“Even if our hearts condemn us, God is greater than our hearts and knows all things.” 1 John 3:20 (CEB)
A friend texted a copy of a Facebook post that the original author attributed to 1 John 3:20. The quote said the following: “God helps those who know they are helpless.” As you can see from the actual verse I included at the top of the page, this is not what the verse says. It is not what the verse means. In fact, I would go so far to say that you might not want to get your theology from Facebook which is the exact advice I gave to the person who texted the quote to me.
But, I thought I would talk about what the verse IS saying. When you read the entire passage, which I do recommend in order to get the bigger picture of what the author is writing, you see it is about our internal self-criticism that is so toxic to our overall well-being. I like how Eugene Peterson put it in the Message translation: “My Dear children, let’s not just talk about love; let’s practice real love. This is the only way we’ll know we’re living truly, living in God’s reality. It’s also the way to shut down debilitating self-criticism, even when there is something to it. For God is greater than our worried hearts and knows more about us that we do ourselves.” (I used more than verse 20)
So, I don’t know about any of you but I saw nothing there about knowing we are helpless. Nothing there about God only helping those who know they are helpless. But what is there is a huge teaching we would do well to remember. When we begin those negative self-talk loops about how we are not good enough, or how no one could love us, or how we are just an imposter, or how…well you get the picture and I am sure you could add many more sentences that are negative and keep us struggling. Each one something we do to ourselves. So, this verse teaches that practicing love is more than what we do for others it is also what we do for ourselves. It is loving who God created us to be and living into that truth. It is turning to God when we find ourselves in those self-critical places. When we are filled with fear or other negative emotions that threaten to overwhelm us.
Here is what I would love everyone to know. (And I mean EVERYONE because God loves EVERYONE.) God loves you. God is with you. God is there in all things. God only wants what is best for you. When you find yourself worried, lonely, fear-filled, self-critical or anything else…you can turn to God and know that you are turning to the One who created you in God’s own image. God, who knows you better than you know yourself. God, who wants you to thrive. You can turn to God, because God fiercely loves us all.
So here’s the thing: I hope that when you are seeing scripture quoted on Facebook, you look up the verse and see for yourself what it actually says. You can look them up pretty quickly on Biblegateway.com. It is well worth your time. It will also help stop the spread of inaccurate quotes people attribute to scripture. People tend to attribute a lot of sayings to the Bible that aren’t in scripture. Knowing that allows you to be a little more discerning.
One last thing: When I was growing up, my Dad’s parents would get the National Enquirer and believe what was written because it was written and published it must be true. Facebook has become the National Enquirer of our modern age as it pertains to any news or other information. Facebook is a way we can stay in contact with one another. It is a way we can “see” through pictures how our loved ones and friends are doing who live far from us. Facebook is not a news source. It is not a substitute for a Bible study or going to church. It is not a doctor. It is entertainment. And that is all I have to say about that.
May your day be wonderful and may the God of all creation, who created you, bless you and keep you.