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4 of the Most Commonly Misquoted Bible Verses


By: Charles Morris
October 11, 2017 at 2:41 pm

We’ve all heard it done. Someone says something that sounds like Scripture and declares it came from the Bible. The problem is, these words are NOT found in Scripture. Some of these misquotations are true or “close enough,” but others are just plain wrong.

We recently devoted a full audio series on Verses NOT Found in the Bible. I’d encourage you to listen to it for an in-depth look at the subject, along with what God’s Word really says. Below, you’ll find a brief overview of the four most commonly quoted non-verses making the rounds today.

 

1. “God helps those who help themselves.”

People mean well when they say it, but meeting God halfway—doing your part so that He’ll do the rest—it’s just not what the Bible teaches. Sure, there are things we are called to do as Christians … but we don’t do them out of our own strength and effort. In fact, Scripture teaches the opposite: God helps those who CANNOT help themselves. We see this in three ways.

First, we cannot save ourselves (Ephesians 2:4-5). It’s not a 50/50 effort. It’s not even 60/40. It’s ALL by grace that we have been saved. Only God can do that.

Second, our sanctification comes from the Lord (Philippians 2:13). When we realize this, it’s so freeing and even makes us excited to pursue the Lord and live in a way that pleases him.

Third, our strength is from the Lord (Hebrews 4:14-16). When we’re at our wits end, when our strength fails, when we can’t take another step—that’s when we know God helps those who cannot help themselves. And he does that in Jesus.

 

2. “Money is the root of all evil.”

It’s just a couple words off, but those couple of words make a big difference. It comes from 1 Timothy 6:10, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” Notice that Paul doesn’t tell Timothy money is the root of “all evil.” He says it’s the root of all KINDS of evil. Let’s back up to verse 6, where Paul says …

“But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 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.” 1 Timothy 6:6-10

So even though verse 10 is often misquoted, we’re right to be careful and on guard against the love of money. It’s not the root of every problem in society or every sin in our hearts, but the love of money is powerful and can be a real problem. When we love money so much that we won’t part with it, we’ve lost perspective on where money comes from and what it’s really for. When thinking of it correctly, money can be a blessing from the Lord to be enjoyed with generosity (1 Tim 6:17-19).

 

3. “God moves in mysterious ways.”

What do you think when you hear people say these words? For those outside of the faith, it often sounds trite and insincere. Here are just a few responses some people wrote when they heard someone use these words:

– “It shows lack of personal responsibility. The failures, mistakes and disappointments are yours, not the work of some higher being.”
– “I think that they are insensitive idiots. Especially if it’s said about a tragic situation.”
– “I think it shows the holes in theists’ worldview. This phrase is their fallback position when they are stumped for an answer to a question.”

Obviously there are different ways of saying “The Lord moves in mysterious ways.” The statement is true, but as believers we don’t want to use it as a quick and easy answer to suffering in the world. But we can still say it: God does indeed move in mysterious ways. Just be careful when you say it, and don’t imply it comes from the Bible. Those words actually come from a hymn written by William Cowper in 1774, “God moves in a mysterious way, his wonders to perform.” Though it may not be an exact quote from the Bible, there are verses that come pretty close (Job 11:7-8).

We don’t need to understand everything about God and his ways. We don’t need to know the whys of everything he does. We just need to know HIM. We need to know that He’s with us – and that we can trust Him. And so we need to entrust the things we don’t know to Him, and, at the same time, to say “I believe” to the things we do know to be true.

 

4. “Cleanliness is next to godliness.”

Though this statement is not a Bible verse, it does have an interesting history. It’s actually recorded in one of John Wesley’s sermons in 1778, but it’s a much older idea. It goes back to the ancient Babylonians. And it’s still a good way to lay the guilt on a grubby young boy who needs to wash up for supper.

Needless to say, it’s not a Bible verse, but cleanliness is an important picture in the Bible that gets to the heart of the gospel. As early as 1 Samuel, we see that cleanliness and good looks and physical strength aren’t what the Lord sees. The Lord tells Samuel as he leads him to anoint David as the unlikely king of Israel, “People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)

That sounds great … until we start looking at our hearts. I’m reminded of the psalmist who says that the one who approaches the Lord in worship needs to have clean hands and a pure heart. But let me ask you—if cleanliness of heart is next to godliness … do you measure up? I can’t say that I do. Thankfully, we aren’t the ones who have the power to cleanse our hearts. Because of the cross and what Jesus did for us, we can be made pure.

“This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:5-9

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

As the leader of the Haven Ministries, Charles Morris is always thinking of ways to lead Christians and non-Christians to Christ—hence the familiar slogan, “Telling the great story … it’s all about Jesus.” A former secular journalist, Charles has worked for United Press International, and as a press secretary for two former U.S. senators. He and his wife, Janet, have authored several books, including Missing Jesus. Charles’ latest book is Fleeing ISIS, Finding Jesus: The Real Story of God At Work.

Most of the thoughts above are taken from broadcasts of Haven Today. Corum Hughes serves as the editor of this blog and coordinator for Haven’s social media content. A graduate of Moody Bible Institute, Corum lives in Boise, ID with his wife Molly.

 

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2 thoughts on “4 of the Most Commonly Misquoted Bible Verses

  1. Joe Morata

    God helps those who help themselves. You will not find this in the Bible. Therefore this CANNOT be a misquoted Bible verse. Otherwise please show me the chapter and verse….?

    You will however find this among the writings of Aesop’s fables. Aesop was a Greek pagan, therefore his god was provably like Zeus or Poseidon. If these are your gods, they have proven to be useless. You will really need to help yourself

    Reply
    1. Corum Hughes

      Thanks for your comment, Joe. The title of this post is supposed to represent expressions that are commonly and wrongly attributed as coming from the Bible. By calling it a misquotation, we are simply saying that it is wrong to say these quotes came from Scripture. Some are close to what is actually written in the Bible, but others have no Scriptural basis at all–such as the one you mentioned in your comment. Again, thanks for your response!

      Reply

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