Jeremiah 23:29 “Is not My word like a fire?” says the Lord, “And like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces? (NKJV)
(Previous devotionals can be found at www.seriousfaith.com)
There are many sayings, or phrases, that we use that are not in Scripture. Sometimes it is commonly believed that a particular saying DID come from the Bible; other times, the attitude is that it really doesn’t matter if it came from Scripture or not… is still sounds “right”.
Is it wrong to commonly quote, counsel or otherwise use sayings, proverbs and phrases in our daily Christian life, or in teaching other Christians? No, not necessarily. A lot of these saying are rooted in principle from Scripture; some of them seem to be good Christian ideas that have pragmatic value, while others just seem to be good common sense.
However, there are some, which we will see, that are just plain wrong… but the Bible gets credit for them anyway. Still other common sayings/phrases are not necessarily wrong, but we should always take caution when using or conveying them in a sense that reinforces the idea that the Bible is the source of them. Some of these are common to all folks, others are more common in Christian circles. Let’s look at a few that almost everyone repeats, and see if the Bible really agrees. Some of these are just common “proverbs”, while others have grown to be considered as “Bible verses”:
God Helps Those Who Help Themselves
This topic first came to the forefront for me when one of my friends adamantly insisted that this was found in the Bible. I remember hearing this often growing up and seemed to be a favorite phrase of men who like to depend on ourselves more than God. Oh, I know what is meant by it. It means that God is not going to bless or “bail out” someone from poverty or hunger who isn’t willing to get up and go do what they are supposed to do. That is not necessarily wrong. But the phrase itself it quite unBiblical.
Romans 5:6 For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. (NKJV)
God ONLY helps those who finally figure out they can’t help themselves:
Matthew 5:3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (NKJV)
That is the exact meaning of this verse. To be “poor in spirit” is to realize that you are utterly helpless and in need of someone to help you. So from a “reap what you sow” angle, this phrase is somewhat true, but when it becomes accepted as “Bible”, then it contradicts one of the greatest facts about salvation.
All Good Things Must Come to An End
Not for Christians. All good things will never end for the truly saved. Not only that, all good things will get eternally “gooder”!
Ephesians 2:4-10 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. (NKJV)
You Can’t Take It With You
“It” in this context is material possessions. The phrase is true in one sense, but for the Christian, we CAN “send it on ahead”. Everything we give in God’s name, and every work we perform for the sake of Jesus will be waiting for us in heavenly, eternal reward.
Luke 12:32-34 “Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell what you have and give alms; provide yourselves money bags which do not grow old, a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches nor moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (NKJV)
What You Do in Private is Nobody’s Business
Wrong. It’s God’s business. In reality there is no such thing as “private”. Everything we do is illuminated and evaluated by the light of God’s Word. In fact, what you do in private is the most important because that is when the REAL you is in operation.
Jeremiah 23:24 Can anyone hide himself in secret places, So I shall not see him?” says the Lord; “Do I not fill heaven and earth?” says the Lord. (NKJV)
Hebrews 12:1 Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, (NKJV)
Cleanliness is Next to Godliness
While there are many principles of hygiene in Scripture, this little proverb is most often attributed to Scripture when it was Ben Franklin who penned it… although he probably got it somewhere else. I can’t count the number of times I have heard people adamantly declare this to be a Bible verse.
Which Came First, the Chicken or the Egg?
While not considered a Bible verse, this famous question is supposed to cause great concern and puzzlement about the origin of life and creation. For the Christian who has allowed the foundation of Scripture (Genesis) to be undermined, this question strikes fear and confusion into the heart. But it should not. The Bible answers this question with clarity and absolute certainty. The chicken came first, period.
Genesis 1:20 Then God said, “Let the waters abound with an abundance of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the face of the firmament of the heavens.” (NKJV)
Don’t allow the world’s ideas of evolution and skepticism to undermine what the Lord God Creator has plainly declared.
The Perfect Crime
There’s no such thing. God knows all, sees all, and will judge all things in Truth on the Day of Judgment.
Hebrews 4:13 And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account. (NKJV)
Galatians 6:7 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. (NKJV)
Seeing is Believing
While Madison Avenue and Hollywood certainly live by this “truth”, the Christian most certainly should not. Deception is rampant in man’s heart, and the eyes are easily fooled, seeing only what they want to see.
Proverbs 28:25 He who is of a proud heart stirs up strife, But he who trusts in the Lord will be prospered. (NKJV)
1 John 2:16 For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. (NKJV)
The Bible says Don’t Judge! (my personal favorite – BR)
I read this ridiculous remark in the newspaper at least every week, hear it on the radio constantly, and get email from my readers (typically disagreeing with me) almost daily proclaiming “the Bible says don’t judge!” or “Jesus taught us to never judge”. This one particular saying strikes fear into the heart of the casual Christian and renders them spineless when proclaiming God’s Word on how we should live.
