Below are three unbiblical statements that some Christians often use that are not true.
- God helps those who help themselves
This statement is not in the Bible. The intended meaning of this statement is often to encourage men and women not to sit around when their lives fall apart but to actually do something. While God-given freewill is noble, this statement overlooks the fact that often life can crush us to a point that we cannot help ourselves and need external help. If God’s help and goodness to you was contingent on your ability to help yourself, then you’d be doomed. If God allowed you to breath to the extent that you help yourself to breathe, you’d die. God helps the helpless. He says in Psalm 34:18:
“The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
The second error in the statement is that it assumes a direct correlation between our effort and God’s goodness. It suggests that human effort spurs God’s goodness. While certain biblical principles regarding acts like giving and kindness may mirror this, it is important to note that they refer to God fulfilling his word (his faithfulness) as opposed to God owing a human being blessings for human virtue. God is a debtor to no man. And if you didn’t know that, Beloved, realize that God owes you and I nothing. You even hear some counsellors say to hurting people, “Have you forgiven God?” How do you forgive one who hasn’t sinned? God owes no man anything. The Bible in Romans 11:35 says:
“Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?”
The third error in the phrase “God helps those who help themselves” is that it undermines the salvation of mankind. We were dead and without any desire to do good (Ephesians 2:1) when Christ came for us. In fact the scriptures say that we were helpless. We owe God. Romans 5:6 says:
“For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.”
And even after we accept Christ, God taps into our helplessness. Paul the Apostle tells us in 2nd Corinthians 12:9:
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
God isn’t looking for superstars to be channels of his power. He is looking for vessels that are desperately in need for him; those who are poor in spirit and in need for the fulfilment that this world cannot give- those who cannot help themselves. And it is that reason that holds back many unbelievers from giving their lives to Christ. They want control and do not want to show weakness. Yet the very act of conversion into God’s child involves admitting you are a hell-bound lost sinner who cannot save yourself and are in dire need of a saviour- Jesus. Even our good deeds are not enough to match a holy God. In Isaiah 64:6 we are told that that mere human effort in the backdrop of a Holy God is filthy rags. So where did the phrase “God helps those who help themselves” come from? From the book of 2nd Opinions 3:16.
- Preach the gospel, if necessary use words
It is rumoured that St. Francis of Assisi said these words, however, there is no hard evidence to prove that he did. In fact, historians say none of the ancient manuscripts of his life or his disciples’ have this quote. The author is unknown. The context of these words is not known. Often it is a stand-alone quote, meaning it is to be taken at face value. And if it is to be taken at face value, I’m afraid it is not biblical. The scriptures tell us in Romans 10:14 that the essential message of Christianity, the gospel, cannot be preached without words:
“How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher?”
One may argue, “Isn’t living my life a good way to show God’s transformative work? Isn’t the phrase pushing us to live our faith and not just speak it?” Beloved, you are quite right. We Christians need to live out what we preach so that the world can see the truth and not be discouraged by any hypocrisy they see. However, Beloved, I put it to you that it is not enough. As we practise what we preach we also need to preach what we practise. Your neighbour can see you live out your salvation and easily mistake you for another “good guy.” The salvation message will not transfer to them through signs and non-verbal cues. You have to tell them. I heard of a born-again campus girl who adopted this phrase until she was shocked in her final year when her bunk-mate in college was asked by another friend about the girl’s faith. The bunk-mate easily replied, “Oh, she is a Mormon.” The girl defended herself saying that she was in fact a Christian. Her life showed goodness but her words did not back it up. The Great Commission by Jesus in Matthew 28:19-20 commands us to “preach” i.e. use words. In 1st Peter 3:15 we are asked to be ready at all times to explain our salvation to unbelievers i.e. using words. We ought to remember that words are the tools of spiritual warfare in prayer and in demolishing ungodly arguments (2nd Corinthians 10:3-5). It was through words that God brought the world into existence. He spoke the Universe into creation. God communicates his most powerful truths using words-The Bible.Therefore I give you a better phrase, Beloved, “Preach the gospel; and since it is necessary, use words.”
- The truth will set you free
This phrase is not biblical. I can see you challenge me already and turning your Bible pages to John 8 to prove me wrong. Well, let us turn there together, Beloved. The reference is John 8.
John 8:31-32 31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
Note that I said the phrase is not biblical and not “it is not in the Bible.” The phrase IS found in the Bible in John 8. However, the phrase is part of a larger portion of scripture. And when you read the larger portion you understand that the meaning is very different. This is the danger that occurs with many people who use the Bible sparingly. You lift a phrase out of the context and soon you can justify anything! Context is everything when reading your Bible. Imagine if your landlord gave me a message for you that said, “If you pay your rent before the 5th, you will not be required to pay rent for the next three months.” Now imagine I came to you and delivered the last part of the message, “The landlord said, “You will not be required to pay rent for the next three months.”” You get excited and tell everyone! But is my message true? Of course not! It’s a lie until it is complete with the condition set by the landlord. So what happens when you pay rent on the 6th and then fail to get the 3-month-rent-free offer? You blame the landlord for being unfair and decry his promises to be untrue. Many do the same with God, Beloved. They take sections of his word and run with them and when they fail because of their incomplete nature, they blame the Lord. Context matters, Beloved. The context of the phrase in John 8 is first to those who believe in Jesus (v31). It is not to everyone. Secondly, there is a pre-requisite/condition i.e. Holding to Christ’s teaching proving ourselves disciples. Once the condition is set, something happens- we know the truth. After we know the truth, something else happens- we get delivered! Have you cried foul because the truth has not set you free? Well, that is because you need to hold onto Christ’s teaching first- believe it, trust it, try it, practice it, show it, teach it. And get rid of the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of wealth and the many things that hinder the word from bearing fruit in your life. After that happens, the revelation of truth will come to you. And once you act on that truth, you will see your freedom and deliverance. So the next time someone tells you “The truth will set you free”, respond to them in the words of Gloria Steinem, “The truth will set you free but first it will piss you off.” Or in more cultured means “But first it will require of you.”
Do you know of any other statements used by Church folk that are not biblically true?