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Christian Life

3 Sayings You Won’t Find in the Bible

We all know that Proverbs is a book in the Bible, but the word “proverb” also refers to a short phrase that states a general piece of advice. Occasionally, when a piece of wise-sounding advice has been around for a long time, people begin to attribute that saying to the Bible, even though it isn’t found there at all! Usually this happens because the advice sounds smart and no one can remember where it came from, so they assume it must be a Bible verse.

Today I want to talk about three such “proverbs” that people have mistakenly believed to be biblical.

  • “God helps those who help themselves”

It’s my sincere hope that each of you girls understand that this saying goes directly against what Scripture tells us about God.

For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly (Romans 5:6).

Thus says the Lord, ‘Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind and makes flesh his strength, and whose heart turns away from the Lord…Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord and who trust is the Lord’ (Jeremiah 17:5, 7).

And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

So where did this expression come from? The earliest known, similar saying dates from a fable by Aesop titled “Hercules and the Wagoner.” Aesop lived from 620-564 B.C. and his fables usually end with a moral or a saying that teaches the lesson of the fable.

In this particular fable, a man’s wagon breaks down and he prays to Hercules for help. Hercules shows up and tells the man, “Never more pray to me for help, until you have done your best to help yourself,” and the moral at the end of the story is “self-help is the best help.” I don’t know about you girls, but personally I prefer God’s help to self-help.

There’s a more contemporary version of this saying from Benjamin Franklin in “Poor Richard’s Almanac.” Franklin was something called a “deist,” which means that he believed in God but didn’t believe that God is actively participating in people’s lives. Franklin believed that if people couldn’t help themselves, then they were hopeless.

  • “To thine ownself be true”

People occasionally quote this when faced with making difficult decisions. Most people when saying this mean that they are making decisions based on their personal conscience or morality. That’s fine, but as Christians we’re supposed to make decisions according to God’s will.

Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:9-10).

So where did this gem of so-called wisdom originate? This is a line from Shakespeare’s Hamlet. It’s spoken by the character Polonius in act 1, scene 3. This quote sounds profound, but what it actually means is that we are to put ourselves above everything else, and that’s not even close to how we’re supposed to live as children of God.

  • “Moderation in all things”

People rely on this bit of “wisdom” when they want to keep others from getting too out of control about something. Interestingly, this is the only saying that has a similar-sounding counterpart in Scripture.

And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown (1 Corinthians 9:25 NKJV).

The word “temperate” means “showing moderation or self-restraint;” however, in this verse, the Greek word Paul uses means “self-control.”

Many people use this phrase even with regard to worshiping God, usually to excuse their lack of energy and enthusiasm for the things of God. Paul is talking about the things of this world, not the things of God. As followers of Jesus, we aren’t called to be moderate or self-controlled in our worship of the King of Kings or in living our lives for Him.

Girls, I hope this article was fun and interesting for you, but most of all I hope it’s given you some insight into the difference between the wisdom of this world and the wisdom of our Lord.

Have you ever heard anyone use any of these “proverbs?”

For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding (Proverbs 2:6).

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Image: Project Inspired

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13 Comments

  1. Project Inspired

    Posted by ivyandroses on March 16, 2014 at 18:25

    I think the first one is encouraging people to take responsibility for themselves…I hope it is never used by people as an excuse for being selfish!! Totes not biblical though…what about “Whoever finds his life shall lose it”? They don’t sound very compatible.

    To thine ownself be true…it just sounds awfully cliche, y’know?

    I have never heard the third one mistaken as Biblical. If it were, how would we interpret it to apply to things like prayer and love???

  2. Paris

    Posted by Paris on March 13, 2014 at 15:30

    Not everything that has the word God in it is from the bible or of God. That is why it is so important to know the bible and God for ourselves.

  3. belladoesntsuck

    Posted by belladoesntsuck on October 23, 2013 at 15:16

    The first one sounds like an excuse to be greedy or selfish!

  4. Project Inspired

    Posted by koolyaid on July 16, 2013 at 14:27

    I’ve always known that the saying “God helps those that help themselves” wasn’t from the Bible, but I don’t necessarily think that it’s wrong. I’ve always assumed that it meant when we pray to God about something we need to work for what we want as well. For example, if you’re praying that God blesses you with a job, you not only need to pray you also need to go on job interviews, update your resume, finish school, etc. I don’t think it’s right to pray for something if you aren’t going to put effort into making a change as well…

    • Project Inspired

      Posted by lilawe on March 13, 2014 at 15:30

      I agree, that is how I interpreted it. Perhaps the problem is not the saying, but how people interpret it.

      • iamikilili

        Posted by iamikilili on March 13, 2014 at 16:12

        I agree. I think this article is a bit unfair, and I believe that saying to be–though not Biblical– very true and divine in message. Of course, we all need God’s help. There is absolutely no way that we can do everything alone. However, if we wait around being slothful and just asking God to do everything for us, we won’t learn. If you are meek and humble, but also hardworking and eager to learn, that is when God will help.

