It should go without saying that Christians are meant to be a people marked by the words of the Bible. We are, as has often been said, “people of the Book.” As such, our daily conversations often incorporate language pulled from the pages of Scripture, applying it to the everyday situations of our lives.
We don’t always get it right, though. From misquotes to misinterpretations of well known biblical passages, we sometimes miss the mark in the things we say, wrongfully attributing to God ideas that we made up ourselves.
Sometimes, we even mistake commonly used phrases as being scriptural, even where no specific biblical reference exists. The sentiments wrapped up in these phrases aren’t always contradictory to anything said in Scripture. But sometimes they are.
Here are six sayings that many recite as though they were Scripture, but aren’t actually found in the Bible.
1. ‘God Helps Those Who Help Themselves’
Despite the fact that this phrase is very common, it is not only not in the Bible—it also offers poor theology.
The origins of the phrase are unclear but seem to date back to ancient Greece. The sentiment is that God (or rather the gods) will only come to the aid of people once they have already shown sufficient self-initiative.
But God’s grace is so much bigger than that. Jesus is the Good Shepherd who doesn’t go to find the lost sheep only after the sheep appears to be headed back to the stable anyway. Instead, he leaves the 99 to go and save the one.
God does not help those who help themselves. He helps those who can’t help themselves. This is the gospel message. We couldn’t save ourselves, and we can’t transform ourselves. Only by the death and resurrection of Jesus and through the power of the Holy Spirit can we be helped.
2. ‘God Will Never Give You More Than You Can Handle’
When someone is going through a difficult time in life, whether they are feeling overwhelmed, stricken with grief, or just generally burdened, they are often encouraged that though their challenges are considerable, God would never give them more than they could handle.
This is not a biblical concept.
Nevertheless, while the origins of “God helps those who help themselves” are completely detached from Scripture, “God will never give you more than you can handle” can actually be traced back to a misquotation of a popular Bible verse.
In 1 Corinthians 10:13, Paul says this:
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
So, despite what we might say, God will give us more than we can handle. The Bible is chock-full of instances where God gave people more than they could handle. The same probably goes for your life. It certainly does for mine.
Nevertheless, God will never allow us to be tempted beyond what we are able to resist. He will always provide a way for us to be faithful to him, even when the pull toward a different path is as strong as it has ever been.
3. ‘Heaven Gained Another Angel’
When a loved one passes away, we are often at a loss for words. In those moments, we tend to grasp for any sentiment we think might bring a temporary sense of relief or hope. Inevitably, we pull from our rolodex of clichés, among which may be the oft-repeated saying, “Heaven gained another angel.”
While a nice sentiment, we are never given any indication in Scripture that such a transformation occurs once a person dies. People are people, and angels are angels—and it remains that way.
Actually, it would be something of a downgrade to become an angel, since humanity bears the unique distinction of being created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27).
Relatedly, we are also never given an indication in Scripture that our loved ones who have passed away are “looking down on us.”
While I’d caution against sternly correcting someone who expresses these erroneous sentiments during a moment of grief—it’s certainly not the time and place—we should be aware of how our cultural conceptions of “the afterlife” influence our Christian theology.
We don’t know every detail of what our experience will be like on the other side of death, but Christians can take comfort in the knowledge that we will be with Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:8), be made whole, and eventually receive a new body and live in a new creation (Philippians 3:21; Revelation 21:1).
4. ‘Money Is the Root of All Evil’
This phrase is another “almost a Bible verse” situation, but it leaves out a couple of key words that shape our understanding of what the apostle Paul sought to communicate to his young friend Timothy.
The actual verse is as follows:
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. (1 Timothy 6:10)
When taken in context, Paul isn’t saying that money is inherently an evil entity. In fact, money is quite a neutral thing that can be used to either positive or negative ends.
In fact, Paul often sought money from the churches to whom he wrote so that it could be allocated to Christians who were suffering need in Jerusalem (1 Corinthians 16:1-4; 2 Corinthians 8:1-9:15; Romans 15:14-32), and the occasion of his letter to the Philippian church was their having generously given to fund his ministry.
Money is not the root of all evil; the love of money is the root of all kinds of evils.
In his letter to the young leader, Paul doesn’t appear to be warning Timothy to avoid money due to its inherent sinfulness, opting to intentionally live in poverty. Instead, he is warning Timothy to steel himself from the temptation to become preoccupied with accumulating wealth.
When Christians forfeit their calling in the pursuit of wealth, Paul warns that they often wander away from their faith and inflict pain on themselves.
5. ‘This Too Shall Pass’
This is another kind sentiment that is often said as though it were a Bible verse, but “this too shall pass” is not a phrase that is found anywhere in Scripture. Instead, it is a Persian adage that was likely first coined sometime in the 19th century.
Even still, there’s nothing wrong with the phrase itself. In fact, the idea that the various moments and seasons of life, whether they are full of joy or pain, are only temporary and fleeting in light of eternity, is quite congruent with Scripture. For instance, the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes explores this idea at length.
So feel free to keep saying this one without fear of theological error. Just know that this specific phrase isn’t in the Bible.
6. ‘Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin’
Throughout both the Old and New Testaments, we are instructed both to love others and fight against sin. For example, Paul encourages the Roman church, “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good” (Romans 12:9).
But what happens when those two things seem to conflict with each other, as in the case when someone we love is engaged in a behavior that we believe is sinful? How do we maintain our commitment to holiness while also remaining in relationship with them?
Enter the axiom: “Love the sinner, hate the sin.”
Nevertheless, this isn’t a dichotomy that the Bible ever seems to establish. We are called to love others without reservation. We are called to love our neighbors as well as our enemies, regardless of what sins they may be engaged in (Matthew 22:39; Matthew 5:44).
Further, while the New Testament gives us guidelines for church discipline (e.g., Matthew 18:15-20), the Bible rarely calls us to place an emphasis on hating the sins of other people. Rather, we are called to focus primarily on dealing with our own sin—the “plank” in our own eye, as Jesus puts it in Matthew 7:3—before we even consider the sins of others.
When we focus on hating the sins of others, what invariably happens is that we end up acting hatefully toward the sinner as well.
So, as a platitude, “love the sinner, hate the sin,” may seem like a good idea. But we would do well to hate our own sin more than we hate anyone else’s. The humility that results from such an endeavor will undoubtedly make us more gracious and loving toward the flawed people around us.
A version of this article originally appeared here.