Did That Saying Come From the Bible?


Picture by geralt – Pixabay

In daily speech and writing, people very often use sayings or quote things that came from elsewhere, but which have been used so much that they’ve entered the realm of ‘common use’. Quite a few people have no idea where the saying came from. Many may have come from the Holy Bible, since that is the best selling book of all time, but some actually didn’t come from the bible at all, though lots of people think that it did. This might surprise people. Let’s look at some of the sayings and where they came from.

“You reap what you sow.”

Although the quote isn’t exact, this one does come from the bible. It comes from Galatians 6:7, which says:

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.

Many variations have been used, but the saying comes from the bible and it was written around 49 ad.

“Money is the root of all evil.”

This both is and isn’t a biblical quote. There is a quote that is very similar in the bible, but the meaning isn’t the same at all. The actual quote is from 1 Timothy 6:10, which says:

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.

Note that the difference between the true quote and the one that is often stated is that the bible isn’t saying that money, the object, is evil. However, the overwhelming desire for the money is what is wrong. Put slightly differently and in context, having a stronger desire for money than for God is evil.

“God won’t give you more than you can bear.”

This is biblical, however the way it is commonly used is quite incorrect and isn’t what the scripture is referring to at all. To be more precise, the actual verse wasn’t referring to physical problems. It was referring to temptations, specifically of Satan. The verse is 1 Corinthians 10:13, which says:

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

Also, the Greek for temptation was actually ‘tested’, not what we commonly think of.

“Judge not lest ye be judged.”

This is biblical and it comes from Matthew 7:1, but the way it is used is commonly not in context with the meaning of the verse. If a person reads Matthew 7:1-5, it becomes clear that Jesus was actually saying that in order to judge, we must first clean up our own act. The saying is actually an admonition for us to pay more attention to our own shortcomings than to those of our brothers and sisters.

“Spare the rod and spoil the child.”

This is not biblical. It is a corruption of Proverbs 13:24, which says:

Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.

The meaning is obviously not the same as the way the common phrase is used, and the common phrase isn’t from scripture. The bible doesn’t support beating children, by a long shot.

“Cleanliness is next to Godliness.”

This isn’t from scripture. It does say in James 4:8

Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

but this is obviously not the same as the common saying, nor is it a reference to physical cleanliness. The fact is that Jesus never said anything that could be considered to indicate that cleanliness is next to Godliness.

“God moves in mysterious ways.”

This isn’t said anywhere in the Bible. The bible is clear that we don’t have the ability to understand God’s plans and that His ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8), but the bible doesn’t say that God’s ways are a mystery.

“This above all: To thine own self be true.”

This one doesn’t come from the bible. In fact, it isn’t even close to being biblical, even though it sounds like something that might be contained in the holy book. It is an actual quote, though. So where does it come from? It’s from Hamlet; Act 1, Scene 3. It was written by William Shakespeare. (This is also where “Neither a borrower nor a lender be” comes from; , same play, same act, same scene.)

It is hardly surprising that so many people are confused about Christianity, including quite a few Christians, when many commonly used phrases and sayings are misused or don’t come from the bible at all. One of the simplest ways to resolve the confusion is so obvious that it can be easily missed, unfortunately; read the Book! Even atheists might find something interesting in the pages and it is doubtful that any would argue that the bible is the best selling book of all time. That, alone, would be an excellent reason to read it. The fact of the matter is that it isn’t just Christians who buy and read the bible.

To a true Christian, that is a reason for rejoicing.



    1. Rex Trulove Post author

      Many people do, yes. The same is true of “Neither a borrower nor a lender be”. Lots of folks think it is from the bible.

  1. Andria Perry

    I have heard most of those quotes over my years. People have away if using the bible to make a point but they do not quote it correctly and that is how it starts.

    I used to know this man that did not speak plain, he would say Moses, For Mosley the last name of a person. He could really confuse you.

    I stumbled and tweeted this article.

    1. Rex Trulove Post author

      Indeed, they do purposely misquote the bible or take it totally out of context. Rather than making their point, though, if they are caught at it, they destroy their own point. 🙂

  2. Pat Z Anthony

    There are so many who are wrong when it comes to quoting anything. Usually they seem to be firm in their opinions about where the quotes come from, don’t they?

