The Christians Myth
There are a lot of different things I hear from people, and I once believed most of these things myself. They are all well intended statements, yet misunderstood so many times.
I recently read an article, too, that talked about this and thought I would go ahead and write about it.
Now, some might argue that most of these things are simply harmless misunderstandings of the Bible and what it says, because, in theory, it’s still well intended, and it’s probably ‘close enough.’ However, I think many of these misunderstandings can misconstrue one’s belief in God, their theology, and potentially end up on the wrong track, making wrong choices, because they started with the wrong premise to begin with.
For example, some have taken to the extreme the statement, “Love of money is the root of all evil.” Well, that’s not in the Bible. Sorry. “Love of money is a root of all kinds of evil,” is probably a more accurate original translation. I Timothy 6:10. So, I’ve known some folks who have taken that statement as ‘the root’ and took it too far and any such desire for money was wrong. It most certainly is not the root of all evil, because Adam first sinned and it wasn’t love of money that he did it for. But, this is just a simple one. Let’s look at others…
Jonah was swallowed by a whale. Uh oh. I was always taught he was swallowed by a whale! What happened here? Oh wait, I didn’t really read the passage myself when I was younger. I was just taught that he was and took their word for it. In Jonah 1:17 it says he was swallowed by a dag gadol, a great fish. It doesn’t say a whale. It says a great fish, a big fish, an enormous fish, a huge fish, a freaky large gigantic fish. Jesus mentions this story in the New Testament and says, “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish…”(1)
Let’s move on…
There’s a lot of things people say that are believed to be from the Bible by many. Certainly some just believe it to be an old saying and sometimes it proves to be true as well, but for the point of the discussion, this is to bring out misconceptions of what is believed the Bible actually says. For example:
“This, too, shall pass.” Not in the Bible. However, there are a couple of verses that people argue could plausibly mean the same thing. Now, that is not to say that we can’t say, ‘this, too, shall pass,’ in some life situation… because I believe that to be very true. However, it’s not in the Bible.
“God helps those who help themselves.” Well, that’s not in the Bible either, unfortunately. It is believed that this came from Algernon Sydney in 1698 in an article titled Discourses Concerning Government.(3) If you want to delve deeper into semantics, the Bible technically teaches just the opposite… God helps the helpless; Isaiah 25:4, Romans 5:6, 2 Corinthians 5:21.
But, if you like to use it meaning a similar thing to, God will only help those who want to be helped, or something along those lines, you can go there too, and use the quote, and it probably stands generally true… but it’s not in the Bible, so don’t say it is.
“Spare the rod, spoil the child.” This one is TOTALLY not in the Bible. I’ve heard it used many-a-time in my day. What the Bible does say in Proverbs 13:24 is, “He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him seeks him with correction.” Adam Clark says, “That is, if he hated him, he could not do him a greater disservice than not to correct him when his obstinacy or disobedience requires it…” Well said, Mr. Adam Clark.(4)
I’ve saved the best one for last, in my opinion. This is the most common one that I’ve always heard and used to live by myself.
“God will never give you more than you can handle.”
This one was a real sticker for me what I first discovered the Bible doesn’t actually say that, anywhere.
Paul even once said in 2 Corinthians 1:8 that, “For we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself.”
So many Christians today truly believe this statement, and it’s one of those unfortunate misunderstandings that have been passed from generation to generation, church to church, believer to believer.
This statement is originally taken out of context from I Corinthians 10:13, which says, “…God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted above what you are able. But with the temptation, He will also make the way out, so that you may be able to bear it.”
This passage is talking about temptation and sin, which we need to understand. This passage is not saying that God will not give us more in life than we can handle. Afterall, how often do we take on ourselves way more than we can handle? How often does life overwhelm us? I believe God constantly gives us, or allows for, more than we can handle.
A Christian can sure get themselves in a lot of trouble by constantly taking on more and more in life, even if it’s all seemingly good things. A Christian can get involved in their church, then in their school, and in their children’s lives, spouses life, home, friends, and lead a small group, and help at VBS, and serve meals at the local shelter, and on and on, and feel like they can take it all on initially because, after all, these are Good things and God will never give them more than they can handle. But they soon find out they can’t handle it. They volunteer themselves to death in every area of their life, and wonder why they can’t handle it. They wonder what they must be doing wrong. Perhaps they didn’t pray enough. Perhaps they didn’t say the right thing to someone while in their volunteer opportunity. But the thing is, I believe, they started on the wrong foot, therefore getting the wrong ‘results’ and never knowing why.
In the very next verse after Paul is talking about being utterly burdened beyond their strength (2 Cor. 1:9) he says, “For we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself… But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.” And this, I believe, is the point of the passage. We have to rely on God in all we do. We should. Because He will sustain us and give us the strength that we need, that is not of ourselves. That is not to say that we can take on the world, volunteering ourselves to death, and expect God to give us the strength, either. Sometimes too much is too much in life. Find that balance and seek His will in your life and move from there.
How does all of this happen? Steve Bouma-Prediger, a religion professor at Hope College, says it well; “Few catch on because they don’t want to – people prefer knowing biblical passages that reinforce their pre-existing beliefs.”(2) Sidnie White Crawford, a religious studies scholar at the University of Nebraska says, “We often infect the Bible with our own values and morals, not asking what the Bible’s values and morals really are.”(2)
It’s a dangerous road we walk in making the Bible say what we would prefer it to say. Craig Hazen, director of the Christian Apologetics program at Biola University brilliantly says, “You can see this manifest today in living room Bible studies across North America where lovely Christian people, with no training whatsoever, drink decaf, eat brownies and ask each other, ‘What does this text mean to you?’”
There are many, many more things that people believe are in the Bible that actually are not, and I encourage you to always be sure you know why you believe what you believe. I encourage you to ask, if you are unsure. It’s not a sin to question something that sounds Biblical. Also, we as Christians must be sure that we are not altering the Bible to say what we wish it said, or preferred it would say. It’s a dangerous, dangerous road we walk in doing that.
So, hopefully all of these ‘myths’ aren’t too much for you to handle if you thought they were all from the Bible, but that you’ve taken it in, learned and will grow from them. God will sustain you. God will show you the way in life if you let Him. He will give you or allow for more than you can handle, but so that you will not forget to rely on Him, and not yourselves.
1 – Mat. 12:39-41
4 – Adam Clark’s Commentary on the Bible