God helps those who help themselves - Who tell yuh dat? - Part 1
Many of us grew up hearing several sayings and proverbs which we have come to believe are true. Some of us even think these sayings are found in the Bible. One popular example would be 'God helps those who help themselves'. But I want to ask you, who tell yuh dat? In fact, this will be our theme for the next few weeks, 'Who Tell Yuh Dat? Lies We Believe', as we examine some sayings that are not only untrue, but that lead us away from a life of faith, causing hurt and pain.
God helps those who help themselves. While this places a good emphasis on one's work ethic and may be a reasonable assumption, it is unbiblical and anti-Christian. The truth is, it fosters independence from God, which God considers rebellion.
So where did this statement come from?
Well, 500 years before the time of Christ, Aesop, a writer of Greek fiction, said, "The gods (plural) help them who help themselves." Euripides, a Greek philosopher who lived before Christ, said, "Try first thyself, and afterwards, call on God." George Herbert of the 17th century said, "Help thyself, and God will help thee." Then, the present formulation that we hear quoted so often comes to us from Benjamin Franklin who said, "God helps those who help themselves." We can then see how this wrong philosophy has morphed into truth for many.
When we start believing this lie that God helps those who help themselves, it implies certain things:
I am responsible for my overall wellbeing. I don't need God because I can chart my own course, but the Bible clearly says "... Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who draws strength from mere flesh ...", "But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him," Jeremiah 17:5, 7 NIV.
God has a secondary or minimal role in my life. God will never be first in your life because in your mind, everything depends on you, but God said in Matthew 6:33a NIV, "But seek first His kingdom ...". God must always be first.
I really know what is best for me. This is pretty much the same as saying I know more than God and prompts us to go our own way. But Proverbs 14:12 NIV tells us, "There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end, it leads to death."
Growth and change are dependent on me and my efforts rather than on God. However, it is God who saves us, grows us up, and refines us. John 15:5 NIV tells us, "I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear fruit; apart from me you can do nothing".
God helps those who help themselves is nothing but a kind of self-help rhetoric that fits very neatly into the philosophy of our modern world but does not match God's word for us. Today, while self-help books and seminars are helpful tools designed to give people more self-assurance and self-confidence in business and sports, when it comes to our relationship with God, self-reliance can lead us away from seeking God.
TWO DANGERS OF SPIRITUAL SELF-RELIANCE:
- Self-Reliance makes us arrogant. We are all born with a self-centred personality devoted to protecting self. That's human nature. We want to think we can do anything. However, the Bible says that it is God who gives us the ability to accomplish anything. If you ask a successful person the key to his success, he may answer that he worked harder and smarter than the others. The Bible says "... promotion and power come from nowhere on earth, but only from God. He promotes one and deposes another," Psalm 76:5 TLB.
- Self-reliance makes us forget our dependence on God. If you believe 'God helps those who help themselves', then you probably have convinced yourself that you can handle most situations on your own. That way, you will only bother God when you face the tough situations. But, God is not looking for people who are self-reliant. He's seeking people who understand what it means to deny self and to depend on Him for everything. In Jeremiah 17:5 MSG we read, "This is what the Lord says, 'Cursed is the strong one who depends on mere humans, who thinks he can make it on muscle alone and sets God aside as dead weight.'"
When we try to take things into our own hands and help God instead of following His lead, the result is usually painful. Ultimately, that's the danger of believing that God helps those who help themselves. Next week, we will continue our discussion and focus on how God helps the helpless!