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10 Everyday Expressions That Come From the Bible

Lori Colbo loves to write about her Christian faith and the Bible to encourage and inspire others.


There are common sayings we use in America and I'm sure other English speaking nations that come from Shakespeare or from the Bible. When I first began studying the Bible forty years ago I was astonished by how many verses or phrases in the Bible we use every day, and have been for hundreds of years. This is a fun study. See if you recognize any of these.

"Man Shall Not Live By Bread Alone"

Deuteronomy 8:3 "So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord."

Matthew 4:4 "But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God."

In Deuteronomy, Moses told the stubborn, whiny Israelites what God's plan had been for them, why He did certain things. They were hungry and thirsty a lot and complained. So for food, he sent Manna every morning so that they could depend on Him for their sustenance. He gave them commandments to live by (the words that proceed from His mouth).

In Matthew 4, the Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted from food and water for forty days and prayed. Then the devil came with three temptations. The first one he aimed at Jesus' greatest weakness - hunger.

"And when the tempter came to him, he said, If You are the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread."

Jesus then quoted Deuteronomy 8:3. It is interesting to note that every time Satan tempted Jesus in that wilderness experience, Jesus quoted the Word of God.

What this expression means today is similar. Physical needs are not sufficient for a healthy life. We must also have a spiritual life, a relationship with God.


"Fight the Good Fight"

1 Timothy 6:12 "Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses."

Timothy was the Apostle Paul's young protégé. Paul loved him as a son, mentored him to be a pastor. The books of 1 and 2 Timothy are Paul's letter to him, giving him advice on how to be a steadfast man of God, to stay focused on what God has for him in the present and the future. He told Timothy to fight the good fight of faith. Did you know faith is a fight? With all that comes our way in life - trials, tragedy, distractions, sin - it's a struggle to keep your faith. He also meant fight to defend the faith. Paul was reminding him to remember eternity, what is waiting for him; to keep it uppermost in his mind.

2 Timothy was Paul's last known letter before he was martyred. Paul used the term in regard to his own life. In chapter four, verses seven and eight he said to young Timothy:

"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.

Notice he is talking about how he has fought to keep his faith and succeeded. He again talks about eternity that is waiting for him. He was encouraging Timothy to do likewise. Stick to it, don't give up, don't let people keep you from doing God's will for your life, live and serve knowing the prize ahead, eternity is waiting. Isn't that just so beautiful?


"Go the Extra Mile"

Matthew 5:41 "And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two."

Jesus was on a hillside in this passage, issuing the greatest sermon ever told: the sermon on the mount. What was he talking about here? Well, this verse is preceded by: "You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.' but I tell you not to resist an evil person. Whoever strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other to him also (vs 38-39). Jesus was not telling them to let people abuse them, but simply not to retaliate. Then he tells them if someone wants to sue them for their tunic, give them your cloak too (vs 40). Now we're at the extra mile. What does it mean? Back in that time, the Romans ruled over Israel. The law said a Roman soldier could make a Jew carry his gear or cloak for one mile. Jesus was saying, go out of your way and make it two miles. Why? Jesus was all about being good to your enemy. If you go the extra mile, perhaps you will win the respect of the one who mistreats you. It shows that you are generous in spirit and honor God.


"Give Up the Ghost"

John 19:30 "When Jesus had therefore received the vinegar, He said 'It is finished:' and He bowed His head and gave up the ghost."

According to Strong's Concordance, the Greek word for ghost means "a current of air that is breath (blast) or a breeze; by analogy or figuratively a spirit that is (human) the rational soul (by implication) vital principle mental disposition, etc. or (superhuman) an angel daemon or (divine) God Christ´ s spirit the Holy Spirit.

Notice it says Jesus "gave up" the ghost. Prior to taking that last breath, He said, "And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost" (Luke 23:46). As an act of will, in accordance with the Father's will, Jesus committed His spirit to His Father.

Other versions of the Bible say "He breathed His last." "Give up the ghost" means to die.


"The Powers That Be"

Romans 13:1 "Let every soul subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: The powers that be are ordained by God." (KJV)

The New King James version makes it a little more clear: "Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God."

1 Peter 2:13-17 elaborates: "Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor."

The exception is if you are asked to do something that goes against God's law and will; this includes spreading the gospel. In Acts 5, Peter and some other apostles were told not to preach the gospel. When they were found preaching again, the authorities reminded them of what they were forbidden to do. Their answer was, "We must obey God rather than men" (vs. 29).


"Fall By the Wayside"

Luke 8:5 “A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell by the wayside; and it was trampled down, and the birds of the air devoured it."

This passage is a parable Jesus told called "the parable of the sower." In the parable, different examples are given of how the seed was sown and the results. The seed represents the Word of God, and the sower is the Christian. In the first example, we see that as the sower was sowing (planter was planting seeds) some fell by the wayside. In other words, some got loose and went on the road or somewhere it wasn't intended, where feet could step on it, birds could get to it.

