However, in context, this verse is dealing with a particular promise given to Israel from God; the promise points to the end of their Babylonian exile in specific terms—70 years (verse 10). So, the word prosper doesn’t refer to money or material blessings, but physical and spiritual salvation.
But, someone might say, God still wants us to prosper, right? Well, in terms of salvation, yes. In fact, this passage is a great reminder of the fulfilled prophecy and the perfect Word of God. This is an amazing story that points us to a greater release and redemption for all of God’s people.
So, taking away our specific, individually focused application doesn’t subtract the awesomeness from this passage. In fact, it enhances it and reminds us of the collective salvation of God’s people in history and in the future, still to come.
Misused Bible Verse #3. Where Two or Three Are Gathered
“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” — Matthew 18:20 (NIV)
This verse is often used as an encouragement that God is with us in tough circumstances—all we need are two to three people in a prayer group and we’re set. In fact, you don’t even have to say the full verse, just start it out: “Where two or three are gathered… ” and other church members will shake their heads in agreement.
However, this passage really deals with building a testimony in the context of church discipline. A proper, and reliable, testimony was extremely critical in the Jewish context. This passage was an encouragement to the church leaders during difficult times of confrontation and church discipline—that God would be present with the witnesses as they sought to make matters right and restore a fallen member.
So, it’s pretty safe to say that unless you’re in the midst of church discipline, you’re taking this verse out of its original context.
Is God still with us when two or three are gathered? Yes, of course. He’s also with us when it’s just one or one thousand.
Misused Bible Verse #4. All Things Work for Good
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. — Romans 8:28 (NIV)
This passage is often used to encourage another believer who’s going through a tough time—reminding them that it will eventually work out for something good in their life. In other words, don’t worry about getting fired—God has something better in store for you…all things work out for good, remember?
There are two major issues in this passage to deal with to keep it in context.
First, the passage deals with those who love him. That’s an important distinction. It’s not for everyone, but specifically for believers.
Second, the “good” that’s described in context is our ultimate conformity to Christ, not our comfort. So, the good here leads us to sanctification and our ultimate glorification and not the turnaround of our circumstances from bad to good. Things might get better after the job loss, they might not. Ultimately, we have redemption to hope for—and that’s the ultimate good.