For years now, I have been joking to my friends and associates, that one of my biggest mistakes in my youth was to believe that “GOD HELPS THOSE WHO HELP THEMSELVES” was in the Bible. So as I watched the news and the President’s spokesman glibly say on national television, “As the Bible says God Helps Those Who Help Themselves…” I felt for him. I remember how astonished, and then desperate, I was when I set out to verify that time honored phrase within the Bible. It was my favorite saying, so I started looking for it in Mathew, Mark, Luke and John. Confused, I then searched all the gospels. Not finding it there, I began to search everywhere in the Bible. Not that I could imagine it being in Numbers or Deuteronomy. I even went as far as to take a peak in Obadiah.
I have Googled the phrase like many others are now doing to discover the origin of this statement. Apparently it is the most common phrase that everybody thinks is in the bible, but isn’t in the Bible (gotquestions.org). It is generally attributed to Benjamin Franklin. It sounds very much like good old Ben and I will stick with that answer. Especially since as an American, I have the tendency to mix many statements of our forefathers with Biblical sayings. I fear that is a national failing of ours.
When I finished searching through the Bible to realize the saying was not there—I began to search the Bible to discover if the statement in and of itself was True or False? I’d stood by the statement for so long; I was determined to finally weigh it in the balance of the Bible.
I have come to the conclusion that this Bible-verse-look-alike is true and false.
GOD HELPS THOSE WHO HELP THEMSELVES IS FALSE
Since this saying has been an American household term for years, what we think this saying means, will be different for each of us. I notice the term appears often in business discussions, and times when we are gearing ourselves up to go and do something. Take action! It’s a very motivating verse. And generally a very liberating verse. Go for it! God just loves the movers and shakers and if you aren’t one of them, God is not going to help you. So get a MOVE ON!
If that is how you understand this verse, then “God helps those who help themselves” is categorically FALSE.
I can testify to that. I have been guilty of giving God all kind of attitude because I put this verse in my personal Bible. God was supposed to be there to back me up on any and all of my wild and wonderful plans to which I chose to put my shoulder and faith towards. Surely, He’d come and bail me out if needs be, because God helps those… themselves.
Worse, I actually fell into the debilitating prayer system of praying only for others and not for myself. I was supposed to be taking care of business and God wouldn’t want me running to Him about just any little thing. I only went to God when I was in dire straits and had done everything possible in my own strength, and had employed everything within my rather large bag of tricks. (This by the way isn’t Biblical either).
The real Bible verses that stand against “God helps those who help themselves” are many. Look for the verses which speak about looking to God first and leaning not on your own understanding. Underline the verse about turning away from the lust of the eyes and the lust of the flesh and the pride of life. Oh yes, and Seek God first and His righteousness. Trust in GOD. Hope in God. Stop helping yourself in other words. If you are completely self sufficient, you aren’t leaving any GOD ROOM in your life. And since GOD is a BIG God, you might want to redesign the space you give Him. (Asking yourself just which room you have given God in your life is a great question to ask-just brace yourself for the answers that come to you).
Unfortunately, there is a way that seems good to man but in the end leads to destruction. Going our merry way with the full faith that God will be overjoyed because we are ‘helping ourselves’ is a good way to skate right into destruction.
I shudder to think what our fate would be if Jesus had made “GOD HELPS THOSE WHO HELP THEMSELVES” his credo. Jesus didn’t spend much time helping himself-he spent a lot more time simply asking Father God what He wanted and then doing that instead. He was not self-sufficient, He was God-sufficient.
I’m not sure of how the Garden of Gethsemane conversation between God and Jesus would have turned out if Jesus had followed the canto about helping Himself. Or it there ever would have been a conversation at all…
GOD HELPS THOSE WHO HELP THEMSLEVES IS TRUE
Yes, I searched enough through the Bible to discover WHY the saying had gained so much leverage as to find its place in the “Modern Americana Bible” translation. God does instruct us to take action. God does tell us to ‘get a move on.’ He does encourage us to ‘step out in faith’ and He will be there for us when we do. Angels do encamp about us and God is our vanguard and our rear guard. With such protection, we should be going forward and doing His will. Not sitting still.
I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it, God is a proactive God. He IS a mover and shaker. He is the ultimate mover and shaker in fact. We are supposed to learn from Him and grow up to be like Him.
Therefore, there is much truth in the statement, God Helps Those who Help Themselves. I am going to add a Sister CJ proviso onto GOD HELPS THOSE WHO HELP THEMSLEVES (Forgive me, dear Ben). It now reads like this in notes to self, “God helps those who help themselves to the things of God.”
After all, Peter walked on the water because he got out of the boat. Yet he asked Jesus to bid him do so. Jesus was overjoyed to heal those who pressed through the crowd to ask Him in faith to be their healer and miracle worker. He was delighted with those who wouldn’t take no for answer (Mark 7:28). He absolutely loved the Centurion who came to Him, asked Jesus to heal his servant mind you, and when Jesus said that he would come to the Centurion’s house, the Centurion actually asked Jesus to rethink His travel plans. He advised Jesus to just say the Word and that would be enough. (Matthew 8:5)
All of these saints were helping themselves. To the things of God, that is.
The promises of God’s blessings are very much the results for those who will SEEK God, who will ACT in Faith with God and who will be courageous for God and His purposes.
Jesus said that we are to seek God first and His righteousness and all the other things will be added unto us (Mathew 6:33). Where as much of the world will see Christians as those who are being left behind in the really helping themselves department, the truth is, we are simply helping ourselves to something far greater than we can imagine, we are helping ourselves to God and His Kingdom. We are helping ourselves to eternal life. Excuse me, but if that isn’t being bold, I don’t know what is!
We should be the movers and shaker of our generation. Just like Benjamin Franklin was in his generation. We will have abundant life and do great exploits-for our God that is. We don’t have to be shrinking violets, or wishy-washy stay on the shoreline people. In fact, we need to draw closer and closer to God if that is how we are living. Why?
Because God will motivate us to go and do something. Look at how many times He said, fear not, be brave and go and do this. Or do that. Only, it isn’t doing anything. It isn’t doing what you think seems good. It is doing what God advises. He has good plans and outcomes for us. Only, HE alone has the plan and the ways and means for us to those outcomes.
He needs to be our source, our lifeline, and everything to us. When He is, He gives us the power to move and achieve success beyond our wildest dreams. Eye has not seen, no ear has heard, what God has prepared for those who love Him.
We Christians should be honest and confess that we ARE helping ourselves to some fantastic things. I confess that I AM most certainly not satisfied with just this one brief life on this planet. I DO want eternal life and I know Who can give it to me. Of even more value in my estimation, is the fact that I don’t want to serve just any god. Only the Most High God will suffice. I serve the Living God because He has sufficiently proven to me that He is precisely that.
I totally love the fact that God does want us to help ourselves to His Company, His Council, His Instruction and His Things. He is anything but stingy and He gives to us all the things we lack in and of ourselves. All the things we can’t help ourselves to in other words…
But as it is written: “EYE HAS NOT SEEN, NOR EAR HEARD, NOR HAVE ENTERED INTO THE HEART OF MAN THE THINGS WHICH GOD HAS PREPARED FOR THOSE WHO LOVE HIM.” But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. (1Co 2:9-12 NKJV)
Pull out your Bible. On your mark, get ready, start leafing…and when you find a verse that proves that “God helps those who helps themselves” is true and false share it …