According to Free Dictionary, this is an idiom which means "to fail or fall behind." "To be discarded, ignored, rejected, or set aside in favor of other considerations or more urgent matters."


"Nothing New Under the Sun"

Ecclesiastes 1:9

That which has been is what will be,
That which is done is what will be done,
And there is nothing new under the sun.

King Solomon is the one who authored this verse. All throughout the book of Ecclesiastes he uses this phrase. Since this is his first use of it, I have chosen this verse. King Solomon had it all: Fame and great fortune and all that comes with that, wisest of all Kings (though he made poor choices in his own life), hundreds of wives and concubines, excellent business endeavors, and a great innovator. In this book, he is in a struggle to find meaning in life.

When Solomon said these words he meant that through the ages, nothing has changed on earth. The sun still rises and sets, people act the same way they always have, history repeats itself. He was speaking of earthly things. Life is mundane, there is nothing new to look forward to. He is struggling with "What is the meaning of life?" "Is that all there is?" "Does all the work we do, day in and day out really accomplish anything?" "It will all be gone someday." "Is all the fun we have really fulfilling?" "Is all that we are, believe, do, and say of any great value in the end?" "Nothing seems to change." He learns eventually, that God has a plan for our lives, and people, places, and things do matter because God uses them in a million ways for our good and His glory. One day, the earth will be renewed and for those who believe, there will be wonders to behold for all eternity.

In today's world, "nothing new under the sun" has a similar meaning. Life is mundane, it never seems to change for the best, nothing to look forward too. Ho-hum.

We must add to this the beautiful words of Jeremiah 29:11: For I know the plans I have for you," says the Lord, "Plans to prosper you and not to harm you; to give you a future and a hope."


"The Writing on the Wall"

Daniel 5:5 "In the same hour the fingers of a man’s hand appeared and wrote opposite the lampstand on the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace; and the king saw the part of the hand that wrote."

This snippet needs context, and we find it in the entire story.

Chaldean king, Belshazzar, was throwing a grand party with one thousand attendees. It was drunken debauchery. While he was tasting the wine, he asked his servants to bring the sacred gold and silver vessels that his father, King Nebuchadnezzar, had stolen from the Jerusalem temple. As you see in the opening verse, a hand appeared and wrote on the wall. It said "Mene Mene Tekel Upharsin." He freaked out of course and Daniel was summoned to interpret the words. It turned out to be an omen specifically for the king.

"God has numbered your kingdom, and finished it; You have been weighed in the balances, and found wanting; Your kingdom has been divided, and given to the Medes and Persians" (vs 26-28).

His sin, pride, and disrespect for God's holy things sealed his fate. That very night he died and his kingdom was passed onto Darius the Mede.

What does "the writing on the wall" mean in our day? It means it is apparent that something is going to go wrong or not work out. There are obvious signs what you are hoping for will not go well. The prediction of coming calamity based on the signs presented.


"Fall From Grace"

Galatians 5:4 "You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace."

"Fall from grace" is taken from the above Scripture. Paul was speaking to the church of Galatia. They had allowed false teachers into their midst who taught them that they must be circumcised and follow the law to be approved by God. Paul reminded them firmly that that was no longer applicable. Being right with God was about God's grace through their faith in him, not following laws and traditions. They fell from the teaching and reality of grace, which is unearned favor of God. Jesus' death on the cross to save us was God's grace. It was not something we earned by being good enough or doing good things.

Today, "fall from grace" means someone has done something that has caused them to lose or tarnish their reputation, status, prestige, or the respect of others.


"The Root of the Matter"

Job 19:28-29 "If you should say, ‘How shall we persecute him?’—Since the root of the matter is found in me, be afraid of the sword for yourselves; For wrath brings the punishment of the sword, that you may know there is a judgment.”

This passage is a little difficult to discern. However, the New Living Translation makes this passage more understandable:

“How dare you go on persecuting me, saying, ‘It’s his own fault’? You should fear punishment yourselves, for your attitude deserves punishment. Then you will know that there is indeed a judgment.”

Job, in one day, experienced cataclysmic catastrophe. He lost all that he possessed, his livelihood, his health, and the support and respect of his wife. Soon no one would come near him. He was rejected and feared by all. His three friends at first sat with him in his agony and sympathized with him. But soon they were accusing him of doing something sinful to cause all of these things to happen. This was a common view in the times. They pummeled Job viciously with their put-downs, accusations, and their moral high ground attitudes. At this point in chapter 19 Job is fighting back and gives a threatening warning that they will be punished. By telling him it is his fault, they are saying the root of it is in his character and behavior.

They were wrong about Job and he was right about them. God was not pleased with what they said. In the first and second chapters, we see that it was Satan, permitted by God, that caused Job's woes.

A root is the depths, the heart of a plant or tree. The roots are in the ground, sinking deep into the soil where it receives water and nutrients causing the plant to grow. With no roots, it will not survive.

We say the root of the matter, or heart of the matter to mean the core reason for something happening.


© 2020 Lori Colbo

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