The Bible is one of the greatest gifts God gave mankind. The Bible is God revealing Himself to us and a way for God to communicate to the world, so we see Him in truest form. While Christianity teaches that the Bible was authored and inspired by the Holy Spirit of God using human instruments. It also believes that in it’s original languages of Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic, it is without fault and error. However, there are many things that Christians believe, particularly regarding the Word, that is completely unbiblical.
Many of us have heard these phrases and even used them. Often, we’ll hear a person say a phrase or quote a statement that sounds good to us, and we’ll begin repeating it as though it’s biblical truth without ever researching it in Scriptures. These phrases sound wise, insightful and biblical. In fact, some of these phrases are so popular that many people believe they are actually Bible verses.
Perceived truths about God can cripple your understanding of Him, rob your joy and even damage your ability to point non-Christians to Him. Some of these phrases teach the opposite of what the Bible teaches. Here are five phrases Christians like to say that aren’t biblical at all.
“God Won’t Give You More Than You Can Handle.”
This tired, old phrase often sounds more like a taunt than a comfort. When we are down and out and feeling discouraged, hearing those words can cause us to feel like we’re not measuring up. It causes us to ask, “If I am supposed to handle this, then why can’t I handle it?”
The truth is, God never said He wouldn’t give us more than we could handle. Actually, all life is more than we can handle. There will be times in life when you feel like drowning and there is no one to help you. The words that are meant for encouragement can often serve to only create discouragement. Worse yet, this phrase can tempt us to ignore our suffering and pretend it’s not there. It can lead to us believing the lie that we can do it ourselves; that we can handle it. We need to realize that sometimes we can’t make it on our own. Jesus said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Everything is more than we can handle, but not more than Jesus can handle.
“God Helps Those who Help Themselves.”
This is probably the most often quoted phrase that is not found in the Bible. The truth is, the Bible teaches the opposite. God helps the helpless. Isaiah 25:4 says, “For You have been a defense for the helpless, a defense for the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm, a shade from the heat…”Romans 5:6 tells us, “For while we were still helpless, at the right time, God died for the ungodly.”
The phrase is actually anti-Gospel. Self-reliance and self-righteousness, or the attitude that trying harder and doing better actually gets in the way of the work of God. The Bible teaches that Jesus saves those who die to themselves: “Then Jesus told His disciples, if anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24).
“Cleanliness is Next to Godliness.”
You may have heard your parents use this statement to motivate you to clean your room. While those around you may appreciate you staying clean, the saying “cleanliness is next to godliness” does not appear in the Bible. The expression is an archaic proverb found in Babylonian and Hebrew religious tracts. It first showed up in the English language in a modified form in the writings of philosopher and scientist Sir Francis Bacon. In “Advancement of Learning” (1605), Bacon wrote, “Cleanliness of the body was ever deemed to proceed from a due reverence to God.” Almost 200 years later (1791), John Wesley made a reference to the expression in one of his sermons in the form we use it today. Wesley wrote, “Slovenliness is no part of religion. Cleanliness is indeed next to godliness.” Biblically speaking, however, outward cleanliness has no connection to godliness. Jesus made it clear that godliness is not obtained by what we eat or don’t eat, or by how often we wash our hands (Matthew 7: 18-23). The Pharisees who questioned Jesus on His teachings failed to understand this truth.
“Bad Things Happen to Good People.”
Yes, sometimes bad things happen to people who seem undeserving of them. But God allows things to happen for His reasons, whether or not we understand them. Above all, however, we must remember that God is good, just, loving and merciful. Often things happen to us that we simply can’t understand. However, instead of doubting God’s goodness, our reaction should be to trust Him. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6).
“When You Die, God Gains Another Angel.”
Many use this phrase to comfort those who have recently lost loved ones. While this phrase may offer some happiness and consolation, the truth is, humans are humans and angels are angels. We don’t become angels when we die and go to heaven. This remains so even in eternity. In fact, angels are intrigued by the interaction between God and us, who are made in His image: “It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have been announced to you through those who preached the Good News to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things in which angels long to look” (1 Peter 1:12).
Unfortunately, the fact that many Christians believe these unbiblical statements shows our unfortunate biblical illiteracy. Instead of regurgitating popular phrases that we believe are biblical without knowledge that those words are in the Bible, research the Scriptures to authenticate what it’s saying.