My husband and I both worked at the same Christian bookstore for a time. Although I cannot say that we kindled a romantic relationship there, I can say with confidence that we solidified a mutual hatred for all things Thomas Kinkade, Precious Moments, and pastel coffee mugs (read: bible covers, T-Shirts, wall hangings, key chains…ad nauseum) with Jeremiah 29:11 on them.
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare, and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jer. 29:11)
According to Biblegateway’s blog, Jeremiah 29:11 is the second most searched verse on the site, and arguably one of the most misread in all of scripture. When it’s not being used to offer empty sentimental counsel, it is often used to propagate and bolster ideas of material success and “claim” promises that God never gave to His children in the first place.
Many read the verse in this manner: “I have hopeful plans for you, plans to make you the most successful, and give you the most money.” It is completely contrary to God’s character to give us things that might foster our own sinful idolatry of worldly success and greed.
It would be like God saying: “Let me give you more money (that will never satisfy) and let me give you the most success (that will never slake your thirst for wholeness and meaning).” A God who gives those promises is too sadistic and cruel to be loved and trusted. Furthermore, if these things were truly our future and hope, the wealthiest of the world, the gods of our age, would be the happiest. One episode of E True Hollywood Story illustrates the opposite truth—the most wealthy and successful people are often the most depressed and the most empty.
Perhaps Jeremiah 29:11 is best read with Ephesians 1:7-10.
“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” (Eph. 1: 7-10)
Christ is His plan for our future and hope. Our hope is not found in material things or dreams of fame in this world, but in His plan is to redeem us and to restore His Kingdom for His glory.
That plan is immensely and incredibly larger than we could ever imagine; it is truly the greatest metanarrative ever conceived. Rather than giving us worldly success, God has orchestrated a plan from the beginning to unite all things—the glories of Heaven, namely Himself, and what has been broken by sin, namely the emptiness that haunts our souls. His entire plan has been completed in Christ—our perfect promised Future and Hope.