Author Ava Pennington
Author Ava Pennington

I grew up hearing adults say all kinds of wise things. At least they sounded wise…and biblical. Just the sort of statements God would include in the Bible, especially in books like Proverbs.

You’re probably familiar with most of them. So how about a little quiz? How many of the following axioms are really in the Bible?

  1. This, too, shall pass.
  2. Cleanliness is next to godliness.
  3. Laughter is the best medicine.
  4. God helps those who help themselves.
  5. Spare the rod, spoil the child.
  6. God moves in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform.
  7. Pride goeth before a fall.
  8. The eye is the window to the soul.
  9. Money is the root of all evil.
  10. To thine own self be true.


This, too, shall pass.
This phrase is actually associated with a Persian fable written during the Middle Ages. The fable was popularized in the early 1800s and Abraham Lincoln referred to it in a speech he gave in 1859. The closest thing in the Bible is the oft-used phrase in the King James Version, “And it came to pass….”

Cleanliness is next to godliness.
In 1605, Francis Bacon wrote “Cleanness of body was ever deemed to proceed from a due reverence to God.” In 1791, John Wesley made the following statement in a sermon: Slovenliness is no part of religion. Cleanliness is indeed next to Godliness.” The closest Bible verse to this aphorism is found in James 4:8 (ESV) – “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”

Laughter is the best medicine.
You may have seen this feature in a monthly issue of Reader’s Digest, but you didn’t see it in the Bible. The closest verse is Proverbs 17:22 (NIV) – “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”

God helps those who help themselves.
This adage is most often attributed to Benjamin Franklin, but its essence actually appears much earlier. In 409 BC, Sophocles wrote, “Heaven ne’er helps the men who will not act.” A similar statement is found in the Qu’ran: “Verily never will God change the condition of a people until they change it themselves” (13:11).

Spare the rod, spoil the child.
This axiom is from Samuel Butler, a 17th century British poet. Is it in the Bible? Not as a direct quote. The closest Bible verse is Proverbs 13:24 (NIV) – “Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.”

God moves in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform.
While this statement is often true, you won’t find it quoted in Scripture. It appears in a hymn written by 19th century poet William Cowper: “God moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform.” The most closely associated verse might be Isaiah 55:8 (NIV) – “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord.”

Pride goeth before a fall.
This adage comes close to a Bible verse, although it’s also not a direct quote: Proverbs 16:18 (ESV) – “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”

The eye is the window to the soul.
Another phrase that sounds like it should be in the Bible. It’s not there, but a related verse is Matthew 6:22 (ESV) – “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light.”

Money is the root of all evil.
This is another maxim that is very similar to a Bible verse, but it’s missing a few words. First Timothy 6:10 (ESV) says, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils.”

To thine own self be true.
Is it in the Bible? No. It is a line from Hamlet, written by William Shakespeare: “This above all things: to thine own self be true” (3.1.81).

So how many of these ten aphorisms are quoted in the Bible?
One? Two? Five?


Now it’s your turn. What biblical-sounding axioms can you add to this list…and do you know if they really are in the Bible?

Receive Ava’s weekly blog
posts & occasional 
newsletters in your inbox!

Search by category:

You May Also Like


  1. Mary Sayler

    Thanks for this fun exercise, Ava, and the good reminder to double-check quotes, especially if we’re Christian poets, writers, pastors, or other communicators for Christ, who need to communicate accurately! To help other members of our Facebook group see this, I just highlighted your post on the Christian Poets & Writers blog – God bless.

  2. admin

    Thank you, Mary!

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

I accept the Privacy Policy

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.