By Inside BST, Crosswalk.com
Even though Western culture gets slapped with the “Post-Christian” label, that doesn’t mean references to biblical ideas have been scrubbed away. In fact, nods to Scripture show up quite often in pop culture—from movies to rock stars.
But as often as not, these attempts at grabbing onto what the Bible actually says can miss by a lot. So, what verses do people think are in the Bible but really aren’t? Here are 5 to get us started.
1. "God helps those who help themselves.” 1 Americanians 17:76
The so-called American Dream means that almost anyone can be born into or come to the country with nothing, work hard, gather a loan payment or three, and die with enough to leave to children. And this “verse” (which may go back all the way to Aesop of fable fame) fits nicely with that American ethic. But it’s definitely not biblical.
In the Bible, the help always comes from one place, which the Psalmist lays out succinctly in Psalm 121:2, "My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.” When the Israelites stared down the crashing waves of the Red Sea and the crushing horses of Pharaoh’s army, God didn’t have the people build boats. He did the helping: "The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” (Exodus 14:14)
2. "This, too, shall pass.” Wisdomonius 4:11
Whenever something bad happens, this “verse” pops up. It certainly sounds biblical, and some have even quoted it on TV as being from God’s Word. But it’s not, and it’s not even necessarily true.
Sure, we’ll usually move beyond the debilitating pain of loss or find another job or heal from an accident. But not every pain will pass away while we’re here on earth and in this body. In fact, some pains don’t pass because God has a bigger purpose for them. We can be sure that God provides comfort, but that doesn’t mean He will necessarily take away the source of the pain.
3. “Yea, verily, God wants you to be happy.” Oprah 1:1
This popular verse floats to the top every so often and gets thrown around on talk shows and magazines. We like to think that our happiness is God’s highest goal because that fits our consumer-focused, instant-access, you-deserve-it world. It’s a verse that allows people to skirt other biblical mandates because, as is often claimed, happiness trumps everything else.
But none of these false verses does more damage than this one. We are here to praise God—not to accumulate wealth, be comfortable, have a great relationship, feel satisfied, or reach our personal goals. In fact, if we put our happiness ahead of everything else, we’re completely disobeying what Jesus said are the most important commands: Love God; love people (Luke 10:27).
4. “If you work hard enough, you’ll be successful.” 2 Jobs 4:04
Is hard work good? Yes. In fact, we’re told over and over in Proverbs that we’re supposed to work hard (12:11, 13:4, 14:23, etc.). Jesus kept a tireless pace during His life on earth, and you’ll never hear Paul condemn someone who works hard (in fact, he condemns those who don’t in 2 Thessalonians 3:10).
But the popular idea that hard work necessarily equals abundant earthly blessings has no basis in Scripture. As a Christian, we are supposed to work at everything as if we were doing it for Jesus. But our reward is in knowing we did our best for Him, not in seeing our bank accounts bloom.
5. “Just follow your heart and believe, and you can do anything.” Song of Disney 20:15
Sometimes, Disney movies seem to invade Scripture. Perhaps because we humans love Cinderella stories (unjust rags to magical riches), the notion of us being "anything we want to be if we just believe” has become weaved into the fabric of how we view the Bible. David the shepherd boy became a king, right?
God gives us passions and desires and uses our lives to prepare us for His purposes—just as He prepared David during his time as a shepherd, soldier, and court musician. But that only works if we completely surrender our lives to His leading. On the other hand, if we spend our lives pursuing that “whatever we want to be,” we may very well end up disillusioned and dissatisfied even if we achieve our goal.
This article first appeared on the Inside BST blog. Used with permission.