“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21, NIV)
Paul wrote those amazing words to the Philippian church while in a Roman prison, contemplating his own mortality. It is a wonderful reminder that life is transitory, but heaven is forever. When our lives belong to Jesus, we can be victorious in both life and death.
I saw that written yesterday…well, sort of. I was stuck behind an 18 wheeler on I-35 and he had written in large cursive script these words: “To live is life, to die is gain.” Wait, what? I was about to give my “amen” then realized, I’m, not even sure what that means. Maybe he really hates his job. But it got me thinking. There are a lot of biblical truths we don’t get quite right. Here are my top five.
Hate the sin, love the sinner. This isn’t a bad idea, but it was a quote by Ghandi, not Jesus. That doesn’t mean it’s wrong, just not biblical. The closest thing we have to this in the Bible is: “Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. Be merciful to those who doubt;“ (Jude 21-22, NIV)
Cleanliness is next to godliness. The Bible talks a lot (especially in the first five books) about the importance of cleanliness, but this saying isn’t in there. I imagine that won’t stop parents around the world from quoting it to their kids. After all, God’s will is that you clean your room!
God helps those who help themselves. Again, love the concept, but it isn’t in the Bible. In fact, you will find this in Aesop’s fables. To my knowledge, this is the closest the Bible gets to this aphorism: “For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.”“ (2 Thessalonians 3:10, NIV). My mom quoted that verse a lot when it was time to do chores.
If God closes a door, look for a window. This one just bugs me. If God closes the door, move on! Sneaking in a window is breaking and entering.
This too shall pass. Who can argue the truth of this? Everything will have an end. But I just cringe at the fatalism in this saying. I’m reminded of the theologian who believed that God caused everything. When he fell down the steps he exclaimed “I’m glad that’s over with!” There are lots of things that happen to us that God doesn’t initiate. Some of the things we go through we bring on ourselves. Some things are initiated by the enemy. Some things happen because we live in a fallen world. The biblical counsel isn’t “hold on ‘til it’s over” but to seek God’s redemptive hand in the difficult circumstances (“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.“ Romans 8:28, NIV) and to grow from it: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.“ (James 1:2-4, NIV)
May the Lord bless you and keep you (that one IS in the Bible!)