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Those Who Help Themselves

Updated on February 7, 2018
GodTalk profile image

I am a Christian pastor who wishes to bring glory to God in all that I do, and to help people through my writing to know Him better.

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!

Those Who Can't Help Themselves

© 2012 Jeff Shirley


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    • GodTalk profile imageAUTHOR

      Jeff Shirley 

      8 years ago from Kentwood, Michigan

      You're welcome. And thanks for reading.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Wonderful hub. So true, thanks for reminding us that God helps the helpless. For in Him we are strong.

    • GodTalk profile imageAUTHOR

      Jeff Shirley 

      8 years ago from Kentwood, Michigan

      Thank you Felipe717 for your comments.

      kellyteam: Your pastor is absolutely right. We should all study the Word for ourselves. We cannot grow, if we aren't feeding on the Word of God. The sad thing is that so many Christians have no idea what the Bible says on the subjects that affect their lives. My prayer is that many more will take seriously the study of Scripture, because there is indeed a famine in our land.

    • kellyteam profile image


      8 years ago from Michigan

      Beautiful hub GodTalk. It is fascinating to hear people make quotes that are actually not in the Bible. I too have heard numerous individuals say this, ("God helps those who help themselves") as if it were in the Bible. It is so important to study the Word of God and know what it says for your self and not what you heard somebody say. My Pastor is well versed in the Bible but he always tell us to read it for ourselves. Don't just take his word for it. Thank you so much for this hub. It reveals the truth as intended. Thumbs up. beautifu and a share.

    • Felipe717 profile image


      8 years ago from Philadelphia, PA

      A great explanation of God's grace towards us.

    • GodTalk profile imageAUTHOR

      Jeff Shirley 

      8 years ago from Kentwood, Michigan

      You are welcome. It is interesting that no matter how plainly the Bible says that salvation is by grace through faith, there are always some who want to say that it doesn't mean what it says. We need to always be ready to defend the truth. Thanks for stopping by lifegate.

    • lifegate profile image

      William Kovacic 

      8 years ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

      Thanks for making plain the Truth. There should be no questions if we know what the bible actually says.

    • GodTalk profile imageAUTHOR

      Jeff Shirley 

      8 years ago from Kentwood, Michigan

      I think you missed the point of the Barna study. It proved that people actually thought that the phrase: "God helps those who help themselves" was in the Bible. To reitereate, it is not. There is no place in Scripture where that phrase ever appears.

      What you seem to be defending, if I'm not misunderstanding you, is that faith itself is some form of helping yourself. It is rather just the opposite. It is an understanding that you are totally helpless on your own and then you rely on God who is the only one that can help.

      And Scripture indicates that faith itself is a gift from God. Romans 3:11 tells us that no man seeks after God on his own. So the Lord has to come after us.

      My advice to you is not to try to defend an interpretation of Scripture, when what you are defending isn't Scripture. By the way, I didn't say it in the Hub, but the phrase actually originated in ancient Greece, occurring in approximately equivalent form as the moral to one of Aesop's Fables, Hercules and the Waggoner, and later in the great tragedy authors of ancient Greek drama.

    • lone77star profile image

      Rod Martin Jr 

      8 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      Beautiful words, but I think there's more to the story.

      The Barna study is interesting and it shows how interpretation can be skewed. But that's just it. Everyone interprets. And most interpretation is wrong.

      And that's where humility comes in handy. We empty the cup and let God fill it. Still, every time God fills our cup, we have our own filters active and what goes in is sometimes, and possibly frequently, tainted -- if not downright polluted.

      From one perspective, God does not help those who help themselves. This is certainly the case for the proud who hold physical action and physical accomplishments above spiritual growth and faith.

      But what of those who help themselves by utter humility and boundless faith in God. I call that helping one's self in the right way. And God will help them who ask in humility and faith while ignoring those who think they have it all figured out on their own.

      Sometimes, I want to tap a fellow Christian on the shoulder when they give their interpretation as if it were Gospel, for they think they have figured it all out. Their belief in their interpretation is never "faith." And for someone to disagree with that interpretation is not necessarily against the Bible, though the errant Christian may think their view of the Bible and the Bible itself are synonymous. I know the Bible is truth, but most interpretation I hear is interesting, but suspect.

      For the letter killeth, and the spirit giveth life.


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