We’ve heard them all our lives, words of “wisdom” quoted as scripture. It all sounds right so it must be gospel, right? Well, maybe not. Below are some well known sayings that are frequently attributed to the Bible. I think you may be surprised to learn what the Bible DOESN’T say.
GOD HELPS THOSE WHO HELP THEMSELVES
This statement is actually anti-Gospel. Obviously God gave us gifts and talents that we’re supposed to use, but self-reliance and self-righteousness, or the attitude of trying harder and doing better actually gets in the way of the work of God.
In reality, Jesus saves those who die to themselves: “Then Jesus told His disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me’” (Matthew 16:24).
GOD WANTS ME TO BE HAPPY
It’s a common belief that God exists to be our “personal genie” waiting to give us our every wish. It’s amazing how we will justify our sinful actions by saying, “God just wants me to be happy.”
Happiness is tied to feelings and emotions that are often based on circumstances, and those change all the time. God wants us to be obedient to Him, trust Him and know that everything He does is for our good, even if it doesn’t make us feel “happy” in that moment.
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).
WE’RE ALL GOD’S CHILDREN
Although God has created everyone, not everyone relationally belongs to Him. Only those who have repented of sin, placed their faith in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, and possess the Holy Spirit of God inside of them can claim Him as their Father:
“But you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Romans 8:15-16).
“So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ … If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:26-29, emphasis mine in both verses).
CLEANLINESS IS NEXT TO GODLINESS
The people around you may appreciate you staying clean, but this is not Scripture. Parents may use this to motivate their kids to clean their rooms. However, I’d suggest using an actual biblical statement: “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you” (Exodus 20:12). (I can’t guarantee that will make your children want to clean up either, though).
GOD WON’T GIVE YOU MORE THAN YOU CAN HANDLE
Actually, all of life is more than we can handle. The point of living in a fallen world is not for us to try really hard to carry our heavy burden, but rather realize we can’t do it alone and surrender to God instead. That’s what faith is all about.
Everything is more than I can handle, but not more than Jesus can handle: “For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself” (2 Corinthians 1:8).
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
BAD THINGS HAPPEN TO GOOD PEOPLE
The sentiment of this makes sense, but if we follow it all the way through, the idea of a good person is very subjective. Often, we place ourselves in the judgment seat of what is good and bad, or who is good and bad.
The most popular way to make that judgment is by comparison. For example, Bob is a good guy, because he is not as bad as Sam. However, according to the Bible we’re all on equal ground because none of us is inherently good: “as it is written: ‘None is righteous, no, not one’” (Romans 3:10).
LOVE THE SINNER. HATE THE SIN
This one goes back a ways, but not quite to biblical times. In the 5th Century, Augustine wrote a line which translates roughly to “with love for mankind and hatred of sins.”
Later, Ghandi, a practitioner of Hindiusm said, “hate the sin and not the sinner.”
Still, both loving sinners and hating sin are biblical (Matthew 5:43-44, Psalm 97:10).
BE IN THE WORLD, BUT NOT OF THE WORLD
This one may surprise you, but that phrase is nowhere in the Bible. As much as you may think it’s an exact quote from the sermon on the Mount or another verse, it’s not there.
Parts of the sentiment are, however, expressed in various places in Scripture (John 15:9, John 17:14-15, Romans 12:1-2). Just don’t try to find that word-for-word as a verse in your Bible.
WHEN YOU DIE, GOD GAINS ANOTHER ANGEL
Plain and simple. Humans are humans, and angels are angels. This remains so even in eternity. In fact, angels are intrigued by the interaction between God and His “image-bearing” humans: “It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look” (1 Peter 1:12).
MONEY IS THE ROOT OF ALL EVIL
Close, but the frequently quoted phrase is missing a few important words. 1 Timothy 6:10 actually says that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.
God doesn’t want you swimming around in gold coins in a gigantic money bank like Scrooge McDuck, but He may bless you financially so that you can bless others.
GOD WORKS IN MYSTERIOUS WAYS
It’s one of those true-ish statements, but it’s not a Bible verse. Sure, Scripture is full of God doing things in unusual (to us) ways.
Isaiah 55:8-9 reminds us that God’s ways are different from ours. But no biblical prophet ever uttered those words.
The fact that many Christians believe these unbiblical statements shows our unfortunate overall biblical illiteracy. Instead of swallowing popular statements hook-line-and-sinker, may we be like the Bereans in the Book of Acts. When they heard Paul preach, they wanted to research the Scriptures themselves to authenticate what he was saying: “They received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (Acts 17:10-11).