Parenting Challenges

Does the Bible Actually Say That?

The other day I overheard someone ask
“Didn’t Jesus say, ‘Give a man a fish and feed him for a day,  teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime’?”
The other responded, “Yes!”

Well, the answer, I hope you know, is No!  He didn’t say that – at least as far as history records it.  In fact, no one is sure of the actual source, but it has been most often credited to Lao Tzu, the Chinese founder of Taoism, about 2700 ish years ago.

This got me thinking, what other ideas and sayings might be floating out there wrongly attributed to God’s words?  Below are five sayings I’ve heard passed around by Christians, but only one is in the Bible. Guess which one. I’ll give you the answer at the end.

“God helps those who help themselves.”
“Spare the rod, spoil the child.”
“Cleanliness is next to Godliness.”
“Eat, drink and be merry”
“Forgive and forget”

Regardless of their true source, these pithy sayings can feel like handy tools for life, even mantras to live by.  But as Christians we are not called to live by what sounds good, seems true, or is popular. We are called to live “on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). What we believe needs to be held to account by Scripture. We are called to judge arguments and every pretension against the knowledge of God and take captive every thought to the obedience of Christ.

Jesus had a word for those who teach man’s ideas as if they were from God, “hypocrites.”As Jesus went about his ministry discipling and teaching, he separated man-made “holy” laws from the truth of God’s laws. God’s laws are not for us to give lip-service, begrudging obedience, or to perform mindless rituals. His laws reveal how things work in the Spiritual world, in His Kingdom. They are intended to change us from a mindset that the world revolves around us to a mindset that we are here to serve God and others.

This is not to say that practical rules like removing your shoes indoors, washing your hands, and not playing with fire aren’t valuable.  These are rules for life, helpful rituals that keep us safe, healthy, and enable us live in community, but they pale in comparison to the knowledge of God. Carpets will disintegrate, germs will die, fire will be quenched but God’s kingdom will endure for eternity.  The rules of life protect our treasures on earth, but our minds should be focused on treasures in Heaven. Then, our hearts can be properly aligned to overflow with goodness in what we do and say. As Jesus said in Matthew 6:21 “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

The mind focused on the kingdom of self will be defensive, rebellious, frustrated, and self-seeking. The mind directed towards treasures in Heaven and the things of God, will be at rest, overflowing naturally with good behaviors, attitudes, and words.

So, back to the pithy sayings, here’s the Bible verse, and the references for the rest.

The scripture is “Eat, drink and be merry”
-Luke 12:19

As for the rest, here’s their true sources as best I could determine.
“God helps those who help themselves.”
-Poor Richard’s Almanac by Benjamin Franklin

“Spare the rod, and spoil the child.”
-Hudibras (a satirical bawdy poem) by Samuel Butler

“Cleanliness is next to Godliness.”
–Hebrew Proverb (unknown source)

“Forgive and forget”
–King Lear by Shakespeare

Gentle Christian Parenting - the Bible

Be careful what rules and pithy sayings you attribute to God. Study scripture yourself, seek to know God and the wisdom He gives for life in His Kingdom.

“These people draw near to me with their mouth,
and honor me with their lips;
but their heart is far from me.
And in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrine rules made by men.”
– Matthew 15:8-9

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Christina Dronen

Christian mom who practices gentle parenting. Author of the Parenting In Christ Bible study discussion guides.

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  1. This whole concept of confusing sayings for Scripture is significant, especially in this day of social media and catering sermons for broader acceptance. We sheep are vulnerable in many ways to false or faulty teaching, perhaps mostly because we are not on guard, i.e., maybe we aren’t interested in critical thinking and Bible reading. As you wrote, we need to know what God said and live by it. We can’t just say, “What would Jesus do,” and then proceed with what we may justify in our hearts. Our hearts are deceitful. We need to know what Jesus did, how He lived, what His values were, and what He commanded, before we can suppose what Jesus would do. #ThingsNotInTheBible is interesting and I hope it helps. Thanks for writing this.

    1. Thanks Stephen! You’re right. We need more critical thinking and Bible reading. I agree that we tend to gravitate towards sayings that would justify us, rather than being held accountable to what the Bible actually says. And the most important thing is to know Jesus well enough to follow in his ways! I appreciate your added insights. 🙂

  2. I always love these articles. Not sure why some people take another person’s word that something is in God’s Word. Thanks for the reminders and clarity. I pray we become a people familiar with Truth!

    1. Aw thanks Karen! Yes.. and I think the Holy Spirit prompts us at times… teaching and reminding us of everything.. and giving us discernment, even sparking that thought “Does the Bible actually say that?” Any time we have a prompting we should go and see for ourselves. Sometimes it’s just a word that is wrong, like “God will not give you more than you can handle” (not in the Bible) – a misquote I think of I Corinthians 1:10 – where it says God will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we can handle. I remember finding that one to be impactful on my life. I used to feel guilty about feeling overwhelmed, but the truth is things happen all the time that are more than we can handle. The good news is it’s not more than HE can handle. 🙂

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