By Tyson Thorne

February 7, 2019

NancyPelosi02 Large

The first time someone tried quoting the Bible to me with a phrase found nowhere in Scripture was high school. In order to curb my evangelistic enthusiasm the assistant principal told me to "Do as the Bible says and 'when in Rome, do as the Romans do'". When I pointed out that wasn't in the Bible, she doubled down saying, "Oh it is, I think you need to read your Bible more." Yeah. The actual origin of the phrase is credited to Saint Ambrose, the bishop of Rome in 387 B.C. So no, it is not in the Bible.

I admit to ridiculing her at the time telling the story to friends and family, not because she made a simple mistake but because she thought she caught me in a "gotcha moment". Looking back, I probably should have been a little more kind. Biblical literacy is at an all-time low and she's not the only one to make a mistake like that. Lot's of people, for example, think the phrase "cleanliness is next to godliness" is also from the Holy Book. In truth, it comes from a well know teaching (well-known if you are old and Jewish) by Phineas ben Yair, a Jewish scholar whose writing is included in the Talmud and reads as follows: “The doctrines of religion are resolved into carefulness; carefulness into vigorousness; vigorousness into abstemiousness into cleanliness; cleanliness into godliness.” In this case, "cleanliness" is literally next to "godliness" in the text. I can hear the sad trombone sound now, but it's a true story. This is where the famous adage comes from.

So I've learned to be forgiving of those famous old phrases being mistaken for Scripture. I mean I still correct people, but I go much lighter on the amount of ridicule I assail them with. What does surprise me, however, is when someone ascribes to the Bible something that isn't well known, or known at all, to anyone else. I know I'm going to be accused of partisanship, but I'd say the same thing if it came from a Republican, honest. When Nancy Pelosi was asked what her favorite Bible verse was, she couldn't provide chapter and verse. “I can’t find it in the Bible," she said, "but I quote it all the time and I keep reading and reading the Bible. I know it’s there someplace. It’s supposed to be in Isaiah."

Okay, a lot of lay people can quote the Bible and not necessarily the reference. I've been there myself, having to look up a verse to prove my point. Not a big deal. What made this instance worthy of a column is the "verse" she quoted: “To minister to the needs of God’s creation is an act of worship. To ignore those needs is to dishonor the God who made us.” Does this sound familiar to you? No? Me either. In fact, I don't think the phrase expresses a Biblical teaching, either. I'd have to ask some questions of Ms. Pelosi to get more information. In an attempt to redeem her, however, I did try to find something close to this maxim in the Bible. There are two possible passages I found (kudos go out to Logos Bible software), but they don't exactly teach what her "verse" teaches.

The first of those verses is Matthew 25.40b: "...just as you did it for one of the least of these brothers or sisters of mine, you did it for me.’ If "God's creation" is intended to mean "people" and not the planet then, maybe, this verse fits the bill. It is certainly a well known passage of the Bible, which makes this association a strong possibility.

The other possibility is Proverbs 14.31: "The one who oppresses the poor has insulted his Creator, but whoever honors him shows favor to the needy." I doubt I could find one person in any church across America who has memorized this verse, much less made it their life verse. That said, it is a great teaching. We once more have to change "God's creation" to mean "the poor", but it otherwise fits the sentiment.

So Nancy's favorite Bible verse isn't found anywhere in the Bible, not really. But what may be more telling is what she thought was in the Bible. A while back I did an article about Pelosi's statement that a border wall is "an immorality". At the time I wondered what her moral standard was, because the Bible teaches the exact opposite when it comes to nations protecting their borders. This might explain her statement. I could see how someone holding to her verse could construe that a border wall does not minister to the needs of creation and thwarts "the poor" from coming into America where their lives would be improved. So there may be some logic in what she does based on her beliefs, it just so happens those beliefs are not biblical.

If you have any examples of things people thought were in the Bible that aren't, please share it on our Facebook group or email me. I'd love to hear the story.

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