In American culture, phrases from the Bible are often said in casual conversation, such as, “An eye for an eye,” “Do unto others what you would have them do to you,” or “My cross to bear.” There are also many common phrases that sound Biblical and spiritual, but couldn’t be further from Biblical truth.
Did you know we have a sermon series all about things Jesus never said? You can see all those sermons right here.
Here are four things Jesus never said.
1. “God will never give you more than you can handle.”
In fact, Jesus said the exact opposite. In John 16, Jesus tells His disciples the world would hate them, persecute them, and even kill them for proclaiming the Gospel. He then tells them He is going back to Heaven to be with the Father, and it’s better that He leaves so that the Holy Spirit can come live inside of their hearts. He goes on to say in John 16:33, “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”
So disciples of Jesus will have many trials and sorrows, but we can have peace about that because of the Holy Spirit? That’s a far cry from “God will never give you more than you can handle!”
Where did the phrase come from, anyway? It is almost certainly based on Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 10:12-13, which says, “If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fail. The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.”
The context here is key: the believers in Corinth were influenced by other religions in their culture, and they were giving into temptations as if they had no power to withstand them. Paul reminded them that as followers of Jesus, they had the Holy Spirit of God living within them, and He’s the same Spirit that brought Jesus back to life. The One that lived within them was greater than the one tempting them.
What Paul is NOT saying here is that believers would have an easy life, with nothing ever going wrong. Instead, Paul writes about the temptation to sin. Temptation is not from God, but He does give us the power to overcome it through the Holy Spirit.
The real question becomes: on whose power will you rely when trials, sorrow, and temptations inevitably visit you in this life? Your own? Or will you choose Jesus and His Holy Spirit? This first statement should read, “The world WILL give you more than you can handle, but Jesus has overcome the world.”
2. “Follow your heart.”
We hear that message everywhere–in TV, music, books, movies, and self help resources. From the time we’re young, we’re conditioned to embrace this “Disney theology,” this “Hallmark worldview” that says, “follow your heart.”
It sounds so good, so inspiring and affirming. It even sounds a bit spiritual, maybe, even biblical. The problem is, you won’t find anything remotely close to that God’s Word. Jesus never tells us to follow our heart–and for good reason! Jeremiah 17:9 says that the heart is the most deceitful of all things and desperately wicked.
Does that sound like something that has all the answers or will lead us to our destiny?
The Bible says quite the opposite. It tells us that your heart will fool you, fail you, let you down and lead you astray. We can’t trust anything our heart tells us or where it leads us. That’s a serious heart problem, and the Bible says that the heart is without cure. God doesn’t want to just heal your heart and try to fix what’s already there. He wants to do a complete heart transplant, replacing yours with his. As followers of Christ, the only heart we should be following is God’s.
Psalm 37:4 says “Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Notice it doesn’t say that God will give you whatever your heart desires. Instead, when you surrender control of your life to the One who created it—and He becomes your greatest passion—then God will literally give you new desires—and then He’ll fulfill those desires—the ones He gives you—as you take delight in Him.
The bottom line is this: when you have God’s heart, He’ll give you the desires of your heart. That doesn’t mean God hasn’t already put certain desires in you or created you with certain gifts or inclinations. But only when those things are surrendered to Him and devoted to His purposes will you become everything God created you to be.
So get into God Word and listen to Him in prayer, and put into practice whatever He shows you. That’s how you develop God’s heart, discern His voice, and do what He created you to do. And if you do that—you’ll have a heart you can follow.
3. “You deserve to be happy.”
If this statement is true, then whatever makes us happy must be right and whatever makes us unhappy must be wrong. Discomfort, delays, trials, inconveniences and obstacles can’t be God’s will. If something happens to us that we don’t like, then it can’t be part of His plan.
If we think this way, then before we know it, we’ve begun to worship the false gods of comfort, pleasure, money and things. Even people who call themselves Christians often pursue the “god” that will make them happy, bowing down to the altar of happiness, wrongly believing that above all, God wants them happy.
If happiness is the goal, then God exists to serve us. The reality is that God doesn’t exist to serve us and do what we want Him to do, but that we are here to serve Him.
We may not say it, but many of us believe God is there to make us happy, as long as we do the right things. All we have to do is go to church, pray, read the Bible, and try our best to be good. God will give us a raise, heal a family member, save a spouse, make a marriage problem-free, and allow a favorite team to win based on our good deeds.
This is the version of Christianity that a lot of people in America have subscribed to, and it’s totally selfish, self-centered and has an entitlement mentality. Happiness is not the highest priority to God! It’s not that God doesn’t want us to be happy. He just desires so much more that we be holy. The two are not mutually exclusive and we should desire both, but God would rather we pursue holiness than happiness.
Fortunately, the Bible says in Psalm 37:4-5, “Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him and He will do this.”
When we pursue God and His ways first, we may not end up with happiness by the world’s standards, but we most certainly will end up with joy, which is a fruit of God’s Spirit.
4. “You get what you deserve.”
Of all the statements on this list, “you get what you deserve” is likely the least Biblical! We have a slew of other cultural idioms that reflect this same idea:
“What goes around comes around.”
“Your past is going to come back to haunt you.”
“You made your bed, now you have to sleep in it.”
This transactional view of life says there are consequences for actions, there is retribution for wrongs, and we get what we pay for. The concept of karma comes to mind.
Jesus never said, “You get what you deserve.” In fact, He taught several times in the New Testament the exact opposite! In Luke 19:1-10, Jesus encounters Zaccheus, a chief tax collector and a very rich man. Jesus has dinner at Zaccheus’ house, which offended the Pharisees and chief priests because Zaccheus was a “sinner.” Jesus then declares, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”
Notice He did not say, “For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who deserve it by their good works!”
Again, in John 8:1-11, Jesus redeems someone who didn’t deserve it. The Pharisees brought a woman before Him who had been caught in adultery, demanding that Jesus condemn her and allow them to stone her, as was prescribed by the Law. Jesus instead says, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”
As they quietly drop their stones and leave the woman alone, Jesus says to her, “Did no one condemn you? I do not condemn you either. Go. From now on, sin no more.”
Notice that Jesus didn’t say, “Go now and pay your fine to the courts and make me a meal – then you will deserve what I just did for you.”
These are just a couple of stories illustrating God’s redemptive and merciful attitude toward us. We deserve death for our sins, and God, who is ultimately just, must punish us. But instead of satisfying His justice by punishing us, He instead offered Jesus as a sacrifice for our sins, meaning we can walk free if we accept Him by faith. We no longer get what we deserve, and instead reap an eternal life we could never sow for ourselves.