I Can Live Without A “Life Verse” (and so can you)

“This is my favorite passage.” We heard this phrase from our pastor in almost every sermon. After a while the congregation started chuckling whenever he said it. Even he laughed at his overuse of the phrase as we all came to realize that whatever passage he’s preaching on inevitably turned out to be his favorite.

Is it wrong to have a favorite Bible verse, though, a verse that you actually consider more important in your life than other parts of the Bible?

It sounds odd when put that way, but people do it.

They call it their “life verse”.

Seeking Guidance

I was at a church leadership conference the first time I heard the phrase. It came from one of the speakers who explained he followed a particular philosophy of church leadership because it fit his “life verse”.

He didn’t explain what a life verse was, just acted as if we all knew what he was talking about. Maybe everyone else did, but I was in the dark.

A life verse: Should I have one? Is my leadership suffering because I haven’t found my life verse? Is my life suffering because I don’t have one?

(I love making these e-cards!)

(I love making these e-cards!)

Here’s what I decided: No One Needs a Life Verse.

Ranking Scripture is Wrong

Picking one verse or passage over others as the guidepost for one’s life mistakes the purpose of Scripture.

The entire Bible – the word of God – is written so we will know God. It is the written revelation of the One who is himself the Word of God (John 1:1), God who told us he came so that we might have life and have it to the full (John 10:10), the One who gave us the Bible so we “may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:31.)

But do we really need the whole Bible in order to know God and grow in a relationship with him? Do we need to bother reading the seemingly interminable genealogies? Is there really any need to try to understand chapter after chapter of Old Testament laws on temple sacrifices?

The answers to those three questions are: yes, yes, and yes.

It’s the answer to the first question that leads to the answer to the other two.

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17.)

All Scripture – each and every verse in the Bible – is useful for God’s people. Nowhere are we told to elevate one passage over another.

So if you want to be thoroughly equipped, if you want to know what God has for you in your life, then read all that he has provided for you in his written word.

After all, it’s not a matter of picking a favorite verse for your life but living in the truth that all of Scripture is favored by God for your life to be full and abundant in Jesus.

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21 Responses to I Can Live Without A “Life Verse” (and so can you)

  1. Aimee Byrd says:

    Good topic, Tim. I hear this one a lot too. I do have some verses that I tend to gravitate towards, but calling them “my life verses” is kind of strange. Plus, my life is crazy enough to need all 31, 142 verses of my Bible (looked that one up!).

    • Tim says:

      You say crazy, I say complex, Aimee. There is so much going on in all our lives and God knows that we need all the guidance we can get. I am glad that his wisdom is abundant and he blesses us in it.

  2. The thought occurs to me that if one verse ‘fits’ you for your entire life, could it be an indication that you’re not actually growing(?).

    • Tim says:

      I wondered along those lines too. Things change every day for me and the depths of God’s word contain riches for each day.

  3. Jeannie says:

    That’s really interesting, Tim — still pondering it. I can say that when I look at my life right now, the Scripture passage that gives me the most encouragement and hope is Lamentations 3:22-23: “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning;great is your faithfulness.” I don’t think that means I am elevating it above all other Scripture passages in importance. Yet neither do I think there will ever come a time when I’ll say that it doesn’t fit me anymore or that it characterized a less mature stage of my life. So … as I said, I’m still pondering!

    I wonder whether WHAT we choose as a life verse (if we do) says more than WHETHER we have one or not? Remember that Prayer of Jabez thing that was so big a while back: a lot of people latched on to the “enlarge my territory” part of that passage (God has big things in store for me!). Yet an article I read recently (see http://experimentaltheology.blogspot.ca/2014/05/search-term-friday-prayer-of-jabez-made.html) commented on the part about “that I may not cause pain” part of that passage and how that spoke deeply to the regrets of some prison inmates. So I guess we should certainly guard against too glibly taking a “life verse” because it may end up having a more sobering message for us than we first expect.

