5 Bible Verses You Need to Stop Misquoting

Asheritah Ciuciu

Updated Sep 28, 2016
5 Bible Verses You Need to Stop Misquoting
Here are 5 commonly misquoted Bible verses, and why quoting them right can change you life.

5 Bible Verses You're Quoting Wrong (And Why Quoting Them Right Will Change Your Life).

Have you ever heard someone quote the Bible and think to yourself, “Umm, I’m not sure that’s what it really means…”?

Unfortunately, this happens all the time, as what we think a Bible verse means affects what we think it says. But when we study the Bible in context and fill our lives with Scripture, not only do we regain a proper view of God, but we also invite Him to work powerfully in our lives.

Here are some examples: 

1. Matthew 17:20 

What you think it says: If you have faith like a mustard seed, you can move mountains.

What it actually says: "If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there," and it will move. Nothing will be impossible." People often misquote this verse believing that if they just had more faith, they would be able to do impossible things. But Jesus didn't say we can move mountains--He said "it will move," which means God is the One doing the impossible, not us. 

Why it matters: Sometimes God calls us to do such outrageous things that if He doesn't move mightily, we'll fail miserably. But when we trust and obey Him, the pressure is off. We don't have to perform. We don't have to impress. In fact, we don't even have to "succeed." We just obey and God takes care of the rest. God works the miracles, not us, so that we would never point to our accomplishments and say, "Look what I did," but rather point people to Him and boldly declare, "Look what God did!" And that's an incredible way to live. 

2. Jeremiah 29:11

What you think it says: God has plans to prosper you.

What it actually says: “’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.’” At first glance, this misquote looks spot-on, but surprisingly, the word translated “prosper” in this verse is the Hebrew word shalom, which is a theologically-rich word with multiple facets, including completeness, safety, peace, welfare, and yes, prosperity. In the context of this passage, Israel was in exile because she rejected God, and though the outlook was gloomy, God reassured His people that He would bring them back to Israel and fulfill His gracious promises to them… but not for another seventy years. In the meantime, they were instructed to settle down and “seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which they had been carried into exile” (Jer 29:7, also the word shalom, in both instances).

Why it matters: This verse is so often abused to support grandiose statements that God wants us to be healthy, wealthy, and wise. But actually, to say that God’s plans for His people are for shalom means that His people are secure in a place of peace and safety because He is faithful to His promises. This doesn’t always include money and health, though—sometimes it’s quite the opposite (John 16:33), but God’s plans will always include shalom: peace and completeness with God.

3. 1 Corinthians 10:13

What you think it says: God won’t give you more than you can bear.

What it actually says: “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”  The passage here talks about temptations (that is an enticement to sin), not about trials or difficulties. 

Why it matters: God never promises that we’ll be able to handle everything we face in life. In fact, we will often face situations that are beyond us, and those are prime occasions to turn to God in total surrender. A dreadful diagnosis, an unfaithful spouse, a broken relationship, a financial crisis… all these and more cause us to hit our knees and cry out, “God I can’t do this on my own,” begging God for grace upon amazing grace. And when we trust in Him, admitting our complete incompetence, He holds us, guides us, and leads us to abundant life. 

4. Romans 8:28

What you think it says: God works out everything for our good

What it actually says: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son...” The “good” referenced in verse 28 is further clarified in verse 29, but we often miss that part: “the good of those who love Him” is our transformation into the likeness of Jesus Christ

Why it matters: Once again, the frequent misquotation of this verse reflects an ego-centric view of the world and God’s Word. We’re tempted to think that because God loves us, every problem will be resolved in the way we think is best. But God’s view is higher than ours, and often the best thing for our sanctification might be the exact opposite of what we wish for. Getting a “no” to a burning desire might be the exact thing that causes us to lean deeper into Jesus and ask God for His highest good in our lives. That’s a beautiful assurance that God continues to work out His salvation in our lives, making us more and more like Jesus through every big and little thing.

5. Proverbs 3:6

What you think it says: Tell God everything you’re planning to do and He’ll make it work out.  

What it actually says“In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”The Hebrew word “acknowledge” here doesn’t mean simply a nod in someone’s direction, like you acknowledge an acquaintance on the sidewalk; it’s the Hebrew word yada, which means to know by experience, and is the same word used for sexual intimacy within marriage.

Why it matters: The difference here may be subtle, but it’s profound. This Proverb tells readers that what they really should be seeking is a personal, intimate relationship with God, getting to know Him deeply in everything they do each day (“all your ways”). Knowing God this way results in submitting to God’s direction and following His lead, which ensures that we will reach His appointed end goal for our lives. This is less a fortune cookie assurance of prosperity than it is a deeply theological assurance of God’s ability and desire to lead His children to His desired outcome, which is for our good (see above) and His glory.

As we carefully study the Bible, we gain a deeper understanding of who God is and what He wants for our lives. And the next time someone misquotes a passage, we can gently point them to the more beautiful truth found in a proper understanding of Scripture: God is good, and we’ll find our deepest joy when we’re satisfied in Him. 

Asheritah HeadshotAsheritah Ciuciu is a writer, speaker, and video blogger who helps overwhelmed women find joy in Jesus. She married her high school sweetheart, Flaviu, and they have a blast raising their baby girl in the farmlands of Ohio. She blogs at  OneThingAlone.com where she inspires women to sit at the feet of Jesus so they can dwell with Him deeply, love others recklessly, and live their lives fully. Come find a community of grace-filled women there.