Living on Purpose: Does the Bible really say that?
By Bill Holland
Like you, I hear people say things all the time and give the Bible as a reference.
However, upon investigation, sometimes these tidbits of wisdom are not actually from God’s Word.
I thought it would be interesting to look at a few of these sayings and learn where they actually came from. Let’s begin with “God helps those who help themselves.” I’ve heard this all the time and it seems like a logical view, however, this quote is not from the Bible.
It’s attributed to a man named Algernon Sydney who penned it in an article called “Discourses Concerning Government” sometime around 1690. Later it was popularized by Ben Franklin in 1757 in “Poor Richard’s Almanac.” However, from a Christian perspective, God is merciful and is in the business of saving those who cannot save themselves.
Our next selection is “Cleanliness is next to godliness.” While there are references in the Old Testament that mention the importance of purity and being clean, the Mosiac law does not have a passage that can exactly ascribe to this quote.
Some scholars say that it could be associated with a 2nd century rabbi, but the first time the idea appears in a writing is in 1561 by Francis Bacon who expressed it this way: “Cleanness of body was ever deemed to proceed from a due reverence to God.” John Wesley then transformed it into the phrase we know and use today.
I’ve heard that “Money is the root of all evil” since I was a child, but eventually learned this is an incorrect statement. Money is not evil in itself and with the right motive, it can be a tremendous blessing.
Riches and wealth do not have a moral value all to itself, it’s what we do with it and how we feel about it. The problem comes when a person begins to lust for money in a way that consumes the mind and controls the conscience.
The correct quote comes from I Timothy 6:10, “For the love of money is the root of all evil.” In this light we can say that any type of worldly desire that possesses our attention and consumes our thoughts can be harmful to our soul.
Our ultimate love and highest priority should be reserved for God. This reminds me of another familiar saying, “God works in mysterious ways,” which is true, but again is not a Bible verse. It comes from a hymn that was written in 1773 by William Cowper called, “God moves in a mysterious way.”
The next one is called “The seven deadly sins” and we can agree that sin is deadly, but this particular list is not found in the Bible. The list of these seven deadly sins are, wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy and gluttony and according to historians originates with a 4th century monk.
The list was popularized by Dante in his “Divine Comedy” in the 14th century. However, there is a group of seven sins that God hates and is mentioned in Proverbs chapter 6 and verses 16-19. “There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: a proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who speaks lies, and one who sows discord among brethren.”
I must admit, this last one was embarrassing for me as a minister. For years, I always thought there was a scripture which said “The lion will lie down with the lamb.” I know it seems strange, and it’s close, but the passage does not exactly say that. Maybe we saw an image of this or we listened to Elvis sing “Peace in the Valley” and the seed was planted in our mind, but whatever the case, the correct quote is found in Isaiah chapter 11 and verse 6, “Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; The calf and the young lion shall browse together, with a little child to guide them.”
These along with other familiar sayings like “To thine own self be true,” “This too shall pass” and “Charity begins at home” are not particularly bad advice, but are also not found in the Bible along with Adam and Eve eating an apple. Isaiah 40:8 reminds us, “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.”