Biblical Idioms Through the Eyes of an English Teacher
As an English teacher, I encounter idioms constantly. As a student of languages, I find them constantly fascinating. As a Christian who seeks wisdom from scripture, I found biblical idioms reflected in God’s Word.
An idiom is a phrase that has a different meaning than the one suggested by the words that make up the phrase. There is no logical reason that we say “It’s raining cats and dogs” or tell children “Don’t cry over spilt milk,” but we do. What’s more, we understand each other. Finding the correct meaning in these phrases is “a piece of cake.”
Idioms draw their imagery from a seemingly endless pool of sources. Some idioms are animal-based (from the horse’s mouth, the cat’s out of the bag). Some are food-based (a hot potato, best thing since sliced bread). And some idioms are weather-based (once in a blue moon, he stole my thunder).
As I was doing research for this blog post, I noticed that the following biblical idioms reflect lessons I have read in scripture:
Actions speak louder than words – In Matthew 21:28-32, we see Jesus teaching His disciples that those who follow God’s commands in action will enter the kingdom of heaven before those who follow the commandments in word only. God says, “My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18).
Cross that bridge when you come to it – In Luke 12:22-34 Jesus tells His disciples to see how God cares for the birds, and admonishes His disciples not to worry about tomorrow. God tells us, “Take therefore no thought for tomorrow: for tomorrow shall take thought for the things of itself” (Matthew 6:34).
Every cloud has a silver lining – In Romans 8:28 it says, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” Even when the circumstances are most dire, God always continues to work for our good.
A blessing in disguise – We never know when God has chosen us to be His hands and feet. In Matthew 25:35-36 Jesus says, “For I was hungry, and you gave me food; I was thirsty, and you gave me drink; I was a stranger, and ye took me in.” Jesus asks us to be faithful in the work we do, because all service is truly service to Him.
Don’t judge a book by its cover – In 1 Samuel 16:7 Samuel is looking for the next King of Israel, and God tells him, “Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord sees not as man sees; for man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” God knows each of us fully, and our value comes not from what is visible to others, but from what is visible to God.
“The earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof; the world and they that dwell therein” (Psalm 24:1). God can use something as simple as biblical idioms to spread His truth to the world.