Taking Scripture Out of Context for Cute T-Shirts
We Christians think it’s pretty cute to put our favorite Bible verses on coffee mugs, t-shirts and wall art and then claim them as promises from God, all the while ignoring what comes before and after.
Context is important. Knowing the Bible is important.
For instance, we love Philippians 4:19, in which Paul said, “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”
In our prosperity gospel culture, this idea of a vending machine god is pretty appealing — insert a short, out of context prayer and expect God to spit out $100 bills.
But let’s back up the bus to verses 14–16. Paul is talking to the church of Philippi and is commending them for the financial help it gave him.
“Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble. And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you alone. Even in Thessalonica you sent me for my needs once and again.”
What did the the Philippian church do? It had the courage to be the first to financially support Paul when no one else would. The Philippian church stood alone with Paul during his times of troubles. Even while planting a church in Thessalonica he depended upon the gifts of the Philippians, not the Thessalonicans. In 2 Corinthians 8:1–5, Paul refers to how the churches of Macedonia (which includes Philippi) gave to him out of their deep poverty. In other words, they sacrificed for him.
In return Paul blesses them with a promise.
“And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”
The promise was a result of courage, obedience and sacrifice. It’s not one we can blindly adopt. It came at a cost.
The cost is in the context.