Summary: I read an article by Shane Pruitt titled, “Nine unbiblical statements Christians believe”. Today I'll share some of those. Although they're not biblical they do hold some elements of truth so it’s important for us to gain clarity on these statements.
“IS THAT IN THE BIBLE?”
INTRODUCTION: I came across an article by Shane Pruitt titled, “Nine unbiblical statements Christians believe”. I decided to take some of these and present them to you today. It’s important for us to gain clarity on these statements not only for ourselves but also so we don’t go around repeating them as if they were gospel. But, as we will see, though the following statements are not in the bible, they do hold some elements of truth.
1) “Cleanliness is next to godliness”. Though we might think this statement was started by some discouraged mom who wanted to instill in her grimy child the importance of a good scrub down by making it into a holy ordinance, it is attributed to Rabbi Phineas ben Yair considering it one of the doctrines of religion. John Wesley used the phrase, “Cleanliness is indeed next to godliness” in one of his sermons.
Although being clean is a healthy concept to follow, this statement is not a biblical one. I don’t think there’s a passage that reads, “seek first the kingdom of God, seek second some soap and water.”
It appears as if the religious leaders of Jesus’ day thought that cleanliness was next to godliness. Matt. 15:1-6, 17-20. Luke 11:37-39, “When Jesus had finished speaking, a Pharisee invited him to eat with him; so he went in and reclined at the table. But the Pharisee, noticing that Jesus did not first wash before the meal, was surprised. Then the Lord said to him, “Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness.”
The religious leaders were thinking being clean on the outside was an indicator of being clean on the inside but Jesus corrected them. Jesus wasn’t saying being clean is not important, he was clarifying that it wasn’t ungodly if you ate without cleaning your hands. They were placing importance on the wrong thing-paying more attention to being clean on the outside than on the inside.
We can be that way today-placing more emphasis on looking good on the outside (what people see) than on looking good on the inside (what people don’t see). Like the religious leaders, we can go to great lengths to look clean but all the while we are deceiving ourselves and others if we are neglecting the more important things-like having a pure heart. So we can conclude that cleanliness is godliness when we have cleanliness on the inside.
2) “God helps those who help themselves”. This phrase is not in the bible. Although Ben Franklin is attributed with coining this phrase it’s understood to originate many years before that. In a way, this is actually anti-biblical. God helps those who recognize that they can’t help themselves. This is especially true when it comes to salvation.
Matt. 19:16-26. The rich man was looking to help himself into heaven but Jesus showed him it wasn’t going to happen like that. He probably thought he was good since he said he had kept all those other commandments. But when Jesus focused on what his stronghold was he went away sad probably because he wasn’t being told he was already doing everything he should or that he wasn’t given something much easier for him to do.
Perhaps the disciples were thinking, “This guy seemed like he was doing everything right except one thing and he’s not getting in. Who then can be saved?” Jesus highlights that it is impossible for man to save himself; only God has the power to save. The man thought he could do something to be saved.
People have that same misconception today. They think they can help themselves; work their way into heaven. But there’s only one name under heaven by which we can be saved and it isn’t our own-it’s Jesus. He did everything because we could do nothing.
If I subscribe to, ‘God helps those who help themselves’ then I have a pride problem. I make myself out to be self-sufficient, able to do things out of my own power. Pull myself up by my own bootstraps type of thinking.
However, with that said, the statement does hold some truth. God won’t help those who are unwilling to do what he wants them to do. He isn’t going to reward laziness. If I ask God for help finding a job but am unwilling to look for one it’s unlikely he will drop one in my lap.
That works in a practical way as well as a spiritual way. If I think spiritual growth is just going to automatically happen without any effort on my part I’m sadly mistaken. If I expect God to just automatically remove sin from my life or just snap his fingers and make me more wise and patient and loving then I have a wrong understanding. Out of his great mercy God may do some things without any effort on my part but most of the time these things involve a partnership-God doing his part and me doing mine.