Christian Evangelism, Healing, and Teaching Resources


Modern Phrases and Expressions in the Bible

It is fascinating how many expressions that are in use today come from the Bible or at least were used in Biblical times, and these phrases can be useful when trying to start a conversation with someone about Christ. When you hear someone use one of these phrases, all you have to do is point out that the expression is in the Bible and you automatically have an opening for turning the conversation toward the Bible and Jesus Christ.

Here is the list that I have compiled so far. Some of these examples may be reaching a little bit and some expressions may not exactly be common these days, but you get the idea.

  1. When you work hard for something, you have earned it "by the sweat of your brow"
    Gen 3:17, 19 To Adam he said, "Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, 'You must not eat of it,' "Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. ... By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return."
  2. "Am I my brother's keeper?"
    Gen 4:9 Then the LORD said to Cain, "Where is your brother Abel?" "I don't know," he replied. "Am I my brother's keeper?"
  3. A person who gets stuck with the blame is called a "scapegoat"
    Lev 16:9-10 Aaron shall bring the goat whose lot falls to the LORD and sacrifice it for a sin offering. But the goat chosen by lot as the scapegoat shall be presented alive before the LORD to be used for making atonement by sending it into the desert as a scapegoat.
  4. A string figure made by children is called "Jacob's Ladder"
    Gen 28:10-12 - "and Jacob ... dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth" (King James Version)
  5. "Pride goeth before a fall"
    Prov 16:18 Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.
  6. "Spare the rod, spoil the child"
    Prov 13:24 He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.
  7. A skinny person is said to be "nothing but skin and bones"
    Job 19:19-20 All my intimate friends detest me; those I love have turned against me. I am nothing but skin and bones
  8. "I escaped by the skin of my teeth"
    Job 19:19-20 All my intimate friends detest me; those I love have turned against me. I am nothing but skin and bones; I have escaped with only the skin of my teeth.
  9. She is the "apple of my eye"
    Psa 17:8 Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings
  10. "Like mother, like daughter"
    Eze 16:44 "'Everyone who quotes proverbs will quote this proverb about you: "Like mother, like daughter."
  11. When people try to cover up their actions they are "whitewashing" their deeds
    Eze 22:28 Her prophets whitewash these deeds for them by false visions and lying divinations. They say, 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says'--when the LORD has not spoken.
  12. "There's a time and a place for everything"
    Eccl 3:1 There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven
  13. "He saw the handwriting on the wall"
    Dan 5:5-6 Suddenly the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall, near the lampstand in the royal palace. The king watched the hand as it wrote. His face turned pale and he was so frightened that his knees knocked together and his legs gave way.
  14. "Man does not live on bread alone"
    Mt 4:3-4 The tempter came to him and said, "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread." Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'"
  15. Doing more than is required is called "going the extra mile"
    Mt 5:41 If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.
  16. When there is poor communication in an organization, we say that "their left hand doesn't know what their right hand is doing"
    Mt 6:3-4 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
  17. Be careful, he's a "wolf in sheep's clothing"
    Mt 7:15 "Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.
  18. United we stand, "divided we fall"
    Mt 12:25 Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, "Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand.
  19. "Either you're with us or you're against us"
    Mt 12:30 "He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters.
  20. "I'll have his head on a platter"
    Mt 14:6-8 On Herod's birthday the daughter of Herodias danced for them and pleased Herod so much that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she asked. Prompted by her mother, she said, "Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist."
  21. "It's like the blind leading the blind"
    Mt 15:14 Leave them; they are blind guides. If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit."
  22. "Do as I say, not as I do"
    Mt 23:2-3 "The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.
  23. "He doesn't practice what he preaches"
    Mt 23:2-3 "The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.
  24. "He who lives by the sword dies by the sword"
    Mt 26:52 "Put your sword back in its place," Jesus said to him, "for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.
  25. "I wash my hands of it"
    Mt 27:24 When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. "I am innocent of this man's blood," he said. "It is your responsibility!"
  26. "Money is the root of all evil"
    1Tm 6:10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
  27. Having a long-term resentment is sometimes called "nursing a grudge"
    Mk 6:18-19 For John had been saying to Herod, "It is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife." So Herodias nursed a grudge against John and wanted to kill him. But she was not able to,
  28. "Two turtledoves" and a partridge in a pear tree
    Lk 2:24 And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons. (King James Version)
  29. "Physician, heal thyself!"
    Lk 4:23 Jesus said to them, "Surely you will quote this proverb to me: 'Physician, heal yourself! Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.'"
  30. "Eat, drink and be merry"
    Lk 12:19 And I'll say to myself, "You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry."'
  31. In the movies (usually war movies) you sometimes hear someone say, "Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!"
    Isa 22:13 But see, there is joy and revelry, slaughtering of cattle and killing of sheep, eating of meat and drinking of wine! "Let us eat and drink," you say, "for tomorrow we die!"
  32. "The truth shall set you free"
    Jn 8:31-32 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."
  33. Marriage counselors often advise: "don't go to bed angry"
    Ep 4:26-27 "In your anger do not sin" : Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.
  34. "Oh, that's just an old wives' tale"
    1Tm 4:7 Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives' tales; rather, train yourself to be godly.
  35. "A little bird told me"
    Eccl 10:20 Do not revile the king even in your thoughts, or curse the rich in your bedroom, because a bird of the air may carry your words, and a bird on the wing may report what you say.
  36. The finest or noblest people are said to be "the salt of the earth"
    Mt 5:13 "You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.
  37. "Red sky at night, sailor's delight; red sky in the morning, sailor's warning"
    Mt 16:1-3 The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and tested him by asking him to show them a sign from heaven. He replied, "When evening comes, you say, 'It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,' and in the morning, 'Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.' You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.
  38. I just can't get past this "stumbling block"
    Mt 16:23 Jesus turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men."
  39. My relatives are "scattered to the four winds"
    Jer 49:36 I will bring against Elam the four winds from the four quarters of the heavens; I will scatter them to the four winds, and there will not be a nation where Elam's exiles do not go.
  40. "Out of the mouths of babes"
    Mt 21:16 "Do you hear what these children are saying?" they asked him. "Yes," replied Jesus, "have you never read, "'From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise'?"
  41. An annoyance is sometimes called "a thorn in my side"
    2Co 12:7 To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.
  42. "A leopard can't change its spots"
    Jer 13:23 Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots? Neither can you do good who are accustomed to doing evil.
  43. When you die, no matter how much money you have, "you can't take it with you"
    1Tim 6:7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.
  44. When a child throws a fit, his parents might tell him to "quit raising Cain"
    1Jn 3:12 Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother's were righteous.
  45. "I'll pin him to the wall"
    1Sam 18:10-11 ...Saul had a spear in his hand and he hurled it, saying to himself, "I'll pin David to the wall." But David eluded him twice.
  46. "How the mighty have fallen!"
    2Sam 1:19 "Your glory, O Israel, lies slain on your heights. How the mighty have fallen!
  47. He made a "laughingstock" out of me
    Exo 32:25 Moses saw that the people were running wild and that Aaron had let them get out of control and so become a laughingstock to their enemies.
  48. Staying calm in a crisis is called "keeping your head"
    2Tim 4:5 But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.
  49. I heard it "straight from the horse's mouth"
    Num 22:28 Then the LORD opened the donkey's mouth, and she said to Balaam, "What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times?"
  50. "It is better to give than to receive"
    Acts 20:35 In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'"
  51. Stop being such a "doubting Thomas"
    John 20:27: "Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.""
  Modification History  

  • 04/02/2006 - Added "doubting Thomas."
  • 02/11/1997 - Modified some of the wording.