God helps those who help themselves is a phrase I have heard often. Adam Hamilton’s book, Half Truths (2016), tackles statements like this that we often attribute to scripture. Our church is studying this book this fall and I was asked to preach on this phrase.
My first thought was, “I got this.” Little did I know, God was going to expand my heart in the process. Just so you know, having your heart expanded can hurt.
What we know about the phrase is that is was popularized by many philosophers throughout history. Hamilton (2016) notes research completed by Barna Group that says that 8 in 10 Americans believe this phrase is in the Bible. This phrase is not in the Bible although there is some truth to it. We do have to participate in providing for ourselves. The catch is this, I have often heard the phrase as an indication that God only helps those who help themselves. It is that implication that is false.
This caused me to reflect on the many times God calls us to have mercy and compassion for others. This caused me to reflect on times of deep despair when the only thing left within in me was to cry out to God for help. Then I was reminded of the recent images of the thousands of people at our boarder wanting to enter this country.
How have they cried out to God as their home country was devastated by earthquakes and political unrest? How have they cried out to God as they journeyed thousands of miles for food, shelter and safety? How have I judged others assuming they should be able to help themselves? This isn’t about immigration policies in the United States. This is about my heart, my judgement, my compassion.
1 I lift up my eyes to the hills—
from where will my help come?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth. 3 He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
4 He who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep. (Psalm 121: 1-4 NIV)
Scripture is filled with examples of God helping those who cannot help themselves. Where does our help come from-the Lord. God helps! God helps and sometimes He uses me to provide the help.
How have you used this phrase? How has God met you in times of despair? How is God calling you to help those who cannot help themselves? Share your experience here and breathe life and bring hope to others.