We’ve all heard them—phrases that sound wise, insightful, and biblical. But are they really?
Anyone who has been reading the Bible for any amount of time knows that the world is filled with thoughts and ideas that stand in opposition to God. Yet, it’s easy to find ourselves adopting popular thought and repeating it without filtering it through a biblical worldview.
Some of the statements floating around sound spiritual, but that doesn’t mean they are biblical.
Here are 17 popular Christian unbiblical clichés that need to die, and therefore need a memorial service:
1. God won’t give you more than you can handle.
Yes, He most certainly will. Ask the apostle Paul, who penned these words in 2 Corinthians 1:8-9:
“We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death.”
Paul’s agonizing choice of words, “under great pressure,” “far beyond our ability to endure,” and “despairing even of life,” show us that the difficulties he and the other disciples experienced were well beyond their human ability to handle.
Most people who believe this idea is biblical support it by quoting 1 Corinthians 10:13: “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.” Note that this verse is talking about temptation, not the weight of life’s circumstances.
The comforting thought of not being given anything beyond what we can bear is not found in Scripture, and anyone who has lived long enough to witness suffering knows it is not true.
But do not lose hope.
”My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:2)
He not only tells us that he will come to our aid, but he comforts us as well. In Isaiah 41:10, we are encouraged with these words: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Life may have more than we can handle, but it will never be more than God can handle.
The good news is not that God won’t give us more than we can handle; it’s that he won’t give us more than he can handle.
2. I know God forgives me, but I just can’t forgive myself.
Simply put, believing this statement shows that you believe you know better than God. Are we really so bold as to tell God, “Your sacrifice wasn’t good enough. Your forgiveness wasn’t wide enough”? Sometimes it is actually pride demanding that our guilt remain.
What we really need is to accept and rest in God’s forgiveness because the Scriptures teach that, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
3. “When God closes a door, he opens a window.”
I appreciate the heart behind this statement. It’s true, after all, that God can do anything he pleases (Jer. 32:27), that he sometimes redirects our course (Prov. 16:9), and that he never abandons his own (Heb. 13:5).
But if God closes a door in your life, there’s no guarantee he’ll open a window. He may not open anything. He may want you to realize you have the wrong address.
Scripture is filled with examples of the Spirit closing doors, windows, and any other conceivable entrance to keep one from heading in the wrong direction or at the wrong time (e.g., Prov. 16:9; 19:21; Acts 16:6–7).
I once heard calling described as the trifecta of affinity, ability, and opportunity. Do you like it, can you do it, and is there an open door? Now there are rare times when, if the third piece isn’t in place, God may want you to break down the door. Missionary martyr Jim Elliott once said that a lot of folks are sitting around waiting for a “call” when what they need is a kick in the pants.
But what if God has something else for you entirely? What if he doesn’t want you to move to that city, or take that job, or enter that relationship—whether by door or window?
Maybe he wants you to re-evaluate in light of affinity, ability, and opportunity—your internal desires, your confirmed giftings, and your actual options.
4. The devil made me do it.
This statement finds its genesis in the Garden of Eden. When Eve ate the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, God confronted her about it. She shifted the blame for her sin by saying, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
As much as we’d like to make Satan the scapegoat for all our bad choices, the concept just isn’t biblical. While Satan is the driving force behind much of the evil in our world today, we have our own sinful nature to blame for most of our sins. James 1:14 says, “Each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.”
5. God helps those who help themselves.
This statement is full of rugged, independent self-reliance that lacks the humility to acknowledge our absolute dependence on God for each breath we draw. Jesus helped the poor and the weak. He healed those who could not heal themselves. He saves those who call on his name, knowing they cannot cleanse their own souls.
Romans 5:6 reminds us that “…when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.”
And the fact that it originates from Benjamin Franklin—not God’s Word—is the best news you will encounter today.
If God only helps those who help themselves, we’re all sunk. But he didn’t come for moral standouts; he came for moral failures (Matt. 9:12–13; Luke 19:10). He came for us.
While this slogan may be a fine summary of the teaching of other religions, the entire message of Christianity hinges on the fact that, as Charles Spurgeon once quipped, “God helps those who cannot help themselves.” Indeed, he helps those who humble themselves, who repent and rely on Jesus alone.
So, while we obey what God tells us to do, we also acknowledge that the help we get is not something we earn, but something we are given.
6. Everyone is inherently good.
It is much easier to live in a world where this feels true; however, Scripture does not support this idea, and neither does the world we live in. Psalm 143:2 states, “Do not bring your servant into judgment, for no one living is righteous before you.” And Romans 11:32 says, “For God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.”
There are many more Scriptures that could be listed, but the biblical fact remains: we are all sinners by nature. While we are capable of doing good things and were originally created to desire things that are good, we are not inherently good.
Sadly, people are far more capable of evil than we wish they were. But Jesus met the high standards of holiness, and he made a way for his righteousness to more than cover our sin.
7. “Let go and let God.”
At its best, this phrase highlights the value of surrender. God is God and you are not, so lay down your résumé, your excuses, your fears.
All too often, though, the phrase is wielded as if the symbol of Christianity is not a cross but a couch. It’s subtly used to put the brakes on striving, on working, on effort.
Now, if “let go and let God” solely referenced the moment of justification, it would be fine. But it typically refers to the process of sanctification, which is anything but passive.
The Christian life is grueling. When Paul reflects on it he doesn’t think of sunsets and naps but soldiers and athletes and farmers (2 Tim. 2:3–6). He thinks of running tracks and boxing rings (1 Cor. 9:24–27).
