A humorous (and disturbing) illustration is told of a man trying to discern God’s will for his life. In desperation, he cried out to God, “Show me Your will!” and flipped open his Bible and pointed to a random passage, hoping God would give him direction and inspiration. He read, “Judas went out and hung himself.” Concerned, he closed the Bible, let it flop open again, and randomly placed his finger upon another passage. This one read, “Go and do likewise.”
Obviously, this is not the best way to seek God’s will.
Or engage with the Bible.
When we take a word or a concept out of its context, thus making it say whatever we want it to (rather than what it actually means), we call that “proof-texting.” Proof-texting is commonly used to prove your point with a passage without paying attention to its context.
As it has been said, “I can do all things through a Bible verse taken out of context.” Or “a text without a context is a pretext for a proof-text.” The moment you take any verse and yank it out of its context, you set yourself up to misunderstand what it actually means.
That said, over the years, I’ve collected dozens of hilarious, disturbing, and “profound” passages taken out of context.
Bible Passages Taken Out of Context
NOTE: this list is meant to be funny and show what NOT to do with Scripture.
- A reason to brush your teeth every day: “My breath is offensive to my wife, and I am loathsome to my own brothers” (Job 19:17).
- A politically conservative perspective: “A wise man’s heart directs him toward the right, but the foolish man’s heart directs him toward the left” (Ecclesiastes 10:2).
- The single woman’s favorite Bible verse: “If any man shall come after me, let him …” (Matthew 16:24). But then, of course, if the wrong men come: “I would not have you ignorant brethren.” (Romans 1:13a, KJV)
- Gatorade in the Bible?: “…and Esau said to Jacob, ‘Please let me have a swallow of that red stuff there, for I am famished’” (Genesis 25:30a).
- When someone gives a long explanation to a simple question: “Is there no limit to windy words? Or what plagues you that you answer?” (Job 16:3).
- “Go to Bethel and sin; go to Gilgal and sin yet more …” (Amos 4:4 NIV).
- Then He said to me, “See, I will give you cow’s dung in place of human dung over which you will prepare your bread” (Ezekiel 4:15).
- “Bread is made for laughter, and wine gladdens life, and money answers everything” (Ecclesiastes 10:19 ESV).
- The favorite verse of those who are not morning people: “Whoever blesses his neighbor with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, will be counted as cursing” (Proverbs 27:14 ESV).
- Every athlete’s proof-text: “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).
- Why you shouldn’t watch entertainment: “Tell the vision to no one…” (Matthew 17:9a) … “Television to no one” (get it?!).
- Every Monday morning on the way to work many people quote Ecclesiastes 2:17: “So I hated life, for the work which had been done under the sun was grievous to me; because everything is futility and striving after wind.”
- For those problem neighbors: “I wish that those who are troubling you would even mutilate themselves” (Galatians 5:12).
- A concerning verse about doing anything a second time: Joshua 5:2–3 – “At that time the LORD said to Joshua, ‘Make for yourself flint knives and circumcise again the sons of Israel the second time.’ So Joshua made himself flint knives and circumcised the sons of Israel at Gibeath-haaraloth.”
- If you have a brother, you know “a brother is born for adversity” (Proverbs 17:17b)
- A great welcome mat verse for your front door: “Let your foot rarely be in your neighbor’s house, or he will become weary of you and hate you” (Proverbs 25:17).
- A plea for singleness: “Yet those who marry will have worldly troubles, and I would [desire to] spare you that” (1 Corinthians 7:28).
- Frustrated with singleness: “I am sick of love” (Song of Songs 2:5, KJV).
- Flirtatious words you may not want to speak to your wife: Song of Songs 4:1–4 – “How beautiful you are, my darling, how beautiful you are! Your eyes are like doves behind your veil; your hair is like a flock of goats that have descended from Mount Gilead. Your teeth are like a flock of newly shorn ewes which have come up from their washing, all of which bear twins, and not one among them has lost her young. Your lips are like a scarlet thread, and your mouth is lovely. Your temples are like a slice of a pomegranate behind your veil. Your neck is like the tower of David, built with rows of stones on which are hung a thousand shields, all the round shields of the mighty men.”
- For conspiracy theorists: “Such things as you are saying have not been done, but you are inventing them in your own mind” (Nehemiah 6:8).
- For that “one person”: “O that you would be completely silent, and that it would become your wisdom!” (Job 13:5).
- Why you should be kind to bald people: 2 Kings 2:23–24 – “Then [Elisha] went up from there to Bethel; and as he was going up by the way, young lads came out from the city and mocked him and said to him, ‘Go up, you baldhead; go up, you baldhead!’ When he looked behind him and saw them, he cursed them in the name of the LORD. Then two female bears came out of the woods and tore up forty-two lads of their number.”
- A pastor’s favorite verse for those who sleep during his sermons: “And there was a young man named Eutychus sitting on the window sill, sinking into a deep sleep; and as Paul kept on talking, he was overcome by sleep and fell down from the third floor and was picked up dead” (Acts 20:9).
- Other verses that desperately need context when reading: Deuteronomy 25:11–12, Judges 3:22, 2 Kings 6:29, Psalm 137:9, Ecclesiastes 1:2, Amos 5:20, Mark 14:51–52, John 6:54–55
The “Bible” Story
There is an old story combining a variety of passages in an “out-of-context” sense. While humorous, it shows what can happen when you take passages out of their context.
A man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell among thieves and the thorns grew up and choked that man and he went on and he didn’t have any money and he met the Queen of Sheba, and she gave that man a thousand talents of gold and silver and a hundred changes of raiments. And when he was driving along under a big tree, his hair got caught in a limb and left him hanging there. And he hung there many days and many nights and the ravens brought him food to eat and water to drink. And one night while he was hanging there asleep, his wife, Delilah, come along and cut his hair off, and he dropped and fell on stony ground and it began to rain and it rained forty days and forty nights. And he hid himself in a cave. And the man went out into the highways and byways and compelled him to come in. He went on and come to Jerusalem and he saw Queen Jezebel sitting high up in the window and when she saw him she laughed and he said, “Throw her down out of there,” and they threw her down. And he said, “Throw her down again,” and they threw her down, seventy times seventy times and the fragments they picked up were twelve baskets full. Now whose wife will she be in the days of judgment?*