Bible Verses I Avoid
Updated: Jul 12
If I conducted a survey of popular Bible verses, I believe Jeremiah 29:11 would rank the highest, followed by Psalm 37:4. These passages are the most misquoted, least understood in their original context, and serve as elementary references to God's will. I know church people mean well, but I cringe every time I hear, "God's got a plan for your life!"
Consider this before quoting Jeremiah 29:11
After 40 years of testing and wandering in the wilderness, the Israelites were finally ready to take possession of the Promised Land. Before crossing the Jordan River, Moses strictly warned the people against defiling the territories and disqualifying themselves (Deut. 28:15-68). Unfortunately, they were determined to rebel and practice paganism. The Israelites worshiped idols, entertained false prophets, committed acts of sexual perversion and senseless violence, and sacrificed their offspring to foreign gods. Men turned on their families, women turned on their children, and many forgot the One who delivered them from slavery in Egypt.
Throughout the generations, God graciously and continually raised up judges, priests, and prophets to confront sin and restore fellowship with His chosen people. Leading into chapter 29, Jeremiah saw visions and listened to the Lord concerning Israel's offenses. The Hebrews had broken their covenant with God, and this time He was sending King Nebuchadnezzar's troops to raid their possessions and take them captive to Babylon. As Jeremiah boldly and unapologetically prophesied these things, the Jews responded with outrage, threats, and persecution.
When Jeremiah uttered that famous line in 29:11, he wasn't cheerleading, giving a pep talk, or trying to boost anyone's self-esteem in the way Christians use the verse today. Rather, Jeremiah was addressing a future generation, those who would be born in exile and know nothing of their inheritance east of the Jordan River. Jeremiah 29:11 was God's promise to restore Israel back to the Promised Land. These plans were discovered by Daniel when he read the scroll containing Jeremiah's words. Seventy years of bondage had to pass before the prophecy would be fulfilled (Dan. 9:2).
Don't follow your heart
This is where Psalm 37:4 trips up many believers. Preachers have sold us a bad bill of goods by omitting the truth that God's will involves suffering, pain, years of waiting, and unanswered petitions. After wrapping up the salvation message with a "simple prayer," we're told the Lord wants our dreams to become a reality. Oftentimes, the "call" we sense from heaven is nothing more than our own desire to use the talents we discern within ourselves. Although we pray for God to have His way, we've already decided what we will and will not do. We start journeys before receiving clear directions, commit to processes before counting the cost, and try hard to lead a good life before we've confronted our demons.
American Christianity has become the religion of health, wealth, and personal happiness. We build churches like car washes, our ministries are for-profit but we pay no taxes, and we've reduced beautiful passages of Scripture to "nuggets" (paraphrases we quote on a whim without knowing the full meaning or context). The average salvation experience is based on shallow theology, churchy doctrine, traditions, and rituals. This is not sustainable.
It was the prophet Jeremiah who said, "The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is? I, the Lord, search all hearts and examine secret motives. I give all people their due rewards according to what their actions deserve" (Jer. 17:9-10). We should be terrified that God knows everything about us. Yet, we should be at peace knowing He loves us despite ourselves. While it's true the Lord intends to prosper His people, and we should thank Him for this, He also compares humankind to dust, vapor, grass, and sheep. So, although God chose to create and include us, it should humble us to know His plans ultimately transcend us entirely.
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.
- Jeremiah 29:11
Now you know this prophecy was intended for slaves and exiles. This was a promise of liberation to the ones held captive for sins committed by their parents and grandparents. Of course, if you see a believer struggling under the weight and consequences of sin or slipping into hopelessness, by all means, quote the verse. Remind them of God's faithfulness and His will to restore what's been lost. We should all be encouraged to know the Father is eager to show mercy and wants peaceful reconciliation with us. His plans can only be for our good because He is good.
Instead of lifting verses from their original context to fit our personal narratives, we should strive to align with God's word and walk in His ways. He leads us on paths of righteousness for His namesake (Ps. 23:3). Simply stated: it's not about you or me. This perspective doesn't make for the most exciting sermon material and it may not inspire us to "reach for the stars," but it's a foundational truth that can help us understand God's will for individuals, communities, and nations. The plans of God are centered on His glory and His invitation to enter into eternal life through the Person Jesus Christ.
When we don't see breakthrough, when we fail to discern God's will, when we feel left out or forgotten, it's possible we need to go longer in prayer, go deeper in the Scriptures, and seek greater revelation. Challenge yourself to do more than quote "positive" verses. Take time to study the whole story and pay attention to how God calls, prepares, and works through men and women for His plans and purposes on the earth. We won't endure hardships, opposition, and spiritual warfare in vain if we know God is using it to increase His presence in our lives and prepare us for service in His kingdom.