Matthew 7:1-2 “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. (NKJV)
The Bible does NOT say “don’t ever judge”. It says “don’t judge in a way that will bring judgment on you”. If you judge unfairly or hypocritically, then you will be judged the same way. We are to CONSTANTLY judge things against God’s Word and pronounce things wrong where the Bible declares it wrong, and good where the Bible judges as good. But we are to only judge by God’s Word. When we judge by OUR OWN standard, then we are inviting God’s judgment on ourselves.
Using the “don’t judge” hammer is one of the favorite techniques of people today. Do not be intimidated by it anymore; however, you need to be able to accurately correct them with the Truth of what God’s Word says.
Now let’s take a look at a few common things said, or used, in Christian circles, that aren’t in the Bible. Now remember, I’m not stating that these are SINFUL; my point is that we need to be careful not to elevate things to Scripture that are NOT actually Scripture. Some phrases and sayings become so widely used, that the vast majority of casual Bible readers simply assume that they come from the Bible when they do not:
God Can Do Anything
No, He can’t. He can’t lie. He can’t be less than perfect. He can’t learn. He can’t do anything that goes against His nature and attributes.
God Answers Every Prayer
It is commonly taught that God answers every prayer “yes, no or wait”. Not true. First of all there are a host of other possible answers such as:
- Yes, with conditions; Yes, with corrections; No, unless….; No, except for…; No, but if you will…; Wait; Wait, until I have…; Wait, until you have…;
- Other ways God might answer us as well: You should already know the answer; I have already given you the answer; You are not ready to hear the answer; You don’t want to hear the real answer; You aren’t listening, I’m already answering; You aren’t capable of understanding the answer; I’ll tell you but you still won’t hear the answer; You’ve already decided what you want the answer to be
And there are many conditions for God hearing and answering any prayer:
- Sin must be confessed (2Chron 6.26; Psa 66.18; James 5.1; Prov 1.28)
- Unforgiveness must not be present (Mark 11.25)
- We must be asking for the right reasons (1John 5.13-15; James 4.3)
- We have to have faith in Christ (John 15.7)
- We ask in Jesus’ name for His glory (John 14.14)
- We have to be obedient (1John 3.22)
- We must ask God in belief (Mark 11.24)
- You must be treating your spouse in a Godly manner (1Pet 3.7)
Other reasons God may not answer:
- God’s glory may be increased through His silence
- God’s silence might be part of a bigger plan we don’t, or can’t, know about
- God may have His own reason and choose not to reveal it (Deut 29.29)
- Christians walk by faith and promises that frequently don’t include answers or explanation
The “Sinners Prayer”
Not in the Bible. Again, I’m not condemning it, I’m just saying that we need to be careful about the wide spread use and acceptance of something that is not directly from Scripture. This prayer is used and offered so often that it is no wonder that most Christians believe it to be something from the Bible.
Asking Jesus Into Your Heart; Accepting Jesus As Your Personal Savior
These phrases are not found in Scripture much to the surprise of most Christians. Does that make them wrong, or not useful? Not necessarily. But again, phrases coined by man should not be elevated to Scripture, and caution should be employed especially when they become used as heavily as these two are.
You Have to Be a Member of the Church
We have to members of God’s Kingdom; being on the “membership roll” of a certain church is entirely a manmade idea that has its roots in the Roman Catholic and State Church traditions. Salvation makes us part of the “ekklesia”, the “called out”, the “community” of Believers. Salvation makes us a part of God’s Kingdom. We are not to forsake the “assembling of ourselves” together as Believers (Heb 10.25).
But what has manifested itself today as “church membership” into a particular denomination, or identifiable sect, is foreign to Scripture. Once again, I’m not saying that there is something inherently wrong or sinful in being a “member” of a church; but we need to be careful that we don’t make this a Scriptural requirement or a test of salvation.
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Well, there are many more that could be pointed out, but my intention is more general. My point is to make us alert to the tendency to believe that often repeated ideas “naturally” come from the Bible. We need to be diligent about searching the Scriptures to make sure that our ideas, proverbs, sayings, phrases and commonly used concepts truly are in line with God’s Word.
Never assume that if something “sounds Biblical”, it necessarily comes from the Bible. On one hand, there may be absolutely nothing wrong with the “saying” in question. On the other hand, it may subtlely lead people away from the real Truth of God’s Word.
Lord, Help us to be diligent to study Your Word and evaluate our ideas and communicate by Your Word. Help us to be careful about assuming what is and is not found in Scripture and the error that often follows such assumptions. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Contemplation: How many of these things did you assume were found in the Bible? Do you think there could be other things as well that you do, or say as a Christian that aren’t part of Scripture, but you believe they are? Is this even important? Is there anything dangerous about using phrases and concepts that the Bible does not specifically convey? Is it always wrong? Is it EVER wrong?
Application: We must carefully evaluate all of our sayings, phrases and proverbs against Scripture. If they are not found there, we should diligently examine whether or not they could result in some misunderstanding, confusion or misdirection away from the Truth of God’s Word.
James 1:22 – But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. (NKJV)
- What is the most obvious Bible truth you have learned today?
- What change in your life needs to be made concerning this truth?
- What specific thing will you do today to begin that change?