Those Who Help Themselves
An Unbiblical Phrase
It is interesting that the phrase: "God helps those who help themselves" is assumed by many to be in the Bible. As a matter of fact, Christian demographer and pollster, George Barna did some research on it and found that 53% of Americans strongly believed that it was a biblical phrase, 22% agreed somewhat that it was, 7% disagreed somewhat, only 14% disagreed strongly, and 5% simply said that they didn't know.
Of born again Christians, 68% agreed with the phrase. Among non-born again believers 81% agreed. Despite the fact that it never appears in the Bible, the phrase topped a poll for the most widely known Bible verses. And probably the most disturbing statistic of all is that 75% of American teenagers believed it was the central theme of the Bible.
Besides showing the growing biblical illiteracy in this country, this saying, far from being the central theme of the Bible, actually directly contradicts God's message of grace, or unmerited favor. And it is one that we must eliminate from our thoughts when we think about the Gospel.
I. God Helps the Helpless
This saying is usually used to emphasize the importance of self-reliance. But Scripture rather emphasizes the fact that we are helpless without God. Our Lord Jesus Christ said that: "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven" (Matthew 5:3). To be poor in spirit means that we have a humble opinion of our self. It is an understanding that we have no righteousness of our own and have to rely totally upon the mercy and grace of God.
The apostle Paul says that apart from Jesus Christ, we all were "without hope and without God in the world" (Ephesians 2:12). Earlier in that same chapter he tells us:
"And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)," (Ephesians 2:1-5, NKJV)
If you see a dead man in a coffin, you know that he cannot do anything by his own power. If he gets up out of that coffin and starts talking to you, then you know that he wasn't really dead. A dead man can't give himself life, or anything else. And he certainly can't help himself. We were all dead in trespasses and sins, and without God, spiritual life was impossible. A person who is truly saved, is one who realizes that salvation is totally by God's grace, or unmerited favor, and apart from any and all works (Ephesians 2:8,9).
II. The Christian's Good Works Are the Spirit's Fruit
Even after we are saved, the good that we do comes from God. In Ephesians 2:10 it says:
"For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."
The good that Christians do is referred to as the Fruit of the Spirit. It is He who empowers us to do them. In Galatians 5 Paul tells us that without the Spirit we will gratify the desires of the flesh. But, with the Spirit empowering us, we will bear fruit. He says:
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit " (Galatians 5:22-25).
III. God Began Salvation and Will Complete It
Salvation and all that it involves, is from the Lord from start to finish. As a matter of fact in Philippians 1:6 Pauls says this about God:
"Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus."
In the end we will not be able to take any credit whatsoever for what God has done in and through us by the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We can all sing of His amazing grace.
We can truly say that God doesn't help those who help themselves. He helps those who absolutely cannot help themselves, and freely admit it. Until we realize this, we will never understand the marvelous unmerited favor that was bestowed upon us through faith in the Savior. To God be the glory, great things He has done!