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Biblical Sayings?
Photo: Michael Babic
A friend and I were discussing a mutual acquaintance who was rescuing another friend. The friend with whom I was speaking felt that the rescued person was in the jam she was in due to her own lack of effort. My friend felt the rescuer was being taken advantage of. 

“Maybe she views her actions as Christian charity,” I said.

“Doesn’t the Bible say ‘The Lord helps those that help themselves?’” she countered.

Well . . . no. It does not. However noble the sentiment, its roots are pagan. It comes from Aesop’s Fables. It is the moral to “Hercules and the Wagoner.” One ancient version stated “The gods help those that help themselves.”

In many ways the saying is antithetical to Christianity. It implies that God doles out favors based on your efforts rather than His mercy. Despite this, many Christians—like my friend—believe the aphorism is divinely ordained.

Want another example? Consider “Cleanliness is next to godliness.”  That comes from the Bible, too. Doesn’t it?

It does not come from the letters of Paul or Peter, as many believe. Francis Bacon may have coined the phrase in1605. John Wesley used it in a sermon in 1791, popularizing the sentiment. That is interpretation, not Scripture. The Old Testament talks a lot about “clean” and “unclean” things. That has little to do with modern sanitation, however. It referred to religious purity, and the need for the Chosen People to remain separate from the “unclean” Gentiles.

Jesus Ate with Sinners

The Pharisees criticized Jesus and his disciples for violating these rules. Jesus broke bread among sinners—as unclean as you get. His disciples ate their food without ritual washing beforehand. A New Covenant replaced the old one—a covenant not limited to those of one bloodline. The old rules were out the window.

Washing your hands before eating and bathing regularly are good hygiene, and common sense. Skipping a bath is not a sin, however. Obsessing religiously over external cleanliness, rather than internal purity, is characteristic of other religions, not Christianity.

Does it matter if a good idea comes from somewhere other than the Bible?

It matters when someone promoting an idea attempts to cloak it in holiness. When you state “the Bible says . . .” you imply your statement is endorsed by God. This is bad enough when the error is made innocently. Not all such errors are innocent. Those attempting to sell secular ideas to Christians also use it. Take something at odds with Christian doctrine. Invent a Bible passage supporting the idea—or twist the words of the Bible into a supporting statement. Use it to buttress what you want others to do. 

The Bible warns of false prophets. Christ himself warns “For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect” (Matthew 24:24).

Not everything claimed to be from the Bible is. It pays to check before blindly believing that something is Biblically inspired.

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By Mark N. Lardas. Copyright © 2008 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.
Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®.

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