"And I'm a grandfather now. I want to be able to tell my grandson, when I'm in my later years, that I didn't turn away from the evidence that showed that we were doing some serious harm. In my faith tradition, it is written in the book of Matthew, 'Where your heart is, there's your treasure also.' And I believe that we ought to recognize the value to our children and grandchildren of taking steps that preserve the environment in a way that's good for them."The fact of the matter is that Mr. Gore quoted the verse backwards. The passage from Matthew 6:21 actually says: “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” In the context of the passage, Jesus points out that we tend to be concerned about our treasure; Jesus was saying we should be concerned about our eternal treasure in heaven rather than the temporary treasures of earth. In Mr. Gore’s misquote, he gave the impression that Jesus was telling us we should invest our treasure in the things our hearts desire.
But Mr. Gore is not alone in misquoting the Bible. I’ve noticed there are many misunderstood verses that have made their way into common vernacular. In this post we’ll talk about some of the most common ones.
“Money is the root of all evil.”
The passage from 1 Timothy 6:10 actually says, “For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” You see, it’s not money that is the problem; it’s the greed of people who covet money.
“Judge not, that ye be not judged.”
OK, so this verse from Matthew 7:1 may not typically be “misquoted.” Rather, this verse tends to be quoted out of context to mean we should never judge anyone. The Bible doesn’t tell us we shouldn’t judge anyone (or anything). Indeed, 1 Corinthians 2:15 says the exact opposite: “But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.” These verses don’t contradict each other – the complement each other. Matthew 7 is talking about hypocrites who are guilty of worse things than what they condemn others for. 1 Corinthians points out that a spiritual judge is one who correctly judges yet is himself innocent.
In addition to misquotes, there are also some common paraphrases that we use:
"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."
The “verse”, commonly called the Golden Rule, is a paraphrase of Matthew 7:12, “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.” In the case, the meaning between the misquote and the correct verse is very close but the commonly quoted words are still incorrect. Also, the Bible itself doesn’t identify this text as “The Golden Rule.”
[Editor's note - after posting this, a very kind reader pointed out to me that Luke 6:31 in the NIV translation reads: "Do to others as you would have them do to you," which is extremely close to the popular paraphrase]
“Spare the rod and spoil the child.”
This must be a reference to Proverbs 13:24, “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.” I guess it’s not a terrible paraphrase but it doesn’t convey exactly the same meaning. In the paraphrase, it almost sounds like a command to beat your children lest they spoil. The actual quote from the Bible explains that a loving parent doesn’t withhold discipline from his child when it’s appropriate.
“The lion shall lay down with the lamb.”
I don’t know if I should call this a misquote or something else. These words don’t appear in the Bible. There are 2 passages that are close:
“The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.” Isaiah 11:6.
“The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock: and dust shall be the serpent's meat. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the LORD.” Isaiah 65:25.
How the misquote gained such popularity is a mystery. The actually verses seem to convey a similar message but they’re not really even close to the misquoted line.
"Pride goeth before a fall."
Younger people might not hear this as much but this is an extremely well known proverb among my generation. For having been so often quoted, I'm surprised that so few people know it's a misquote. Proverbs 16:18 actually reads, "Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall".
“The Lord helps those that help themselves.”
“The Lord works in mysterious ways.”
These last two “verses” are not found in the Bible. They’re not even close. The first one can only be described as bad doctrine. I believe the latter one is a line from an old hymn written William Cowper (1731-1800):
God moves in a mysterious waySo if you’re in a conversation and someone quotes a favorite verse to you, I suggest you not take his word for it. Go to the Bible and see for yourself. The Truth might surprise you!
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.
Further reading: Popular Misconceptions about the Nativity