There are many things attributed to the Bible that simply are not found in the Holy Word of God. I have heard many wonderful people offer the advice, “You know the Bible says God helps those who help themselves.” Rest assured there are many passages that teach a person is to be industrious and hard working. However, there is no passage that says God only helps those who help themselves. Those of us who are Christians know God has saved us who could do nothing to save ourselves. God often helps those who can’t help themselves.
Shakespeare, in Hamlet, provided a comment that is often attributed to Bible, “To thine own self be true.” This is really great advice but not from the Bible. Another “verse” attributed to the Bible but not in the Scripture is, “Money is the root of all evil.” I Timothy 6:10 says something close, “The love of money is the root of all kids of evil.”
I will share just one more “verse” that is not actually in the Bible. I even read this quote in a commentary recently, “God will not put more on you than you can handle.” I hear this quote at least every month. Unfortunately for those who use this quote it is not found in the Bible. I remember a man arguing me up and down one day it was in the Bible. He thought I needed to turn my ordination papers in and tear up my two degrees for saying it wasn’t. I asked him to provide for me chapter and verse. He still hasn’t shown up with the verse. I promise you God will not put more on you than He can handle. That is far more comforting.
Having looked at a few thoughts attributed to the Bible that are not actually in the Bible I now share with you one thought that is going to break your heart because it is in the Bible. Read Ecclesiastes 7:10 “Don’t say, ‘Why were the former days better than these? For it is not wise of you to ask this.'”
Can you believe that is in the Bible? We are told not to talk about the former days being better than the current days. If all men practiced this then every coffee shop in America would have to shut down. I can think of few things people, especially men, enjoy more than talking about the good ole days. I have heard stories told fondly of biscuits being cooked in pot belly wood stoves, drawing water from the well, killing hogs, babies being delivered at home and of course the lovely outhouse. We love to talk about the innocent times of our youth when this was Norman Rockwell’s America. Churches love to talk about that special revival or that time when things were best. Speaking fondly about the past just seems natural. Allow me to share with you the wisdom behind not talking about the good ole days being better than today.
1. The good ole days are not as good as we remember.
Often we forget the way things used to be. Is indoor plumbing and air conditioning really a step backward to what we did before their invention? Some diseases, such as rabies, killed hundreds in the late 19th and early 20th century. Because of vaccination of our pets only 1 or 2 people a year now die of rabies. I remember riding in an automobile with no air conditioner, an AM radio, no power steering and hot vinyl seats when I was young. The only air to cool us off came from the little wing that opened in the front seat windows. It was miserable. Do we really think that is an improvement over today’s luxurious automobiles. The first church I pastored was Arlington Baptist Church in Beaumont, MS. Those wonderful people gave me an opportunity to begin in the ministry. I stay in contact with many of those church members still alive. They often speak fondly of our time together and often describe how well the church did while I was their pastor. In the 25 years since I was their pastor they have forgotten how terrible of a pastor I really was. They don’t remember the good ole days exactly like they used to be.
2. We should be thankful for today.
The Bible is clear that God expects His children to have grateful hearts. In I Thessalonians 5:18 Paul says in all things give thanks. As we spend our time speaking of the things from days gone by we may be developing an ungrateful heart for the things of today. Some times we become experts at diagnosing what is wrong with the world. We should strive to be experts in thanking God for all His blessings to us. Rather than looking back and longing we should look around and praise.
3. We are not helping change today if all we do is talk about the past.
Paul tells us in Ephesians 5:16 to make most of the time because the days are evil. We are only given 24 hours in a day and seven days in a week. We must make the most of those hours and days. The moments we spend pining about the greatness of our past are moments that do nothing to make today better. Hilaire Belloc wrote, “While you are dreaming of the future or regretting the past, the present, which is all you have, slips from you and is gone.” The Latin phrase “Carpe diem” which means “seize the day” should be our motto.
The past is something we should learn from and borrow the best ideas from. However, Solomon gives us some great counsel about discussing how much better the former days are than these – it is not wise. Can you believe that is in the Bible?