Christianity is a subculture, and with subculture comes shared phrases, jargon, and lingo.

I assume if you’ve found your way to this blog, you’ve had some experience with Christianese. I’ve been homeschooled by Christians, colleged by Christians, and employed by Christians. I’ve had a pretty good dose of the lingo.

I checked out a few of them to see if they (or the concepts behind them) show up in the Bible. Here’s what I found.

1. “I’m so humbled . . .”

This one is usually followed by some kind of awesome experience. It’s thrown around all the time. Search Twitter for #humbled, and you’ll see all sorts of weird, positive stuff that “humbles” people—stuff like having a hot wife, non-stop awesome days, speaking opportunities, and high follower counts.

But guess what? When Samson slaughtered 1,000 Philistines with a donkey’s jawbone, he didn’t say, “I’m so humbled to be the most powerful warrior in the known universe.” After Peter preached the gospel at Pentecost, he didn’t say, “So humbled to see 3,000 souls come to the Lord today—on my first try!”

Humility is the inverse of arrogance.This isn’t how the Bible talks about humility at all.

The root work for “humble” in the New Testament is ταπεινος (tapeinos), which means “lowly,” “modest,” or even “depressed” (2 Co 7:6). Humility is the inverse of arrogance.

When good things happen to you, do they bring you down? Probably not.

The Bible gives us two paths to humility:

  • Humble ourselves now (Jam 4:10; 1 Pe 3:5–6).
  • Get humbled later (Mt 23:12; Lk 14:11).

Obviously, it’s in our best interest to humble ourselves now, because being humbled isn’t a fun experience.

And here’s another thing: humility often has more to do with how we think of others than how we think of ourselves. Jesus sets the ultimate example of this humility:

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Php 2:3–8)

So why talk about really awesome things as though they’re humbling? Maybe it’s an indirect way of noticing the greatness and goodness of God in our favorable circumstances. Maybe we try to avoid sounding arrogant—in which case, do we really need to share that information?

But you won’t find someone in the Bible having a terrific experience and then telling everyone how humbled they are by it.

Takeaway: when something makes you see yourself as less important, you’ve been humbled. Using “humbled” as a synonym for “thankful” or “excited” doesn’t make much biblical sense.

2. “Accountability partners”

This sort of Christian buddy system is simple: team up with someone else and hold each other accountable. Bust each other’s chops and encourage one another to be more like Jesus. There are a few slices of Scripture that support this idea of peer-to-peer accountability:

  • “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy” (Pr 27:6).
  • “Oil and perfume make the heart glad so a man’s counsel is sweet to his friend” (Pr 27:9).
  • “Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (Pr 27:17).
  • Paul tells the believers at Thessalonica to encourage one another and build each other up (1 Th 5:11).

However, you won’t find a passage in the Bible that requires Christians to team up with an “accountability partner.” There’s no inspired, prescribed program for what that looks like in Scriptures.
Takeaway: it’s in your best interest to find friends who challenge you, but there’s no biblical “accountability  partner” model or mandate.

3. “Speaking truth into your/my life”

I’m not entirely sure what this means. I’ve heard it in reference to honesty, wisdom, and even prophecy. Most of my friends and family use this saying when they’re describing a relationship with someone in authority over them (a pastor or mentor) or a close friend.  It seems like a nice thought, and we have examples of Christians giving good advice to other Christians:

  • Paul charged Philemon to forgive his runaway slave and accept him back as a brother.
  • Agabus, the prophet, warned Paul that the Jews would capture him in Jerusalem (Ac 21:10–11).
  • John encouraged Gaius to continue walking in truth and showing hospitality to other Christians, even though one of Gaius’ local church leaders opposed it (3 John).

But the “speak truth into life” line doesn’t show up in the Bible. Of course, the Bible has several commands to speak the truth (Ex 20:16; Zech 8:16; Eph 4:15, 25; Col 3:9).

Takeaway: tell the truth (and make sure it’s the truth) before applying it to someone else’s life.

 4. “Quiet time”

This is that time Christians are supposed to spend with God. Quiet times are for prayer, reading the Bible, memorizing Scripture, and other quality-time-with-God activities. It seems most people do this in the mornings, alone. Like accountability partnerships, this discipline has some good Scriptural support:

  • David wants to hear God’s lovingkindness in the mornings, and learn the ways in which he should walk (Ps 143:8).
  • Jesus recommends that his disciples pray in solitude, instead of in  public (Mt 6:6).

So although you won’t find the phrase “quiet time” in the Bible, there’s good reason to engage in this.

Takeaway: spend time alone in prayer and study of the Word—the more, the better.

So what?

Not all of these phrases are bad. In fact, I’m pretty comfortable with using a few of them. We just need to remember a few things:

  • The things we say about Christian living should be consistent with the Bible.
  • Those who aren’t very familiar with the Bible will assume our jargon is based in the Bible.
  • The better we know the Bible, the better our speech can reflect it.

What did I miss?

These Christianese terms are just a few that came to my mind this weekend: what are some of the ones you hear all the time? Are they scriptural?

Let me know in the comments!