The plans God has for me? (Jeremiah 29 Part 1)

We were watching Soul Surfer (2011) as a family recently.  We decided it would be good to watch a “Christian” movie occasionally.  It may be awhile before that happens again.  Spoiler: there’s a shark.  While we didn’t love the film, it gets a lot better post-shark and the story of Bethany Hamilton (played by AnnaSophia Robb) is amazing.

Early in the film, the character played by Carrie Underwood (Sarah) is teaching a lesson to the church youth group and she concludes her lesson by quoting one of her favorite verses, 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.”  At this point I cannot contain myself and let out a primordial scream.  Then I pause the film and apologize to my family for my inappropriate behavior.

Before I launch into my diatribe, let me start with the positive.  A film is quoting the Bible. (Apparently, there was a controversy in the filming about whether to state that the quote came from the Bible; see the Wikipedia article).  Not just the Bible, but the Old Testament.  Not just the OT, but Jeremiah.   That’s good.

Now, the diatribe.

I’m tired of hearing Jeremiah 29:11 quoted out of context.  (I’m sure Carrie wanted to give the full context, but she was over-ruled.)  If you hear someone say, “I’m going to share with you a verse from Jeremiah” you should be able to finish the sentence for them.  If there were a competition for which verse in the Bible gets quoted out of context the most, it would have to be Jeremiah 29:11.  Since everyone quotes it out of context, if you were the first to quote it in context, you’d get to say something original.

I’ll blog about the context and how understanding the context makes the verse more powerful in a few days.  (Click here for Part 2 and Part 3 of this series.)

What other Bible verses are frequently taken out of context? 


  1. Earlier this year I was preparing to preaching on this passage and had several members beg me not to “destroy” this passage (via careful attention to context and original intent because it has literally been a lifeline for them. They (not to mention I) was thrilled to see that the context greatly enriched it meaning and application.

    I would share what we learned, but I don’t want to steal the thunder of your up coming post!

    I will leave it with this observation: I have always found Scripture enriched by careful study of context, not diminished — provided that I am not simply setting out to debunk.

    Josh Kelley

    1. That is a fascinating story. What does that say about us? That we would rather hang on to what we think something means than understand what it really means. Wow.

  2. We use this verse as one of the passages to analyse in our workshop groups because people so frequently take it out of context. We also have had people begging, ‘don’t ruin this for me – this was my baptism verse!’

    1. are iaiiprntsonal and great and everything… but… I don't have even 40 followers. The record number of comments on a post is 10. It's very discouraging.It's a positively wacky predicament, and all I can do is trust God to carry my voice as far as He wants it to go.

  3. Hmmm, sudden revelation here…do we worship the Bible? Do we have faith in God’s holy Word. Or rather should I say, have I done so.

    Of course I have. But I have read enough Oswald Chambers to know that it is God I am to have faith in, am to worship….indeed, Jesus is the Word. Knowing Him, knowing His heart and love for us is where my faith should lie.

    I do believe that He knows the plans that He has for me and that they have been plans for hope, and for my future. It has been 25 years since that verse caught my heart and made my ears stand up so to speak…and what has happened in those 25 years is a wonderful story. But learning to put scripture in context does not diminish it, but rather draws me deeper into the mighty God whose heart is for me and who knows me, just as He knew those to whom the book of Jeremiah was written.

  4. Josh, Ben, Tanya and Leeann, Thanks for the comments. Yeah, people feel strongly about Jeremiah 29:11. It’s a great verse, but Context, Context, Context.
    Ben, I assume you’re suggesting that as a taken-out-of-context verse? Not just to help you get over your fear of making comments to my blog post. Phil 4:13 may give Jer 29:11 a run for it’s money.

    1. Haha, yes. That is what I meant.

      Another good one is “Be still and know that I am God.”

      In a group I was in at my church, we actually did a whole series on verses that are taken out of context. It was a lot of fun.

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