but in what part of Sophie short life, did God have plans for her that were to prosper her and not to harm her? What did she do to prevent those plans for her life not be allowed to happen?
As one writer stated:
A TEXT WITHOUT A CONTEXT IS A PRETEXT FOR A PROOF TEXT
It simply means this: Scripture without context will be used by people to try and get the Bible to say whatever they want it to say, instead of (with context) what it actually says”. When we quote scriptures out of context, we do not only dishonour those very scriptures but more importantly, we dishonour the God of those scriptures.