“God helps those who help themselves” is probably one of the most quoted phrases that is NOT actually found in the Bible. Sometimes it is referenced as Hezekiah 6:1 (which is not a book of the Bible). Historically, this phrase is usually credited to Ben Franklin (Poor Richard’s Almanac, 1757) or Algernon Sydney (Discourses Concerning Government, 1698) or even as the moral of Aesop’s fable Hercules and the Wagoneer.
Whatever the original source of this saying, the Bible actually teaches the OPPOSITE of the saying “God helps those who help themselves.”
According to the Bible, God indeed helps the helpless! Isaiah 25:4 says, “For You have been a defense for the helpless, a defense for the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm, a shade from the heat…” Romans 5:6 says, “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.”
When it comes to our salvation from sin, we are totally helpless. We are born sinful (Romans 3:23) and condemned by that sin (Romans 6:23), and there is nothing we can do to save ourselves (Isaiah 64:6). Thankfully, since God DOES help the helpless, we can find salvation through Jesus (Romans 5:8). Jesus paid the penalty that we could never pay ourselves (2 Corinthians 5:21). God provided the “help” that we need BECAUSE we are incapable of saving ourselves.
Is there ANY sense to “God helps those who help themselves”?
Now, salvation aside, we could say there is SOME sense to the idea that “God helps those who help themselves.” For example, if you asked me to help you with your homework, but then just sat there while I did it all for you, then you are actually not being “helped” by me, are you? I would have done it all FOR you, and you wouldn’t be getting any “help” really. Does that make sense?
Many Christians fall into the apathetic state of inactivity while they are supposedly “waiting on the Lord.” They ask God for help, but then expect God to do everything while they don’t have to do anything. Then they complain that God isn’t helping them or they just sit there for months or years, saying that God will provide help according to His own timing.
But honestly, that’s kind of a lazy way to live life. Not to mention BORING.
Let’s put it this way…
Have you ever heard that joke about the man who was stuck on his roof during a flood? It goes sort of like this:
As the flood waters rose, a man was on the porch of his house and prayed that God would save him from drowning in the flood. Just then, another man came by in a row boat. The man in the boat invited the other man to get in, and he’d save him. The man on the porch said, “No, thanks, I’m waiting for God to rescue me.”
The water kept rising and the man had to go to the second floor of his house. As he looked out the window, he saw a man in a motor boat come by. The man in the boat invited him to get in because he had come to rescue him. The man in the house said, “No, thanks, I’m waiting for God to rescue me.” (Can you see where this is going?)
The waters kept on rising. Soon the man was forced to climb up onto his roof. A helicopter flew by, and a man inside lowered a rope and shouted down for the stranded man to climb up the rope.
But the man still wouldn’t get in. He just said, “No, thanks, I’m waiting for God to rescue me.”
Well, eventually, the flood waters rose above the house rooftop, and the man drowned. When he got to Heaven, he asked God why He didn’t rescue him from drowning when he had had perfect faith.
“What more do you want from me?” asked God. “I sent you two boats and a helicopter.”
When we ask God to help us, we have to look for those “life boats” or the ways He wants to rescue us, then take those opportunities (1 Corinthians 10:13). We will learn nothing about living our lives for Him if we just stand by and wait for Him to do all the work.