Friday, 10 May 2013 11:43

Does God Help Those Who Help Themselves?

Written by  Rev. Bill Thompson
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What would you consider one of the most dangerous and destructive heresies on earth? A false teaching about Jesus or the Bible? Maybe. A wrong idea concerning the church? Possibly. But the one I’m thinking about is not so in-your-face and obvious. It is very subtle and attractive. For a long, long time it’s been the favorite of many religious people. It is a philosophy found in numerous self-help books, many poems and novels, and most rags-to-riches biographies. It is a recurring theme in political speeches and graduation addresses. It flourishes in our schools. It feeds our pride, it fuels our self-centeredness, it pleases our sinful nature. Any guesses?


What do I believe is one of the worst beliefs? It is the belief in human self-sufficiency. It is one of the great lies of all time and one of the greatest heresies. As Dr. Steve Brown would say, “It is from the pit of hell and it smells like smoke.” At the heart of this heresy is the emphasis on what we do for God, instead of what God does for us. Most people, even some Christians, see themselves as “masters” of their own lives. It is an ancient philosophy as old as the Garden of Eden and deeply rooted in the human heart. And why not? It encourages our self-centeredness. The adherents of this heresy often quote their favorite Scripture passage, “God helps those who help themselves.”


However, there’s just one problem. That saying is not in the Bible! It is found in Poor Richard’s Almanac, written by Benjamin Franklin in the 1700s. Many people live their lives based on this point of view, particularly when it comes to the topic of salvation from sin. They adhere to a “works righteousness” view. Their approach is one of seeking to earn God’s forgiveness and favor by their own good works. If they would only try harder, pray longer, be more religious and obey more often, then they can attain heaven by their own efforts. People who hold to this way of thinking believe that their relationship with God is dependent on their performance. 


Do you see how offensive this must be to God? Do you see how this undermines grace? The Bible teaches that God helps the helpless, the undeserving, those who don’t measure up, and those who fail to achieve His standard. That is what grace is all about! Jesus said, “I haven’t come for those who think they don’t need a doctor. I’ve come to heal those who know they are sick and need a doctor.” (Mark 2:17) The apostle Paul wrote that everyone is born spiritually dead in their transgressions and sins. (Ephesians 2:1) Grace is God’s free and totally unmerited favor shown to guilty sinners who deserve only judgment. It is the love of God shown to the unlovely. It is God reaching down to people who know they are totally helpless. That’s the key isn’t it? The person must know that they are sick and helpless. When asked how he is doing, Dave Ramsey is fond of saying, “Better than I deserve.” Dave gets it. He knows that apart from God’s work in his life he deserves to be separated from God for all eternity. No matter how bad his day may be, it cannot be worse than that.


God helps those who help themselves? No. A thousand times No! God helps those who cannot help themselves. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9) Do you know that you are sick? Go to the doctor – Jesus!




Rev. Bill Thompson is the Senior Pastor of Eastwood Presbyterian Church on E. Trinity Blvd. in Montgomery. Check out the website:

Last modified on Friday, 10 May 2013 11:57
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