We’ve all heard them—phrases that sound wise, insightful, and biblical. But are they really? Let’s look at some common sayings, compare them to the Bible, and see if they hold up.
1. God won’t give you more than you can handle.
Yes, He most certainly will. Ask the apostle Paul, who penned these words in 2 Corinthians 1:8-9:
“We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death.”
Paul’s agonizing choice of words, “under great pressure,” “far beyond our ability to endure,” and “despairing even of life,” show us that the difficulties he and the other disciples experienced were well beyond their human ability to handle.
Then he reveals the reason behind his excruciating trials: “But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.”
The Christian life isn’t a journey from dependence to independence. On the contrary, it’s a process of moving from our arrogant, human independence to a deep, spiritual dependence on God for everything. A wise Bible teacher once told me, “God allows trials into your life for one of two purposes: either to draw you to Himself or to make you more like Him.”
So the next time God gives you more than you can handle, acknowledge your helplessness, and call upon God to carry you through. You’ll be amazed at how he answers your prayer.
2. The devil made me do it.
This statement finds its genesis in the Garden of Eden. When Eve ate the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, God confronted her about it. She shifted the blame for her sin by saying, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
Things haven’t changed much over time. In the early 1970s, Flip Wilson, an African-American actor and comedian popularized the contemporary version of this phrase in his comedy show.
As much as we’d like to make Satan the scapegoat for all our bad choices, the concept just isn’t biblical. While Satan is the driving force behind much of the evil in our world today, we have our own sinful nature to blame for most of our sins. James 1:14 says, “Each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.”
Galatians 5:19-21 spells it out for us, “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these” (Galatians 5:19-21). Notice, it’s the “works of the flesh” in this list, not the works of the devil.
While it may seem discouraging to realize the sin we struggle with finds its origin within ourselves, it can also be empowering. Instead of having to battle a satanic attack, all we have to do is battle our flesh.
This is difficult, but it’s much easier than going toe to toe with Satan himself. As Christians, we have the Holy Spirit living inside us to help us overcome sin (1 John 4:4), and, as 2 Peter 1:3 states, we have everything we need for life and godliness. Because of this, we can successfully battle our sinful nature as we yield ourselves to God.
3. The temptation was too strong. I couldn’t resist it.
When we’re in the midst of a temptation, resistance seems impossible. Like iron filings to a strong magnet or kids to cookies, we often feel helpless and powerless. God knows the weakness of our flesh, and he gives us a promise to help us have victory over it.
First Corinthians 10:13 is one of the first verses I memorized as a new believer, and its truth has carried me through many a temptation: “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”
Notice two important parts of this empowering verse. First, God will never allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bear. This tells us we can have victory over any temptation we encounter. Nothing is too hard to resist.
Second, God will always provide a way to escape. Joseph is a great example of this. Remember when Potiphar’s wife tried to entice him to sleep with her? “My husband is away, and I’ve ordered all the servants out of the house,” she said. “Come to bed with me. No one will ever know…”
I’m sure her offer was mighty tempting. He was young and virile, and she was rich and beautiful. But Joseph knew giving in to his desires would be a sin. Instead of succumbing, he took the “way out” God provided. When Potiphar’s wife caught him by his cloak, “he left his cloak in her hand and ran out of the house” (Genesis 39:12). Not very dignified, but highly effective.
As long as we’re alive, our sinful nature will tempt us. Notice the wording in the passage above. It doesn’t say, “if you are tempted.” It says, “when you are tempted.” Knowing this, we’d be wise to set up this three-fold defense before we encounter a temptation: First, memorize 1 Corinthians 10:13. Second, look for the way of escape. Third, take it.
4. We’re all God’s children.
People who make this statement really mean, “God created us all,” which is accurate. God is the Father of us all in the sense that he formed us and gave us life. We are not, however, all God’s children.
First John 3:10 clearly describes those who have an intimate, personal, familial relationship with God: “This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother.”
Because God is a relational being, until we accept his gift of eternal life by confessing and repenting of our sin, accepting Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross on our behalf, and surrendering our lives to him, we cannot be his children in the truest, most biblical sense of the word. We are just one of his created beings.
5. God doesn’t have favorites.
This belief originates in the biblical truth of Peter’s words in Acts 10:34, “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism.” He said this when God called him to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles in Cornelius’ household. It is true that, regarding salvation, God is all-inclusive. Romans 10:13 tells us, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
It’s also true, however, that God bestows special honor to certain exceptionally faithful individuals. He called Moses and Abraham his friends. Scripture refers to Daniel as “highly esteemed” (Daniel 10:11) and Mary, the mother of Jesus, “highly favored” (Luke 1:28).
This “favoritism,” is quite different from the way we view favoritism today. While these godly men and women enjoyed close and precious relationships with the Lord, they weren’t spared the difficulties that come with being devoted followers.
Abraham endured years of faith-building infertility, and Moses was tasked with wandering in the desert for 40 years with the faithless Israelites. Daniel was thrown into a lion’s den for continuing to pray to God, and Simeon told Mary, “a sword would pierce your own soul,” (Luke 2:35).
Favoritism with God isn’t a golden ticket to a life untouched by sorrow and hardship. It’s an indicator that God sees and will one day reward those faithful, courageous individuals who possess it.
6. God helps those who help themselves.
If you believe this proverb originates in the Bible, you’re in good company. In a February 2000 Barna Research Group poll*, 53 percent of Christians strongly agreed and 22 percent agreed somewhat that the Bible teaches the phrase.
Others credit the saying to Benjamin Franklin, because he quoted it in Poor Richard’s Almanack in 1736. The modern English wording, however, appears even earlier in English political theorist Algernon Sidney’s work.
The phrase, which celebrates initiative and hard work, affirms biblical virtues. It’s important to note, however, that God is most well known for helping widows, orphans, and other needy individuals who are unable to help themselves. This brings great comfort to many who fall on hard times.
7. “I’m so sorry for your loss. Heaven must have needed another angel.”
This is probably the most theologically false condolence I’ve ever heard. People say it when babies and young children die, but they also use it to explain the deaths of godly adults. Those who say it have good motives. They’re trying to say, “Your loved one was too special (pure, innocent, or wonderful) for this world; God needed her in heaven instead.”
If you follow this line of thinking, however, this implies that whenever a job opening in heaven comes up, God prowls the earth looking for sweet, innocent children or godly adults to harvest for his heavenly workforce. Not only is this wrong, it’s a direct contradiction to what the Bible teaches about angels.
We never read in Scripture of God creating any more angels after the original creation in Genesis 1. Jesus said angels do not reproduce themselves (Matthew 22:30), and angels cannot die, therefore do not need to be replaced (Luke 20:36). Therefore, the number of angels is fixed and there is no need to add to this number by drafting humans into heavenly service.
Perhaps a more comforting condolence might be, “I’m so sorry for your loss. I know you’re comforted by knowing your loved one is with Jesus.”
Well there you have it—seven phrases Christians like to say that simply aren’t true. Their popularity reminds us how important it is to think before we speak. As we become students of the Bible and gain wisdom and understanding, our speech will begin to reflect its truth. Then the words we speak will encourage others and honor God.
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