There is a very popular saying that goes, “God helps those who help themselves.” Have you heard this phrase before? I have heard people say this lots of time! Especially when someone is trying to prove the idea that you just have to pick yourself up by your bootstraps and all will be well. Um. No. Let’s talk about whether or not God really does help those who help themselves.
Is this phrase actually in the Bible? Does God teach that sort of independence? A few weeks ago, we had one of our gals in our Unbroken group coaching experience wrestling with this very question. She was having a hard time wrapping her mind around the idea that God was a refuge and safe place for broken people and the idea that God helps those who help themselves.
The phrase is not in the bible at all. In fact, according to a quick google search you will find that this phrase is often attributed to Ben Franklin. However, it originated from an article title Discourses Concerning Government in1757. The Bible doesn’t teach that God helps people who help themselves. It teaches quite the opposite.
The Bible teaches us that God is a refuge for the helpless, Our Strong Defender in times of trouble, and the ONE who fights for us! Here are just a few verses that talk about God being is our safe place.
The eternal God is a dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms; And He drove out the enemy from before you, And said, ‘Destroy!’ Deuteronomy 3:27
Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all the unfortunate. Open your mouth, judge righteously, and defend the rights of the afflicted and needy. Proverbs 31:8-9
In my distress I called upon the LORD, and cried to my God for help; He heard my voice out of His temple, and my cry for help before Him came into His ears. Psalm 18:6
The righteous cry, and the LORD hears And delivers them out of all their troubles. Psalm 34:17
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groaning’s too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. Romans 8:26-17
“I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. John 15:5
So…is there a time when this phrase DOES have some Biblical merit? YES!
There comes a point when inactivity and refusing to make a choice = laziness and disobedience.
God is our refuge and our strength but we have a part to play as well. In other words, sometimes God does help those who help themselves. This is not some kind of karma or divine favoritism. Rather, it’s the law of sowing and reaping that we see repeated in Scripture over and over again (and in our natural laws as well!)
There is a perfect example of God helping us in our weakness; but, at the same time having to play our part in the Gospels of the New Testament. Let’s spend some time looking at John 5:1-13, and grab a few nuggets to think about
Sometime later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?” John 5:1-6
- You have to want it- Jesus isn’t stupid or asking a completely invalid question here. This man had been sitting beside his ticket to freedom for 38 YEARS! Do you think he maybe got a little too comfortable with his “sickness?” I’m sure it brought him a lot of attention and he could throw one hell of a pity party for the horrible cards he had been dealt. He asks a simple question to him, and to all of us, do you want to get well? God won’t heal if we don’t want it.
“Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.” John 5:7
- You have to drop ALL excuses that are standing in your way for healing– We can uses phrases like “God helps those who help themselves,” as an out for our own inactivity. Its gives us a free pass to just wait around blaming God’s timing and divine intervention for our lack of progress in our lives. We can’t blame Jesus when we hate our jobs but don’t actually on our couches for our new job, our new relationship, our health to improve.
Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked. John 5:8-9
- You have to take action- Some things are not going to just happen for you. God can divinely open doors and opportunities for you…but he can’t make you walk through and grab them.
When the time is right…that’s when you move forward
It takes time for brokenness to heal and justice to be served. God is our refuge in times of trouble and he fights for us. He is a safe place for the helpless and the broken. However, when the time is right, and the brokenness has healed, we have to make the choice to “help ourselves” and grab hold of the new thing God is doing in our lives.
Raychel Chumley is a Life Coach, Author, Speaker, and Entrepreneur. She is the Co-Founder and President of
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