Over the years we’ve coined some pithy, tweetable idioms and given credit to Scripture. Some are fun and even useful. This post is mostly for enlightenment and laughs… oftentimes our stumbles are harmless and not far off the mark.
Other common “verses” attributed to the Bible are heresy — meaning unTrue with a capital T. It’s human nature to try to fit God and His Word into a box we can understand — but He’s so much bigger than that. When we add our human understanding, values, and morals to the Bible, we sometimes land on dangerous ground. These distortions are serious business, and I’ll cite Scripture to debunk them.
“When God closes a door, He opens a window.” Mother Superior actually says it in The Sound of Music. I love the musical AND the sentiment. Maybe because it allows me to spiritualize my own desires a bit? I’m sure we could also find an argument that it’s saying there’s always a path with God.
Mostly harmless, but it’s not in the Bible. The Bible does say, “What He opens no one can shut, and what He shuts, no one can open.” (Revelations 3:7)
“God will never give you more than you can handle.” No. It’s not there. I’ve been underwater, overwhelmed, devastated… where I couldn’t handle it. This “verse” sounded more like a taunt than encouragement at the time! When we’re in situations beyond what we can handle on our own, it forces us to turn to God in humility and weakness. With Him all things are possible. Two similar but different verses offer encouragement —
2 Corinthians 4:8 promises “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing.” That I can attest to. God meets me and shows me the way to restoration every time. I don’t try so hard in my own power any more.
Maybe the “verse” originated in 1 Corinthians 10:13 which says “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”
“God helps those who help themselves.” My research attributes this popular “verse” either to Benjamin Franklin or Aesop’s fable, “Hercules and the Waggoner.” There’s danger here if someone applies it to the gift of salvation, because salvation is through Christ alone. Ephesians 2:8 says “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–“
However, we do join in the work of sanctification/ spiritual growth even though it is by grace through faith. And there is definitely something to the fact that when Jesus asks us to “go,” we usually have to move in faith before He offers more.
“All things work together for good…” You might say I’m nitpicking here… but context matters on this one. We often use it to paint a rosy picture of something “good” being just around the bend from a present hardship.
What the beloved verse, Romans 8:28, says is this: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Subtle, but different.
Romans 8 is a gory chapter. Read verses 35-36, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, ‘For thy sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.'”
Then verse 37 proclaims, “No! In all these things we are more than conquerors.” IN THE MIDST of suffering and persecution the Christian has great HOPE! All that bad stuff that’s happening is turned into God’s servant for HIS purposes and our good.
“Cleanliness is next to Godliness.” No — lol. Sorry moms. But it is Biblical, sort of… so use it! James 4:8: “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” But, in Matthew 7:18-23 Jesus also warned us to be concerned more about the sin in our hearts than our dirty hands (probably goes for bedrooms too) — so don’t go overboard. 😉
“Hate the sin, love the sinner.” Sounds Biblical, right? Not there, directly. It loosely quotes Gandhi in 1929, “Hate the sin and not the sinner.” In AD 424 St. Augustine similarly said: “With love for mankind and hatred of sins.”
There is a close Biblical principle in Jude 1:22-23 (MSG), “Go easy on those who hesitate in the faith. Go after those who take the wrong way. Be tender with sinners, but not soft on sin. The sin itself stinks to high heaven.” The “hating sin” part is coming under fire today, as many resent God’s guidelines in His Word — so this is probably the best of misquotes!
“Spare the rod, spoil the child” is the “verse” I thought I knew. It’s popular and again, pretty close. A precocious child may point out that Proverbs 13:24 actually says: “Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.” Discipline can come in many forms. Just be sure to remember another discipline verse spoken by Jesus to Christians: “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.” Revelations 3:19
“This too shall pass.” Not quite the Bible, but a misquote of Old English poetry. In “The Lament of Doer” the troubles of other mythological figures are called to mind. Each refrain ends with “that passed away, so may this.”
There are related Biblical passages… Matthew 24:35 says “Heaven and earth will disappear, but my words will never disappear.” It’s definitely comforting to know that all the sorrows of earth will one day be gone, but when we say this too shall pass, it’s usually with resignation.
James 1:2-4 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
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