YouVersion has released a list of the top ten Bible verses that its users shared in 2014 and it is an impressive list considering that they have over 164 million users on their site. The map gives a quick overview of the favorite verse or at least most researched text from a number of Christian nations around the world.
I found it interesting looking at the map how a text like Philippians 4:6-8 has become such a favourite in so many diverse parts of the world. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things”
This passage from Philippians is beautiful and a comfort to millions of Christians whether in the United States or Brazil or war-torn Nigeria. On the list was a pleasant surprise for me in 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.’ ” This is one of my favorite verses and has had a major impact on my way of thinking in regards to my belief in the leadings of God. I wish, however, that Christians had gone on to include verses 12 and 13 as part of their understanding of the verse. As it stands alone it could well be a text used by the prosperity gospel people, and that could explain the popularity of the verse. However, taken in context the verse is an amazing encouragement to trust in God.
The Number 1 spot of most researched or mentioned verse went to Romans 12:2, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (NIV). Again, this is a go to verse for me when explaining grace, the new covenant or the transformation that takes place in the life of a growing Christian, but I wouldn’t have thought it had such wide appeal around the world.
What I found fascinating about YouVersion (you can find translations of the Bible there in almost any language) is they mention that every second, two Bible verses are shared through either Twitter, Facebook, email or text messaging. The top 10 verses on their list were shared over 69 million times last year.
The entire Top 10:
Notice that Philippians 4:6, 7 and 8 take up three spots on the top ten list. It was curious that the only verses from the Gospels were Matthew 6:33 and 34, which are two key verses that the prosperity gospel preachers use. “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about it’s own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (v. 34) NKJV. Once again I have to say this is an amazing text that brings comfort and support to Christians and well deserves to be on the list. Matthew 6:33 reads, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.”
A quick skim of the top ten verses soon give an overview of what people are clinging to in their relationship with God, at least in regards to the list. People are claiming promises for a better and more prosperous life that shields them from problems and the storms that come their way. I think the selection of these verses by people from around the world says that the prosperity gospel preachers are making a serious impact on how people look at the Bible and what they want to believe in regards to it.
There are no verses on the list praising God for His goodness or giving glory to God for all that He has done. John 3:16 is not even on the list or any verses, for that matter, that leads us into a closer and deeper walk with Jesus. Righteousness by faith is ignored and trust in the cross is not mentioned at all. What is even more amazing is that Bible Gateway having released their list for 2014 found that the majority of people are searching for and sharing texts on love, while in YouVersion these kinds of texts are absent from their list.
There is no doubt that Christians around the world, if the list can be used as a yardstick, are interested in what blessings they can derive from Christianity and not as interested in the relational aspect of the faith. That may be a wrong reading on my account, but it does seem to be true from the texts on the list.
When I saw Proverbs 3:6 on the list I thought here is a verse that reflects the glory of God, but after reading it in the context of the other verses I felt a bit saddened. “In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths,” is a wonderful verse of hope and trust in the power and wonder of God. But, in the hands of prosperity teachers it is a verse used for receiving blessings by using God. In other words the text has been twisted into saying that, “if you acknowledge God He will make your path lead straight to prosperity.”
Don’t get me wrong. These 10 verses are some of the most beautiful and hopeful texts in Scripture, but they are not saying that if you act a certain way (give seed offerings for instance) God will do certain things for you (give you lots of money).
What was your favorite text in 2014? What text did you hold onto in the storms of life? Was it one of the top 10 on our list or something altogether different? For me I found myself coming back to John 3:34 over and over as it set the background for my understanding of the new covenant that has occupied a great deal of my time last year (and still does). “And a new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”
* Please pray for the persecuted Christians around the world – they need our support as brothers and sisters in Christ. Some of their stories can be found at http://thebeggardanced.com/nine-oclock-club/