We’re called to work out what God has already worked in us, laboring not for our salvation but from it (Phil. 2:12–13). This dynamic of restful vigilance (Matt. 11:28–30; 16:24)—what the Puritans called “holy sweat”—lies at the heart of Christian experience.
As J. I. Packer once put it, “The Christian’s motto should not be ‘Let go and let God’ but ‘Trust God and get going.’”
8. I’ll sleep when I’m dead.
This statement is motivational, and the go-getter attitude is inspiring. However, rest is a spiritual necessity that too many people neglect. We must make room for Sabbath rest. We do not permit idleness or laziness, but we do sleep.
We should steward our bodies well; they are temporary but they are a gift. You cannot work, have fun, or minister to your greatest capability if you are sleep-deprived.
The love of God offers peace and rest. We are told in Psalm 127:2, “In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat—for he grants sleep to those he loves.”
9. The temptation was too strong. I couldn’t resist it.
When we’re in the midst of a temptation, resistance seems impossible. Like iron filings to a strong magnet or kids to cookies, we often feel helpless and powerless. God knows the weakness of our flesh, and he gives us a promise to help us have victory over it.
First Corinthians 10:13 is one of the first verses I memorized as a new believer, and its truth has carried me through many a temptation: “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. 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 stand up under it.”
Notice two important parts of this empowering verse. First, God will never allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bear. This tells us we can have victory over any temptation we encounter. Nothing is too hard to resist.
10. We’re all God’s children.
People who make this statement really mean, “God created us all,” which is accurate. God is the Father of us all in the sense that he formed us and gave us life. We are not, however, all God’s children.
Because God is a relational being, until we accept his gift of eternal life by confessing and repenting of our sin, accepting Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross on our behalf, and surrendering our lives to him, we cannot be his children in the truest, most biblical sense of the word. We are just one of his created beings.
11. Follow your heart.
Our hearts don’t always offer wise counsel. In fact, some of the most foolish council we could ever listen to comes from our hearts.
Our sinful nature can be loud and convincing, but just because we feel a certain direction might be best, make us happy, or provide momentary fulfillment doesn’t mean it will. In fact, following every whim of our hearts will leave us exhausted and lead us toward captivity, not freedom.
Paul teaches in Galatians 5:17 that we might feel drawn in one of two directions on any given day and we must be aware of the battle: “For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.”
12. God doesn’t have favorites.
This belief originates in the biblical truth of Peter’s words in Acts 10:34, “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism.” He said this when God called him to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles in Cornelius’ household. It is true that, regarding salvation, God is all-inclusive. Romans 10:13 tells us, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
It’s also true, however, that God bestows special honor to certain exceptionally faithful individuals. He called Moses and Abraham his friends. Scripture refers to Daniel as “highly esteemed” (Daniel 10:11) and Mary, the mother of Jesus, “highly favored“ (Luke 1:28).
This “favoritism,” is quite different from the way we view favoritism today. God’s “favoritism” is “Favor” – Know the difference! While these godly men and women enjoyed close and precious relationships with the Lord, they weren’t spared the difficulties that come with being devoted followers.
13. I’m so sorry for your loss. Heaven must have needed another angel.
This is probably the most theologically false condolence I’ve ever heard. People say it when babies and young children die, but they also use it to explain the deaths of godly adults. Those who say it have good motives. They’re trying to say, “Your loved one was too special (pure, innocent, or wonderful) for this world; God needed her in heaven instead.”
If you follow this line of thinking, however, this implies that whenever a job opening in heaven comes up, God prowls the earth looking for sweet, innocent children or godly adults to harvest for his heavenly workforce. Not only is this wrong, it’s a direct contradiction to what the Bible teaches about angels.
14. Look out for yourself first.
Jesus would never have taken the cross that ransomed our souls if he followed this adage. This is obviously a self-focused mentality and is the mindset of someone living in fear that there will not be enough for them.
A life of competition, fear, and self-preservation can lead to exhaustion, depression, and anxiety. We were made to live in community; shielding ourselves from laying down our desires for others means denying the greatest form of love. Jesus taught, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13).
15. Better safe than sorry.
Wisdom is important, but securing our own safety is not something we can do. There is a difference between using wisdom (which we are commanded to do) and never taking a risk.
God is our hiding place, and Psalm 46:1 reminds us that, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”
This is part of who God is, and he will continue to be those things wherever we go. This does not mean we should be taking unnecessary or foolish risks, but it does mean that if God asks us to take a chance, we should.
If we don’t follow where God leads out of fear or hopes of gaining safety, we will miss out on the life he wants for us. And if we miss the blessings of God, the sorrow will outweigh any amount of safety.
16. People don’t really change.
What a defeatist statement. It goes along with, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” But we serve a God who loves to talk about renewal and repentance in his word.
We don’t discover a bad attitude in ourselves or others and then just let is stay because we can’t change. No! We look to the God of redemption and ask for his mercies that are new every morning to heal us, change us, and transform us.
Real change is always available and it is found at the feet of our Savior.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)
17. It’s about the journey, not the destination
All the journeys we take matter, and they will all lead us to one of two eternal destinations. Your choice of receiving the forgiveness and righteousness of Christ determines your ultimate destination—heaven or hell.
“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” (Matthew 25:46)
Believers have the joy of living with the hope of heaven, and we need not diminish the greatness of that destination by saying it’s all about the journey. This is a both/and situation. The journey helps us find Christ and be transformed into his likeness, but the destination means being with him and his people forever in perfect, unbroken fellowship.
Think before You Speak
Well there you have it—seventeen phrases Christians like to say that simply aren’t true. Their popularity reminds us how important it is to think before we speak. As we become students of the Bible and gain wisdom and understanding, our speech will begin to reflect its truth. Then the words we speak will encourage others and honor God.
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