Theology

8 Phrases You Thought were in the Bible

Sometimes Christians are too quick to assume the quotes we see on Twitter and Pinterest are in the Bible. If it has a few “thee’s” and “thou’s” or sounds at all like a proverb, we are keen to believe that it’s somewhere in that dense, leather-bound book sitting on our nightstand. But not every phrase we hear that sounds biblical necessarily is. Here are 8 phrases that you are sure to have seen kicked around that aren’t actually in the Bible:

1. We are in the world, but not of the world.

This phrase was a standard mantra for 90’s Christian kids (along with WWJD bracelets and “a bread crumb and fish” t-shirts). But this phrase is not technically in the Bible. Sorry Newsboys fans! We get this from several verses, especially from what Jesus says in John 15:9: “If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” Granted, it’s not a huge leap, but rather a re-ordering of words. So while this phrase is not in the Bible, it’s a definitely a biblical idea.

2. All things work together for my good.

This was a line to a very popular song a few years back. People loved it, but it’s wrong. Well, maybe. If you love God and are called according to his purposes, like Romans 8:28 really says, then, yes, God will work all things together for good. While I am getting a bit nit-picky with this one I think it’s just important to remind ourselves that small words and phrases matter in scripture. Simply adding an “a” before “god” in John 1 is the difference between being a Christian and a Jehovah’s Witness.

3. God helps those who help themselves.

Nah. God rewards those who earnestly seek him. But he doesn’t help those who help themselves. My high school Bible teacher hated this phrase so much; we used to provoke him sometimes (sorry if you’re reading this) and ask him where it was in the Bible. After, we’d be guaranteed a ten-minute excursion on how that is not biblical. This one goes back to what I even said before. The gospel is about sacrificial love; it’s about loving your neighbor as you love yourself. Self-help ideas aren’t part of gospel. And honestly, phrases like this can be contrary to the gospel. That’s why it’s important to test what we say and hear to make sure it’s in line with Scripture.

4. All good things come to those who wait.

I remember hearing this phrase in the movie Tangled. After the character said it, one of my friends stood up and said, “Dang, quoting scripture now, isn’t she?” All of us laughed, assuming it was in the Bible. Again, it’s not. I know people who have waited for things for years, even some people who have waited a lifetime, and never gotten them. Good things didn’t come to them. Not only is this phrase not in the Bible, but it’s deceptive. “Time and chance happen to them all” so Solomon says.

5. The Lion shall lie down with the lamb.

My brother told me this verse wasn’t in the Bible when I was in high school and I spent about a week researching to try and prove him wrong. He was right. What the Bible really says is that, “The wolf will lie down with the lamb…and the lion will eat straw like the ox.” While my brother was technically right, I was right at least in the spirit of it. The exact wording doesn’t appear, but the idea of restored peace to the point that prey and predator will lie down together is a beautiful image. Whether it’s a wolf or a lion, it doesn’t matter much.

6. To thine own self be true.

Any guesses? This one is Shakespeare, actually. A good amount of Shakespeare’s lines sound like they could be straight from the ol KJV. This phrase is actually counter-gospel because the gospel is about sacrificing your life for others. That’s true love. This quote is really about self-absorption — only doing the things that you want to do, only taking your own personal interests to heart. The Bible teaches us the opposite. We are to love our neighbors as we love ourselves and live lives for other people rather than for us. The gospel isn’t about being true to your own (or, rather, thine own) self, it’s about dying to yourself, denying yourself, thereby modeling our Lord.

7. Money is the root of all evil.

This is probably the most misquoted phrase of them all. Whenever we see how money corrupts a celebrity or a professional athlete or lottery winner, we hear this phrase. The thing is that this phrase is in the Bible, but the three words tacked onto the front give it a completely different meaning. 1 Timothy 6:10 says, “The love of money is the root of all evil.” It’s not money that’s evil, it’s when people love money that becomes the root of all kinds of evil. Money can be used for great things — most people in my church who have money are the most generous (far from evil) people I have ever met.

8. God will not give you more than you can handle.

Scripture tells us that God will not let us be tempted beyond what we can bare. Trials are a different story. If only it were true that God never gave me more than I could handle. Life would be so simple. I have found, however, that the opposite is usually the truth. I continually find myself in situations that are way too much for me the handle. I think God even purposefully puts me in situations like that so that I rely on his strength to get me through them. It’s not so much about handling the situation as it is trusting in God to handle it for us.

Photo by (flickr CC): Jason

Kona