Did you know that these common sayings and ideas are not found in the Bible?
“Jesus condones the actions of sinners and tax collectors”
This is a concept that is often thrown around by people as a biblical saying but it is actually a distortion of what the Bible says.
“Now it happened, as Jesus sat at the table in the house, that behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, ‘Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?’” Matthew 9:10-11.
But just because Jesus ate dinner with these people does not mean that He condones their actions. The story continues in Matthew 9:12-13.
“When Jesus heard that, He said to them, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”
Far from condoning their actions, Jesus sat with the sinners and tax collectors in order to call them to repentance. He loved them, yes, but He did not excuse their sin. In fact, He loved them far too much to allow them to continue in their sin.
Far from having a passive attitude towards sin, Jesus’ entire life’s work was to convert people to God!
“Everyone is a sinner”
This is a saying that is very close to being Biblical.
Romans 3:23 tells us that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” So what’s the difference between “all have sinned” and “everyone is a sinner?” It’s in the tense. “All have sinned” is a true statement. It is also written in 1 John 1:8 that “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”
But this is where most people get confused.
Just because I have sinned before, just because I have sin dwelling in my body, does not mean I have to continue committing sin. It doesn’t mean I have to be a sinner. In fact, the Bible actually contains a lot of verses that tell us to stop committing that which we know to be sin.
“But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him.” Colossians 3:8-10.
Sure, the “old man” mentioned here was a sinner. All have sinned. But the new man has put off his sins. 1 Peter 1:15 even tells us, “as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct.”
So not only does it never once say in the Bible that we have to remain sinners, but it also gives us a powerful exhortation to become holy to the same degree as He who called us.
“Believing in Jesus is all it takes to get to heaven”
Actually this phrase is Biblical. The Bible could not be clearer on this point. The problem is when people misunderstand what “believing in Jesus” actually means.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16.
It’s not enough to believe that there was a man named Jesus, who was God’s Son and He wants to save you. But if you believe in Jesus, the real Jesus, as He’s written about in the Bible, then you have to believe in everything He’s said and done as well.
“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.” 1 Corinthians 6:9-10.
You can see how people might get confused. At first it seems to be that simply believing in Jesus is enough to get eternal life, but in Corinthians we read that the unrighteousness will not inherit the kingdom of God.
But if you really believe in Jesus, and every single thing that is written about Him, then you wouldn’t be unrighteous. Then you would do everything to keep from sinning.
It is exactly like we read in James 2:17. “Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” Faith cannot be separated from works. If you really believe in Jesus, then your faith would produce good works. And if your life does not show forth any good works then your faith is dead and you do not really believe in Jesus as He is written about.
So it’s not enough to believe that there was somebody named Jesus, but in order to get eternal life you have to believe in Jesus as He’s written. And belief in that Jesus means action.
“Everything works out to good in the end”
This is something often said to people going through some kind of suffering. Or when things don’t go at all the way you want them to. You can give this little comfort that after the sufferings have passed then God will work your life to good again.
The problem is that that is not in the Bible. On the contrary it is quite a dangerous way of thinking. The actual quote comes from Romans 8:28: “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”
It is written that all things work together for the good. Somewhere along the line somebody added “in the end” to that phrase and changed the whole meaning. Now, instead of a powerful exhortation to be thankful for everything, even the things that seem to be bad, the sentiment has become a pathetic little pat on the back that things will look up soon.
But when we believe that “all things work together for good” then we believe that even the things we think are bad, are actually good. It can be summed up nicely with these verses from 1 Peter 1:6-7, “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” See also Romans 5:3-5.
What an amazing thing to think about that even our trials and tribulations work together for our good as they are happening. By going through sufferings on earth we can see the sin that lives in us try to rise to the surface and come out. Then all the unthankfulness, the bitterness, the hatred, etc, that lives in us can be put to death. (Colossians 3:5) We wouldn’t have been able to put something to death if we didn’t know it was there. The tribulations are leading us to transformation.
“Always be thankful for something”
This is a very sneaky twist on the verse from 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
“Always be thankful for something” sounds like a simple rephrasing of the verse. But actually, always being thankful for something, and being thankful for everything are two completely different things. This goes back to the verse in Romans 8:28. It’s not about finding the silver lining in the midst of a terrible day. It’s about realizing that even the things that seem to be bad, are things to thank God for. How else would we see the sin within us and be able to put it to death?
It’s not about being thankful in spite of the bad things that come your way. It’s about being thankful for the bad things. It is in the tough trials of life that I can be cleansed and purified by fire.
This sentiment is often found in “encouraging” phrases that compare you to others worse off. For example somebody struggling with financial problems might be told “Count your blessings. At least you have a house and a car and a job.” Of course we should be thankful for those things. But we are also to be thankful for the things we don’t have.
We should be thankful for the fact that we are poor, or disabled, or jobless, or whatever it is. The trials we go through only work together for our good, after all, and how can somebody not be thankful for a life only filled with good?