  5. sisterwhocares

    Posted by sisterwhocares on July 15, 2013 at 18:27

    Really unique and eye-opening! I love this post! For me, I agree personally with the last two. From my perspective, the second quote means to—-well, obviously be true to yourself, but also to not change your views to please other people. For example, I would use this quote to argue on why I refuse to support gay marriage. I cannot support something that conflicts with my moral conscience and beliefs even when it is popular with the crowd. I will not also succumb to peer pressure to do drugs and alcohol and sex in my teens. This is what that quote means for me.

    As for the last quote, I feel that it is the one most based in Scripture. God commands us to be moderate, for example, in food and alcohol consumption (sorry, can’t remember the specific verse). I believe in being moderate in one’s political viewpoints, treatment of acquaintances and co-workers, and pleasures (except for reading–hardcore reading is definitely ok!). However, in your spiritual life, you need to be all in. In my view, if you are taking up your cross and following Jesus, then it’s “go hard or go home.” Now that I think about it, Christianity is almost like athletics. You need to be all in, and your running toward the ultimate prize (Phil 3:14). Cool!

    A final common proverb that I agree with (not listed) is, “Only God can judge me.” It’s true! Only God can judge us (Matt 7:1-5). What I don’t agree with is the context it’s used in. I honestly don’t see why people use it as an excuse for the partybeersexdrugs type lifestyle; it’s illogical to use that statement as an excuse. The Bible says that God does judge that type of behavior, and will. This quote agrees. Then why do people use it as an argument to do the exact behavior it discourages??? It’s just as dumb as saying “Infanticide is wrong” to argue for abortion to be legal!

  6. PureLife

    Posted by PureLife on July 14, 2013 at 13:54

    Very true!!! Do you also believe that some phrases were added into some Bibles? I have a Bible that says women should wear head coverings, but when I went to a church and looked in the Bibles they had there, this verse was completely not there. “But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God. Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head, but every wife who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, since it is the same as if her head were shaven. For if a wife will not cover her head, then she should cut her hair short. But since it is disgraceful for a wife to cut off her hair or shave her head, let her cover her head. For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man.” -Corinthians 11:3-16
    Also, some Bibles say a woman’s hair is a headcovering but others say it is not. I get so confused. I just follow the 10 commandments, trust God, and take some suggestions from the Bible.

    • vwvronee

      Posted by vwvronee on July 15, 2013 at 06:32

      Just saying- those verses are most definitely intended to be part of the Bible and were not added in to only some of them. If that part is not in the church Bibles, either you missed it on the page or someone thought it was too “sexist” for the Bible…not sure. 🙂 Many people believe that a woman’s hair is her head covering. Here are some of the strongest arguments for head covering, if you’re that interested: http://www.monergism.com/Spinney,%20Robert%20-%20Should%20Christian%20Women%20Wear%20Head%20Coverings%20Today.pdf
      Sorry, you didn’t ask for all that, but I like to share information.

    • Project Inspired

      Posted by MoreThanRubies on July 14, 2013 at 15:42

      I don’t think it is required anymore. 🙂 Back then, girls were just beginning to advance the gospel, and were just beginning to get more respect… even if you were bald in these times, it wouldn’t be disgraceful. (Unless it was a sign of rebellion to shave your head :P). Head coverings aren’t followed by Christians because we aren’t disgraced, because of Jesus. That probably doesn’t really make sense, but because of Jesus, we are perfect and forgiven, so it would make sense we wouldn’t need head coverings because it’s NOT disgraceful anymore. (It was probably a sign of commitment to God or a Jewish law, because I read Leviticus and I’m working on Deuteronomy and I haven’t seen anything like that in either of them. It wouldn’t be a God-given law if we hadn’t seen it anywhere, so it’s optional, just like God never said to avoid Gentiles, but the Jewish customs added by HUMANS said that people who weren’t Jews were dogs. I thinks that’s long since been removed :P)

      • PureLife

        Posted by PureLife on July 15, 2013 at 21:13

        I hope so. I’ve tried out head coverings before, and I felt like I stuck out a lot. Also, I feel if I decided to take it off one day people would be confused. I don’t know haha

  7. AllisonGrace

    Posted by AllisonGrace on July 14, 2013 at 12:32

    Very interesting! I’ve heard many people say “God helps those who help themselves” and I always thought it sounded wrong. Great insight!

    • sisterwhocares

      Posted by sisterwhocares on July 15, 2013 at 18:31

      I’m certain it started with Christian parents who were exasperated with lazy children. They would say it and the kids would believe it since it SOUNDED like it was from the Bible, but actually wasn’t. So then, they would do their work in hopes of getting a favor from God. That may be how it started XD