Scripture: Handle with Care
When I accepted the invitation to speak at my parents’ church, I immediately started thinking about what message I would deliver. I decided to give a message on something that is very important to me after my four years at Cedarville and something I am very passionate about. I hope it will be engaging; I hope it will make you think; and I hope it will bring glory to God. If I can accomplish those three things, I will be satisfied.
The Scripture I chose is Jeremiah 29:11 and I’m guessing that most Christians could recite the verse from memory. If not, once you read it, you’ll probably remember or recognize it.
“’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 a hope and a future.’”
This is a familiar verse for a lot of Christians. My question today is whether it should be.
This might seem like a strange question, but I think you’ll understand what I mean soon.
So why is this verse so familiar to us? Well, it’s used a lot. Are you nervous about future uncertainties? Jeremiah 29:11. Are you starting a new job? Jeremiah 29:11. Graduating from high school or college? Jeremiah 29:11. That teenage girl had her boyfriend break up with her? Jeremiah 29:11. Car trouble that makes you late to work? Jeremiah 29:11. Lost your lucky pencil? Jeremiah 29:11.
I hope you’re catching my sarcasm.
And maybe you think I’m exaggerating. But I did a Google search for Jeremiah 29:11 and you can buy folders, clocks, plaques, keychains, mugs, pictures, bumper stickers, aprons, tote bags, iPhone cases, tshirts, pillows, bracelets, and even playing cards that have this verse on them. It might be rivaling the 23rd Psalm after all that. And I know for a fact that it can be found on countless greeting cards whether they be sympathy, graduation, engagement, or congratulatory cards.
I saw a meme on the internet the other day. It was an image of the Bible, and the text said: “This is not a bag of trail mix. You can’t just pick out the pieces you like and ignore the rest.” I’m afraid that the widespread use of Jeremiah 29:11 demonstrates a bigger problem: we really are guilty of treating the Bible like a bag of trail mix. Jeremiah 29:11 is an M&M that we pull out time and time again while we ignore all the peanuts and raisins and cashews and granola all around it.
Christians claim to have a high view of Scripture—that is, we say that the Bible is the authoritative, divinely inspired Word of God. We are quick to use it to tell the world what they’re doing wrong whether that be gay marriage or murder or how to raise children. We say that we live by what the Bible says, but I’m afraid that we’re often guilty of not even knowing what the Bible says. For me, the widespread use of Jeremiah 29:11 proves this.
To demonstrate, does anyone know what Jeremiah 29:10 says? No, because it’s a peanut. Jeremiah 29:12? Sorry, I don’t like raisins. But I am feeling uncertain about this new job/relationship/house/baby/friend/responsibility/accomplishment/etc., so I like to be told that God has good plans for me. I like to imagine him saying, “I know the plans I have for you…”