As believers, we know we are to study the Bible, memorize it, and obey it. But does the Bible say what we think it says? The truth is, there are several phrases that sound like they come from the Bible, but do not. Here are a couple of them.
“God helps those who help themselves.”
The earliest recording of this saying is actually from Aesop’s fable “Hercules and the Waggoner.” A man’s wagon got stuck in a muddy road, and he prayed for Hercules to help. Hercules appeared and said, “Get up and put your shoulder to the wheel.” The moral given was “The gods help them that help themselves.” Aesop was a Greek writer who lived from 620 to 564 BC, but obviously did not contribute to the Bible. As a biblical truism, the proverb has mixed results. We can do nothing to help when it comes to salvation; salvation is through Christ alone. In the work of sanctification—becoming more spiritually mature—we are to join in the work. 1 Peter 1:14-15 says, “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior.”
“Cleanliness is next to godliness.”
Despite the strict rules given to the Israelites about uncleanness as a metaphor for sinfulness and ceremonial washing required by the priests (see: Exodus, Leviticus), this phrase is not in the Bible. It originated as an ancient Babylonian and Hebrew proverb, but became very popular during the Victorian era after being revived by Sir Francis Bacon and John Wesley. Is the proverb true beyond the metaphor? A new study shows that people are generally fairer and more generous when in a clean-smelling environment. But Jesus also exhorts us to worry more about the sin in our hearts than the dirt on our hands (Matthew 15:16–20).
More to come…
And that’s the Memo. With help by Got Questions?