Summary: Taking a verse out of context and using it to support our opinion can put us on thin ice with the Lord, especially when we stretch things too far.
Out of Context
When we make a statement or a write about something it is very important to be sure we remain within the context of what we are referencing. It may be a true statement that we once saw a man catch a 150 pound catfish; however, if we make this statement, while writing about a fishing trip on the Big Piney river, it is out of context. The fact is, there are times we are in danger of being out of context if the circumstances surrounding our statement are not fully and correctly reported along with our statement.
We must be very careful when we use scripture to support a point we are making. To understand the context of the statement, we are referencing, we must take into consideration preceding and following scripture; as well as, the overall theme of the letter itself. It is also very helpful if we understand something about the cultural and historic situation surrounding the statement. Taking a scriptural verse out of context and using it to support our opinion can put us on thin ice with the Lord … even when our action is innocent.
A Number of Examples
To help us understand what it means to take a scriptural verse out of context we are going to examine a few examples.
We have all heard: “Do not judge so that you will not be judged..” People love to use this passage to claim we have no right to judge another Christians actions.
If we examine the next four verses we get a clearer picture of what Jesus was saying. say “ For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.
Jesus is not telling us not to judge but to judge after we have repented and cleaned up our own faults and sins.
Many ignorant preachers, prosperity preachers, and televangelist use Luke 11:9 (So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.) to support their twisted doctrine, which is designed to make God out to be some kind of Santa Clause. If you take the time to read Luke 11:1-13 and focus in on verse 13 it is very obvious that Jesus was addressing one specific topic regarding verse 9; and, that topic was not God will give you anything you ask for. Look at the prayer and then consider the request for the Spirit of God.
Think about Jesus discussion with Nicodemus, John 3:1-15 and focus in on verses 7 and 8.
Sometime we use scripture out of context to highlight a point we want to make. For example 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.). This certainly shows that God can, and SOMETIMES does, take an active role in our life. In the context of this verse, however, it is more than obvious that it is strictly referring to the return of the Israelites out of captivity. Can we extrapolate it to today? Perhaps to some limited extent but we must let people know exactly what was originally being said and why.
Even well-meaning preachers will follow the lead of Svengali evangelist by quoting, out of context, Ephesians 2:8-9 (For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.). In order to bolster their salvation numbers they make it sound like God gives anyone salvation, and expects nothing from that person in return. They do this by conveniently ignoring verse 10 (For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.).
Malachi 3:8-10 … You Have Robbed God
Perhaps the queen of all ‘out of context’ verses is “Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me! …”
I cannot number the amount of times I have heard a preacher use this scripture to drum up money from the people. Well to be honest, many times in the past I too have uses this scripture to get into the pockets of the parishioners.