    1. Rex Trulove Post author

      Yes, they do. If they think it is from the bible, though, and you are pretty sure that it isn’t, just ask them to show you where in the bible it says that. If they know that they’ve been caught, they will usually say something like, “I don’t know exactly where it is at right at this moment, but it is there.” If they do, just say, “Okay, when you find that scripture, let me know.” LOL

  3. Cris Bernal

    Some people just say its from the Bible because they have no other thing to link on it. But some Christians, didn’t even bother to read the book. They have it in their house but they just keep it there as a decoration. Good thing you know the verses where you can find all these quotes.

    1. Rex Trulove Post author

      I read the bible daily and sometimes several times a day. Oh, there are days when that isn’t true…I do miss a day now and then…but when that happens I chastise myself and feel badly that I didn’t do my bible reading for the day.

      You are right, many Christians don’t read the bible and don’t truthfully follow what the bible says. They will often point out that they go to church every week, as if that is notable. However, I’ve always loved a different quote for people like this, and I don’t honestly know where it came from; “Saying that you are a Christian because you go to church is like saying that you are a car because you are standing in a garage.”

  4. Cris Bernal

    Go to church on your day of worship or offer an offering is not enough to be called Christian. That’s not what Jesus commands or done. If we really dig on we can find out what is to be A REAL CHRISTIAN. I believe that Jesus is our example on Earth. We must follow His commands, His works and His attitude towards other people. We are not here for our own satisfaction only. Life is not to wake up, go to church offer offering, go home and be proud. Being a REAL CHRISTIAN is a different one. It’s not an easy tasks to do but with the help of the Holy Spirit, we can make it. That’s why we need to ask WISDOM from God so that we can be a real christian.

    1. Rex Trulove Post author

      People also don’t need other people telling them how they should think, feel or live. All of that can be found in the bible, so people simply need to read it. Fellowship is a good thing, which is what going to church is for, but reading the bible and reflecting on it is very important, too.

  5. Gina M. Menorca

    I have said this saying many times in my life but I didn,t bother to look where it was originated. it very nice to learn another piece of important information from you.

  6. Rex Trulove Post author

    This is only some of the misquoted and misused sayings, too. It is worth thinking about the sayings we commonly use and learning about those sayings can be a lot of fun.

  7. Cris Bernal

    Going to church, reading the Bible and reflecting on it is not complete that we can call our self Christian. As we read the Bible, think that the Bible is talking to us. The most important is not how many times, we tell about God to others but how and how many times we do God’s will. We should know what is God’s will. Jesus said, that He do God’s will that’s why He came on Earth. We, as His followers, must do God’s will too. Be a service to others. Love one another not by words but action.

    1. Rex Trulove Post author

      Yes, and although many people think of money when they think of helping people who are less fortunate, there are many other ways to help others. Our local church runs a food bank, clothing bank and has a wood ministry, where we cut, split and haul firewood to people in the community who have none and who can’t afford to get any. Our church building is being used right now for firefighters who are fighting a big wildfire not far from here, so that the firefighters will have a place to sleep. It goes beyond that, too. There are many, many acts of kindness and help that we can give that makes a difference.

  8. Gil Camporazo

    If you are patient enough to search for the cross-references in the Bible, you find related subject or topic for those quotes. If you are using the Bible, there is a concordance or a topicl guide at the back with various topics and their cross-references to the Bible.

    1. Rex Trulove Post author

      There are also many concordances and references that can be used. The Greek concordance and cross-reference is useful to me, because many words have a different meaning in biblical terms than they do in modern usage.

  9. Jo Pin

    I totally agree with you. I am a Christian and know and read many verses which were either misquoted and misinterpreted and misused repeatedly. God’s Word are as important as His command. We should not add or takes words away from the Bible or we will be reproved and proved to be liar.

    1. Rex Trulove Post author

      I love it when people catch the misuse, though, because it tells me that they are reading the scriptures. That is a very good thing. 🙂

  10. Priscilla King

    “Neither a borrower nor a lender be” is another one from Hamlet. I’m surprised, though, not to see the biblical corollary here. “Owe no man any thing but to love one another” is from Romans 13:8.

    1. Rex Trulove Post author

      Yes, I mentioned that “Neither a borrower nor a lender be” is Hamlet; Act 1, Scene 3.

      Actually, I rather like Psalm 37:21The wicked borrow and do not repay, but the righteous give generously

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