Sounding Biblical vs Being Biblical

Kyle Bartholic   -  

I grew up in a highly religious part of the country. Here’s what I mean by that, almost everyone I knew identified with some denomination of Christianity (mostly Catholic) or Judaism. I had a handful of friends that were Mormon and a few that were Muslim. But, even my friends and their families who never attended church still claimed some church as their place of worship. This ultimately led to a culture that was very accepting of religious ideas but lacked any real sense of what was true or genuine faith. One example of this was a phrase I heard quite often when you would ask someone something, and they would often respond, “The good Lord helps he who helps himself.”

“The good Lord helps he who helps himself.”

It sounds Biblical, and we might even think it is representative of Christianity. But, a quick look under the hood, and we can see that it really isn’t Biblical at all. Yes, it acknowledges that God is good. And that is a fact that the Bible affirms wholeheartedly. (Jam. 1:17) Yet, that is where anything Biblical about it ends. There is nowhere in the Bible that asserts that God only helps us if we first determine to help ourselves. In fact, the very opposite is true; we are so helpless that apart from God’s intervening work through His Son, Jesus, we would remain hopelessly lost. That is the truth and the beauty of the Gospel. That Jesus came to his own creation (you and me), and he did this even though we had rejected Him and didn’t know Him. But, He did this because he loves us and wants to bring us back into life. (Jn. 1:1-18)

The challenge for us is separating out our cultural values and Biblical values. Again, growing up In Pittsburgh, I learned to value hard work and self-determinism. That is something that resonates deeply within our Midwestern culture and for us in Ames, with ISU being an agriculture and engineering school. We value hard work. That cultural value can bleed into our theology and shape it in ways that aren’t truly Biblical. I think that is what made the phrase, “The good Lord helps he who helps himself.” so appealing and seemingly Biblical. Yes, God values work and creativity, and I believe that we bring glory to God in our work. He also values rest and created the sabbath for our good. (Gen. 2:2)

Here’s the truth for you and me. Lies that are big and grandiose are easy to spot. Distortions of the truth that are extreme immediately give us pause.  What we need to especially be watchful of are the small contortions of the truth that leave us sounding Biblical while actually not being Biblical at all.

Here’s the good news. God explicitly gave us His Word and revealed truth through Jesus and the Scriptures. Let us be a people who are eager to love others well and in a radically generous way. Let us also continue to be a people who vigorously hold to the truth. We have a perfect example to look to in Jesus and God’s Word to learn from in our quest to hold to truth and love generously.

When we do that, we won’t just sound Biblical, but we will lead Biblical lives. (1 Jn. 2:6)