The Bible is without doubt the bestselling book of all time. Not only that, but it can also be successfully argued that it has shaped western culture in a good, positive, and wholesome way more than any other volume ever produced. Just one of many examples of the Bible’s influence on and over society are the many Bible expressions that have become part of our everyday speech. We’re talking about statements from Holy Scripture that permeate the English language. They are sometimes taken out of context, but they are from the Bible nonetheless.
● My Brother’s Keeper – Gen. 4:9
● The Mark of Cain – Gen. 4:15
● Can The Leopard Change His Spots? – Jeremiah 13:23
● The Blind Leading the Blind – Mt. 15:14
● Labor of Love – 1 Thess. 1:3
● The Patience of Job – Jam. 5:11
These and many others are used by folks daily. And much of the time those using them never realize that they are drawing on Biblical passages of Scripture. However, other statements are employed by people who honestly believe them to be from the Bible, when in fact they are not. Also, some expressions circulate among the populace that are in reality corruptions of Biblical expressions. Let’s examine just a few.
#1 “God Helps Those Who Help Themselves.”
This readily recognizable motto is often believed to have come from the Bible — but it didn’t. The author of this common expression, at least in its modern form, was Algernon Sidney. Later Benjamin Franklin included the saying in his Little Richard’s Almanac in 1757. The New Testament does instruct us to work (2 Thessalonians 3:10; 1 Timothy 5:8). We are also told that the Lord is our helper (Hebrews 13:6) and that when we draw nigh to God He will draw nigh to us (James 4:8). But the Bible no where explicitly states that God helps those who help themselves.
#2 “Spare The Rod and Spoil The Child”
Contrary to popular belief this is not an exact Biblical quotation. This particular expression is from Samuel Butler’s seventeenth century satire Hudibras. Is it quite likely that Butler’s line is a corruption of Proverbs 13:24 which says, “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes?” But the fact remains, the specific saying, “Spare the rod and spoil the child” is not found in the Bible.
#3 “Money Is The Root Of All Evil”
Here is one that continues to make the rounds quite often. But again, the Bible doesn’t say this. We have here what is certainly a corruption of a written statement from the pen of the apostle Paul. The passage in question is from 1 Timothy 6:10 which says in full:
“For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”
There is a vast difference between saying “money is the root of all evil” and saying “the love of money is the root of all evil.” Money itself is not evil, nor the root of all evil. But to love it; to have an inordinate affection for it, is obviously evil. We would prefer that when people intend to quote from the Scriptures that they do so correctly.
#4 “A House Divided Against Itself Cannot Stand”
Not only is this a quote from President Abraham Lincoln, but he borrowed it from the lips of our Lord. Naturally, he made a different application of the words to fit the country’s situation—but the words belong to Jesus. On June 16, 1858 in a speech given in Springfield, Illinois Abraham Lincoln said in part:
“A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure permanently half-slave and half-free…”
But again, Lincoln didn’t invent the first part of this expression. It was borrowed from Jesus in a conversation He had with the Pharisees as recorded in Matthew chapter twelve. The Pharisees had gotten word that Jesus had healed a man possessed by a demon. Their response was to claim that He did such by Beelzebub, the prince of the demons (vs.24). Our Lord’s response was to say:
“And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand: And if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand?” (Mt. 12: 25-26)
Our Lord here clearly demonstrated the illogical thinking and reasoning of the Pharisees. If Jesus healed a demon possessed man by means of power He received from the prince of demons, then this would have Satan casting out Satan. The Devil would be working against himself. Surely the Pharisees could see through this dilemma—couldn’t they? The quote from Lincoln is favorable and famous, yet it is a shame folks little recognize these particular words as coming from the Savior and meaning so much more.
We can only pray that our fellow countrymen and especially our brethren will know their Bibles well enough that they can immediately determine if some quote is from the Bible itself or if it originated with man. Until that day, may each of us give daily attention to reading and searching the Scriptures (Acts 17:11; 1 Timothy 4:13), and thus not mistake something for Scripture that is not Scripture.