Isn’t that in the Bible somewhere?

By Subby Szterszky | December 6, 2010

Pop quiz: which of these sayings are found in the Bible? 

  1. Moderation in all things. 
  2. Cleanliness is next to godliness. 
  3. Honesty is the best policy. 
  4. Better safe than sorry. 
  5. Waste not, want not. 
  6. You reap what you sow. 
  7. God helps those who help themselves. 
  8. To thine own self be true. 
  9. You need to forgive yourself. 
  10. Let go and let God. 

Answer: only #6. “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.” (Galatians 6:7 ESV) 

The rest – and many similar sayings – are often mistaken for Bible verses, probably because they sound old or religious, like something your grandmother might have said, and because most of them are proverbs. 

But the Bible doesn’t have a monopoly on proverbs. The above examples (except #6) come from sources as diverse as Shakespeare, Benjamin Franklin and Greek philosophy, among others. Some of them reflect a certain amount of wisdom and common sense in harmony with the Scriptures. But others betray a view of God and humanity that is questionable or even contrary to Biblical teaching. 

The sad thing is that many Christians aren’t familiar enough with the Scriptures to be able to tell the difference. 

As an example, let’s compare #7, “God helps those who help themselves,” with the teaching of the Bible. The Gospel presents a sovereign, gracious God taking the initiative to help – and save – completely helpless people. If #7 were true, no one would be saved. No one could be. 

Jesus prayed for His followers, “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.” (John 17:17 ESV) It seems vital, then, for His followers to know what that word actually contains. 

There’s nothing necessarily wrong with Shakespeare or Ben Franklin or granny’s homespun wisdom, for that matter. But then, there’s a good chance granny knew her Bible well enough to recognize that “A penny saved is a penny earned” was not to be found therein. 

I read a similar article a couple of months ago here:
Did you get your inspiration from this?

Thanks for the link. I admit I wasn't familiar with this article. My starting point simply came from discussions about the topic with various friends and coworkers. It's encouraging that others share a concern for Biblical discernment and are writing about it.

At first read, I decided that only #6 was in the Bible, but then I second-guessed myself and had to read the blog to make sure I was right. :) Very true that it's easy for other "proverbs" to be mistaken for Bible truths and distort our view of God.

You're right, Bonnie, it can happen too easily, to any of us. Our only answer is to keep diving into God's Word until we're saturated in it, relying on His Spirit to teach us. Thanks for your comment!

The thought that I need to be more carefully discerning has been brought across my mind many times as of late. I believe that this is something God is speaking to me directly about. Holy Spirit please give me your way of seeing things. I need to recognize where things are not of You.

Thanks for this message! God has used you. :)

Thanks Heather, that's very gratifying to know! May God continue to encourage and edify you through His Word, by His Spirit.

Hey your work. Keep it up. Very well written article.

Hey Stephen, thanks for your kind words. I'm glad you enjoyed it and hope you keep reading!

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Glossary terms will be automatically marked with links to their descriptions. If there are certain phrases or sections of text that should be excluded from glossary marking and linking, use the special markup, [no-glossary] ... [/no-glossary]. Additionally, these HTML elements will not be scanned: a, abbr, acronym, code, pre.

More information about formatting options

To prevent automated spam submissions leave this field empty.

Insights - Footer