The phrase “God helps those who help themselves” has spawned varied opinions and interpretations in recent times. The words express the inherent gracious concern of our Creator toward His most prized creation in the world. At the same time, the phrase also inculcates the positive values and character traits in life that believers must espouse—industry, hard work, patience, and perseverance.
But an argument arises about whether God will only help those who help themselves. Does He ignore the others who are not taking action towards a purpose or aim? The phrase also seeks clarification if we seek material, spiritual, or other types of help from the Almighty.
The Origin Of “God Helps Those Who Helps Themselves”
The phrase originates from a trail of historical narratives. It stems from understanding His grace towards humanity and the need for people to take self-initiative in all their pursuits. In ancient Greece, the earliest version reveals the work of storyteller Aesop, who wove this proverb into one of his tales called Hercules and the Wagoneer. It says, “The gods help them that help themselves.”
In 1698, politician Algernon Sydney wrote the phrase in English in an article titled, “Discourses Concerning Government.” Some people attribute this passage to Ben Franklin printed in Poor Richard’s Almanac in 1757: let us hearken to good advice, and something may be done for us. “God helps them that help themselves.”
Benjamin Franklin was a deist who didn’t entirely believe in God’s word. Today, our society is engulfed by the concepts of self-help and self-reliance. It ushers in the sheer belief that we can accomplish things based on our own merit without faith.
Is This Saying Biblical?
When we examine the Bible, we cannot find any verse that contains all the words: Does God Help Those Who Help Themselves? Ironically, a 2017 Barna study reveals that 52 percent of practicing Christians strongly agree that the Bible teaches that God helps those who help themselves. The dilemma is further complicated by the Biblical truth that we must possess initiative in our endeavors and work hard on our worthy pursuits.
We wonder and are stopped in our tracks, as we unquestionably believe and expect that God helps only if we move and flex our muscles. We tend to believe the Almighty will ignore us if we just let our problems and concerns pass their time. Hence, failure is our destiny if we don’t take action.
According to Clarenced Haynes Jr., “The problem with this idea is that you become your first source of help and strength. God is secondary.” We demote or often move Him out of the equation of our problems. Thus, in a literal sense, it is not biblical. The Gospels teach the reality of our utter helplessness regarding sin and our spiritual state. God is more concerned about our holiness than our material accounts.
Because of our fallen and imperfect nature, we don’t possess the power and capability to overcome the intrinsic pain and brokenness we experience. We all suffer from sin, sickness, troubles, and death. But, Christ died for us sinners. Only in Jesus Christ can we hope and conquer all these infirmities.
We need not do any magnificent work or good deed for the Lord, ourselves, or other people. Only through faith, our sincere reverence, and obedience to our Creator can we access all the help He alone can provide.
How Does God’s Help Work?
God’s central purpose for humanity is to love and have a holy companionship with them. At the beginning of creation, He made sure Adam and Eve had the resources and provisions to live and thrive in the Garden of Eden. In Genesis 1: 1-25, our Creator made day and night the firmament in the sky, seas, land, vegetation, and animals.
He gifted His magnificent creation on Earth with the resources to support and sustain life. The intrinsic laws of nature are completely fine-tuned to hold life. In this place, God had a distinct fellowship with our first parents.
Dominion, Work, And Responsibility Of Man
To exercise dominion over all other creations and harness God’s blessings, man is appointed king over creation, responsible to Him, our ultimate king. God asks us to look after His creation. As His beloved custodian, God told us to take care of all other living things—animals, plants, and everything that has breath.
Genesis 1:28 reads: Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” God’s original help is the environment, tools, and resources to survive and flourish on Earth. Our first job begins with tilling the ground.
He also gave us wisdom and free will in deciding what is best for us. This paramount teaching holds up to the present time. Thus, it is not God’s mandate to help us every inch of the way in our efforts. He gave us the power of choice in doing what is best for us according to His will.
Prayers And Pleas
We are, of course, given the value of prayer as a means of communicating with God. In this holy discourse, we thank God for all His blessings and ask for forgiveness of our sins. But, we also implore Him for help in times of our need—financial health, physical healing, and other concerns.
Matthew 7:7-8 reads: Ask, and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. God helps, but not all the time. Sometimes, he answers our pleas, other times He doesn’t, or delays His answer at a more appropriate time.
A Call To Action
We have learned that the idea “God helps those who help themselves” contains a multidimensional sphere of understanding that reflects both truth and fallacy about the doctrines of God and the moral precepts of man.
God is our Sovereign God—our great helper and friend. We are made in His image and created in His glory for an eternal relationship with Him. Our existence on Earth is temporary. Because of our fallen state, we experience pain and brokenness and seek all forms of help and need.
But Christ died to achieve salvation for our souls. His death is our greatest blessing. He also gave us the Holy Spirit to walk, eat, and speak with peace and mercy in our hearts. We can draw power from the gospel of Christ. Philippians 4:13, King James Version reads: I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me.
We need to act and work, not let things happen by themselves. For example, God will help you find a job, but you have to look for it. We are co-laborers with Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 3:9 says, “For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building.”
God knows what is best for us. Often, the subject of our help is not beneficial to us. Worse, our supposed pleas point to a vile desire of the flesh. Without knowing it, the Lord extends His help to us on certain occasions. But, our pride and selfish character often dictate to us to ignore this help or blessing from God.
God knows our strengths and struggles with evil, lies, and the ungodly. Scripture teaches us that all the help we need is found in our faith and at the gracious throne of God. The more we depend on the grace of Jesus Christ, the more help we will receive from Him. The more we realize we are utterly helpless without Him, the more we become important to Him.
God will help us if we are faithful and obedient to Him and the subject of our plea aligns with His will. 1 John 5:14 reads: This is the confidence we have in approaching God—that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. The Lord ultimately helps those who help themselves become faithful children of God.
He is a loving God who can provide us with all that we need, not necessarily all that we want. Our physical and temporal needs are not paramount to God. Heaven awaits us. Remember Calvary, and the time Christ died for us. His biblical ministry is to help us become righteous and transformed into His image—a loving and benevolent creation of God.