    • Tim says:

      Those points are well taken, Jeannie. When I have heard people talk about life verses it has almost seemed like they were not only looking to a single verse to guide their lives but also trying to live their lives in conformance with that verse, like they had something they strived to live up to.

      On the other hand, what you are talking about in your life is not the same. You are not holding on to one piece of Scripture immaturely thinking it is what guides you better than all other parts. Like you, there are certainly passages that have meant more to me some days than others, some seasons than others. And I also admit that there are passages that are kind of my favorites (I love the story of Philip and the Ethiopian official in Acts 8!). But I maintain that my whole life is to be lived in the light of all Scripture.

  4. Laura says:

    From someone who has never had a life verse, and has felt inept about it – thanks for your post! It is true that certain verses have been more applicable to my life at different times – but none have ever felt like a life verse. I believe so many things about God – how can I narrow it down to one verse? Of course, I am a wordy person that can not be brief so the thought of one verse is immensely challenging for that reason too. Maybe I could come up with 20 life verses? : )

  5. janehalton says:

    Also, don’t go looking for the four spiritual laws OR the sinner’s prayer in your Bible. Good post Tim.

  6. Ruth says:

    I grew up Ina church that SANG, wonderful hymns, brilliant choruses, we had music sheets to our hymns etc if we wanted them, and every sunday was 5part harmony! ( a special soprano that could add that fifth part). That is where I learnt my scripture, and so often, a word, a note, will bring back a Bible verse or passage, to music, in my heart and head. That being said, I have verses that mean special things to me. My favourite passage is Jesus greeting Mary of Magdala in the garden. Right there, in black and white, the equality that some males deny women, and a song in my heart for the exquisite privelige this must have been to Mary, and I don’t believe she was a prostitute at all!

    • Tim says:

      Isn’t it wonderful how music can trigger memories of God and his word and blessings in our lives? I completely agree about Mary of Magdala too: there is no evidence that she was a prostitute, and her place in the gospels is wonderful.

      • Ruth says:

        So true, and I like your take on life and the world of church. I knew this blog site was for me when I read talk to me ( or don’t ) ! That made me laugh, so relaxed and free lol.

  7. caramac54 says:

    Isn’t it fun to realize the – ah ha! say it ain’t so – FREEDOM that exists in scripture (apart from 3-point sermon applications and the like)?

  8. thyristor says:

    I attended a Bible study tonight in which one of the discussion questions was “What is your life verse?” I didn’t have one since, like you, I never saw the point in having one. I told the group that while different passages of Scripture resonated with me at different times, there was no single verse that stood out.

    Two of the ladies in my group said, “I have a life verse, but it changes based on my circumstances.” Hmmm… doesn’t sound like much of a *life verse, does it?

    I think that if it were all that important for us to pick a passage of Scripture to guide us, the Bible writers would have at least hinted at that matter. Instead, there isn’t even the slightest indication that believers were expected to do so — or that the practice was even recommended. I think that’s pretty noteworthy.

    • Tim says:

      Good points, thyristor, and I especially like your suggestion that if selecting a particular verse or passage over another were a good thing, we’d have been told about it somewhere in the Bible itself.

  9. Pingback: My Life Verse | Enough Light

  10. cath says:

    Hi, I’m Cath and I am new to your blog but I like what you are writing. I am in England and new to blogging myself. I began one this year as a place to write poetry/spoken worship mainly because God has given it to me as a way of expressing faith. It is good to find blogs that encourage us in our walk with God and challenge us and make us think.
    I find that God imprints verses on me so that I can carry them with me for a while and it is a way to recall God’s truths and promises that he speaks over me, when I am prone to forget and let circumstances get the better of me.
    Or sometimes I write a poem and then it stays with me and I memorise it and carry it with me because it keeps me focussed on God in difficult times.

  11. Pingback: The Problem With Proof-Texting Your Bible Doctrine | Tim's Blog – Just One Train Wreck After Another

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