“God helps those who help themselves”
You may have heard this expression growing up. It is frequently used as either an admonishment for laziness or as a put-off disguised as encouragement to have patience and faith. In layman’s terms, it implies that God will do His part if we, in turn, follow through on our end.
At first glance, such an expression – albeit nowhere in Scripture – seems harmless enough. After all, what’s wrong with the notion of self-reliance? The problem with “God helps those who help themselves” is that, taken in the context of faith, it places the burden of salvation in our hands. And that was never the Lord’s intent.
We are reminded again and again, throughout Scripture, that we human beings are wholly insufficient to the task of salvation. (2 Corinthians 3:5) Salvation is not something we were ever intended to accomplish on our own; it is “a free gift of God.” (Ephesians 2:8) If it were not so, what would be the point of faith in Christ at all – to say nothing of His sacrifice on our behalf?
If anything human hands, hearts, or hard work were capable of achieving could have secured our eternal salvation, surely we would have done it by now! After all, Jesus was crucified over two millennia ago. The reason you haven’t heard of a human solution to salvation in all this time – the reason no man has yet cracked the code – is because there is no solution, at least not one we can produce. The truth is no works of our hand, no matter how well-intentioned or noble, can justify us before the Lord God Almighty. (Roman 3:20) It is only by faith in the atoning sacrifice of his Son, Jesus Christ, that we are made right with God. (Romans 3:28)
Nothing more is expected of us! And that’s not just the “Good News”; that’s great news! There is nothing we have to do on our end in terms of hard work or man-made goal-setting – only believe and trust in Him.
Yes, a truly living faith in God is accompanied by good works (James 2:26), but nowhere in Scripture does the Lord, or any angel or prophet thereof, suggest that we must first “help” ourselves through such good works in order to earn His favor.
Thus the saying should go, “God helps those who cannot help themselves.”