As I stood in the grocery store check-out line, I could not help but overhear the conversation of two ladies in front of me. The older woman matter-of-factly told the other, “God helps those who help themselves. I’m not sure where it is in Scripture but it’s there.” They nodded to each other and continued their discussion of a struggling friend.
NEWS FLASH: This pithy, much-repeated phrase is not in the Holy Bible.
So many times we repeat phrases as biblical truths when, in fact, they are merely human wisdom-thoughts passed down through the ages. We deceive ourselves — and those to whom we give advise — when we falsely elevate cultural truisms to biblical standards.
Here are more…
“What goes around, comes around.”
“Cleanliness is next to godliness.”
“Hate the sin, love the sinner.”
“Money is the root of all evil.”
“He who hesitates is lost.”
“This too shall pass.”
Some have biblical foundations. Some are wisdom well-founded. But some are misleading (it’s the love of money that is the root of all evil…big difference!). All, however, have been passed down from generation to generation and are guarded as biblical truth.
The question: How does a person keep from being deceived?
Let’s consider the example of counterfeit money. How does a person keep from being deceived by counterfeit bills? The US Secret Service recommends that we examine the genuine currency note:
“Look at the money you receive. Compare a suspect note with a genuine note of the same denomination and series, paying attention to the quality of printing and paper characteristics. Look for differences, not similarities.”
The authorities recommend that we know the genuine standard. All is measured and evaluated from the source. Then focus on the differences. This is where the paths diverge.
Consider these words as guidelines to separate cultural truisms from biblical precepts: Listen to the words you hear. Compare a suspect teaching with the genuine teaching of the Bible, paying attention to the context and translation of the passage. Look for differences, not similarities.
Similarities to truth mask subtle deceptions found in the doctrines of some churches, spiritual leaders, and writing. When differences stand out, be attentive and explore them.
Do not hear the vocabulary of Christian words and assume that they carry the meaning of the sacred truth as recorded in the Bible. Many false teachers and modern-day cults use the words jesus, god, church, heaven and hell with definitions that are a mere shade of their true selves. Do not be deceived.
This begs the next question: How can I know the differences?
The answer: By knowing the genuine teaching. Just as the US Secret Service is diligent in ferreting out counterfeit currency and in asking the public to be attentive, we too need to be diligent in processing the words we hear and the advise we give. Do not afford to the Bible cultural truisms the authority of Scripture.
A few of the (real) Truths from the Bible….
A tree is recognized by its fruit. (Matthew 12:33)
A cheerful heart is good medicine. (Proverbs 17.22)
It is more blessed to give than to receive. (Acts 20.35)
For dust you are and to dust you will return. (Genesis 3.19)
Do to others what you would have them do to you. (Matt. 7:12)
Resolve to know the Scripture better. Ask questions, read, and explore. Ponder God’s Word and memorize His truths!