Last week we started looking at some of the phrases people quote ‘as scripture’ that can’t actually be found anywhere in the Bible. You can probably guess, what with this article being called Part 2, that we’re doing more of the same here.
Cleanliness is next to godliness
No, Jesus did not say this in the Sermon on the Mount, nor in any of his teachings recorded in the Gospels. This Bible misquote might have its root in James 4:8: “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” But let’s be clear about this: salvation is through Grace by Faith, and not by having a lovely bubble-bath.
Spare the rod, spoil the child
This could very well be a paraphrase of Proverbs 13:24, but the statement doesn’t really exist in any translation of the Bible. The Bible verse actually reads: “He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.” So it still sounds a bit Draconian to our modern ears, but it at least ushers us out of the realms of child abuse.
Samuel Butler, a 17th century British poet, actually coined the phrase “spare the rod and spoil the child” in his satirical poem, “Hudibras”. I’m sure he was a joy to be around. Also probably quite predictable at Cluedo, too.
Money is the root of all evil
This misquote is not too far off from the actual verse, found in 1 Timothy 6:10: “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” Interestingly, this particular Bible verse recently won the award for ‘Thing least likely to be heard during a Joel Osteen sermon’.
God will never give you more than you can bear
This common phrase appears to be a misinterpretation of 1 Corinthians 10:13: “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. 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 endure it.” So the verse is not about external factors, but about personal temptation. During times of huge temptation, it’s important to understand that Jesus has defeated the sin we are prone to. We can abide it, not because of our own self-control, but because of surrender to His love.
All things work together for good
The big question, of course, is ‘What things work together for whose good?’ Romans 8:28 reads in full: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
This is basically a faux-biblical version of ‘it’ll all work out in the end’, which of course is demonstrably false – just look at Game of Thrones! Not everything that happens is for the best, not everything that happens is God’s will, and God never says that everything’s going to be all right. If that were the case, Jesus could have taken that holiday home in Crete that we mentioned last week. The sister phrase to this is equally vague and simpering: ‘Everything happens for a reason.’ I agree, but how often is that reason the right reason? It’s just verbal silage.
Hopefully, this modest collection of phrases will help us all understand the common misconceptions that come up when we start quoting scripture, and will help us to challenge errors where we see them.