You probably already know that it wasn’t a whale that swallowed Jonah. The Bible calls it a big fish.
You also have likely heard there were more than three wise men, and those men arrived at the home of Jesus in Bethlehem, not at the cave where he was born. So much for the nativity sets we all enjoy at Christmas!
There are several commonly used phrases that many believe are in Scripture, but, on a closer look, don’t actually reflect the truth of Scripture.
It’s good to think about these sayings so we can think about what we might want to say in the future. Paul told Timothy, his “son” in the faith, “to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).
So here are a few phrases in the faith (with fictional references) we need to be careful to handle “rightly.”
1. God won’t give you more than you can handle (Nike 2:3).
We often think this is what Paul meant when he wrote, “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability” (1 Corinthians 10:13).
The reason that verse is true is because of the words that follow, and those words negate the statement above. The rest of the verse says, “But with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”
In other words, you will be in situations that you can’t handle. Paul certainly was. In 2 Corinthians 1, Paul describes moments of despair when he had more than he could handle. But, in both passages, Paul makes the point that God provided the strength to endure.
This world does give us more than we can handle. That is why God gave us the Holy Spirit to sustain us. If we think that we can handle whatever the world sends our way, we won’t lean on God and his strength.
2. We’re all God’s children (Abraham 4:2).
Every human being is a creation of God, but only those who lived in faith to the one true God were Abraham’s descendants. Now, only those who have chosen Jesus as their Lord and Savior can call themselves the adopted children of God (Galatians 4).
3. God doesn’t have favorites (Tolerance 3:5).
God loves every person he has created, as only God can. But Scripture says that Daniel was “greatly loved” (Daniel 10:11), and the angel said to Mary, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you” (Luke 1:28).
God has an affinity for the faithful, those who will walk closely with him. God loves every person with a great and holy love, but those who are faithful enjoy a favored relationship with their Creator.
4. God helps those who help themselves (Hezekiah 4:9).
(Hint: Hezekiah is not a book of the Bible, but it sounds like it should be.)
Hard work is a virtue in the Bible that the Lord blesses. But God helps those he chooses to bless, and those people are often the ones who turn to him for his help.
Noah worked hard to build the ark, but it was God who brought the animals and then shut the door to the flood. Noah’s hard work was the result of faith. He didn’t just work hard; he worked hard to obey God.
In other words, God blessed Noah’s faithful obedience rather than his hard work.
5. Heaven must have needed another angel (Comfort 1:1).
These words are often spoken with the best intentions, but the problem is that the words are not good theology.
I think Billy Graham’s book Angels should be required reading for all Christians. It is a short but fascinating study of the nature and work of angels in our world, based on passages of Scripture.
The bottom line is that angels are created beings who serve a divine purpose in our world. But, we will not be angels when we go to heaven; we will be God’s children and heirs to his kingdom.
To say God “needed” another angel is bad theology about both God and angels. People don’t die because God needed them in heaven. This is a fallen world, and bad things happen this side of heaven.
But Romans 8:28 is the promise that God will redeem even the worst things for his great good. And a person’s arrival in heaven is God’s greatest act of redemption. We will all worship with the angels one day—but as God’s children and heirs to his kingdom.
6. Money is the root of all evil (Indebted 5:7).
First Timothy 6:10 actually says, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.”
Money isn’t the root of all evil, but loving money more than God can lead to all kinds of confused and wrong priorities. Jesus said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27).
Loving money most isn’t the root of all evil because Satan has many sharp tools in his toolbox. But anything we love more than God is definitely the root of wrong priorities.
7. The eyes are the window to the soul (Oculus 8:9).
This saying is often a misapplication of what Jesus said while preaching the Sermon on the Mount. He said, “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness” (Matthew 6:22–23).
The problem with the saying is that it has often offered people permission to judge the state of a person’s soul because of what they perceived a person was looking at or thinking.
Biblically, we can’t know the state of a person’s soul simply by looking at their eyes or their life, and it isn’t our place to judge.
That said, it is our job to be attentive to people’s choices and minister as the Spirit leads us.
8. God wants you to be happy (Misguidance 1:1).
Jesus was praying to his Father in the Garden of Gethsemane when he said, “But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves” (John 17:13).
Jesus wanted us to have his joy, which transcends the happenings of this world. Happiness is based on things that happen. Joy transcends.
I once counseled a young woman who told me that she knew God wanted her to be happy. She chose to pursue happiness by leaving her husband and children to live with another man. I could easily tell her that God did not want her to choose “happy.”
Sometimes joy is the result of making difficult decisions that we can’t feel happy about making. In those moments, we can know his joy, even in our sadness.
9. All things are possible for those who believe (Cinderella 8:9).
This saying doesn’t take a lot of thought. The truth is this: “All things are possible for God” whether we believe it or not.
God blesses and uses those who will faithfully trust him, but our belief isn’t what makes things possible. It’s the One we choose to believe in who does that.
10. Everything happens for a reason (Confusion 7:6).
This phrase has unsettled a lot of people who experience a great tragedy.
We often say these words to indicate that God is in charge of all things. Unfortunately, that thought has to be balanced with the knowledge that God created us in his image; therefore, we have free will and the right to choose.
And all of us use that freedom incorrectly sometimes.
Much of what happens in our world is the result of Satan’s work in the lives of Christians and non-Christians. Satan tempts, and people choose to follow his advice rather than God’s. Adam and Eve are just the first example of many.
God is in charge of this world, but he has chosen to give us freedom to follow. Often, things happen in our lives because we, or someone else, made a wrong choice.
Choose to “rightly handle the word of truth”
We all want to present ourselves to God one day as someone who knew his word and lived “unashamed” of the truth.
Sometimes, we offer a version of the truth to honor a person’s beliefs or feelings. Our motives are good, but our message isn’t.
Words matter, so let’s all be careful to rightly handle the most important message we have been given.