I pastored my first church fourteen years ago, and I recall how the congregation would tell me time and again how the most intriguing sermon they ever heard was when one of their former pastors preached on “popular sayings not found in the Bible.” Ever since I heard about this idea, I have wanted to preach such a sermon. I guess a devotion will have to do for now. In this newsletter article we’re going to look at five common sayings that aren’t actually found in the Bible; and what I like about this article is that it gives me an opportunity to share five mini-devotions at once. So, let’s get started by looking at the first commonly used aphorism or proverb:
Hate the Sin, Not the Sinner – Believe it or not, this commonly used expression dates back to 424 A.D. in St. Augustine’s “Letter 211,” which contains the phrase, “With love for mankind and hatred of sins” (Latin: Cum dilectione hominum et odio vitiorum). Mahatma Gandhi later adapted this quote and rendered it in the more familiar form of “hate the sin, love the sinner,” which appeared in Gandhi’s 1929 autobiography. It’s a catchy little statement, but it’s not found in the Bible.
So, does God “hate the sin and love the sinner,” as Gandhi put it? Most definitely! God does hate sin (Proverbs 6:16-19); however, He loves sinners. Romans 5:8 declares, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” This common saying among Christians might not be found in the Bible, but it conveys a biblical concept that teaches us how to act towards unbelievers and those living in sin. So, how should Christians act around those living in sin? We should be kind, loving and accepting; though not accepting or approving of their sin.
God Helps Those Who Help Themselves – According to researcher George Barna, eight out of ten Americans believe this saying is found in the Bible. One of its earliest known expressions is from Aesop’s fable “Hercules and the Wagoneer.” A man’s wagon got stuck on a muddy road and he prayed for Hercules to help him out. Hercules appeared and said, “Get up and put your shoulder to the wheel.” The moral of the story was then given as “the gods help them that help themselves.” The moral of this fable was later adapted by Benjamin Franklin in his 1736 work called “Poor Richard’s Almanac” to become the more familiar saying we hear and recognize today.
So, does “God help those who help themselves?” Personal accountability and responsibility are prominent themes found in the Bible; however, ultimately, God desires followers who are totally dependent on Him. Proverbs 28:26 says, “He who trusts in his own heart is a fool,” and in Jeremiah 17:5-7, we read, “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart departs from the Lord. For he shall be like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see when good comes, but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land which is not inhabited. Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is the Lord.”
God Won’t Give You More Than You Can Handle – This saying is based on 1 Corinthians 10:13; however, it’s a misquote of the Scripture, meaning that it’s a saying not technically found in the Bible. 1 Corinthians 10:13 says, “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.”
1 Corinthians 10:13 is speaking about the pressures of temptation, and if you look at it carefully, it doesn’t say that God sends temptation on us. In fact, James 1:13 says, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God;’ for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone.” When temptation comes knocking on your door it’s from the devil. Both Matthew 4:3 and 1 Thessalonians 3:5 call Satan “the tempter.” 1 Corinthians 10:13 is simply saying that the Lord “allows” us to experience temptation, and that He also makes a way of escape.
So, let’s be careful about blaming God for all the bad things that come into our life. When someone’s experiencing a time of crisis, telling them the Lord did it as a test, or for some reason that only He knows about, is not going to bring about comfort and healing to anyone. If we were to change this saying to be more theologically correct, it would be that “God won’t allow you to endure more than you can handle.”
Do unto Others as They Would Do unto You – This popular saying is based on Matthew 7:12, where Jesus stated, “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” Some people will get the content halfway correct in saying, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” but I’ve actually heard it quoted on television as, “Do unto others as they would do unto you.” This faulty rendering implies taking revenge, and in Romans chapter 12, we’re told, “Repay no one evil for evil . . . do not avenge yourselves” (12:17, 19).
When Jesus said, “Whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them” (Matthew 7:12), He was saying, “If you want to be treated with love and respect, then treat others with love and respect.” Jesus said in Matthew 5:7, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” Now, on the flip side, Jesus was warning us, “If you treat others unfairly and poorly, then they will treat you unfairly and poorly.” So we definitely don’t want to be doing unto others as they would do unto us!
Be In the World, Not of the World – This expression is not an actual verse found in the Bible; however, you could say it finds its basis in the Priestly Prayer of Jesus seen in John chapter seventeen. Jesus said in John 17:14, “The world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.” It’s clear that Jesus doesn’t want His followers to be “of the world.” He says that He Himself is “not of the world,” and His disciples are “not of the world.”
Jesus then prayed in John 17:18, “As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.” This is probably where the part of the statement “in the world” comes from. David Mathis notes that we need to make a distinction in what Jesus said. He did not pray for His disciples to simply “be” in the world. We’re not supposed to be peculiar people (1 Peter 2:9) sitting on the sidelines of life, afraid to engage our culture. Jesus specifically said that we are “sent into” the world.
Mathis says, “Maybe it would serve us better – at least in light of John 17 – to revise the popular phrase ‘in, but not of’ in this way: ‘not of, but sent into.’ The beginning place is being ‘not of the world,’ and the movement is toward being ‘sent into’ the world. The accent falls on being sent, with a mission, to the world – not being mainly on a mission to disassociate from this world” (DesiringGod.org). So, instead of “being in the world, but not of the world,” let’s “be not of the world, but sent into it” – sent with a purpose.