God Helps Those Who Help Themselves

When my kids were younger often they would ask me for a toy, money to go out, or something else that there was some cost to.  Sometimes, I would give them a hard time and tell them “God helps those who help themselves.”  They would tell me that they were too young to get a job to earn money so, within reason, I would usually give them what it was they were asking for.

I have often wondered where the statement “God helps those who help themselves” came from.  So one day I decided to try to find out.  I had thought that this statement had come from somewhere in the bible but I was wrong.  I found that it is actually attributed to Benjamin Franklin.

As I looked into the origin of the statement I found many people who were upset with the statement itself.  Some people feel the statement gives one the impression that God ignores the helpless.

I don’t necessarily agree.  In my mind, the meaning is not that God ignores the helpless but rather that God does not just hand things to those who are able to help themselves.  I think God encourages and rewards hard work.

One day I was having an interesting discussion with a friend of mine.  We were talking  about God and how God helps us in our lives.  He and I have very different perspectives on how God helps us.

He was telling me that if you pray to God, God will give you whatever it is you want.  He told me, for example, if he asked God for a million dollars, God would give him a million dollars.

Not knowing what he really meant, I asked if he prayed to God for the million dollars would God just deliver to him the million dollars.  His answer was yes.

Still not really grasping what he meant, I asked if he was telling me that if he prayed to God for a million dollars he would have to do nothing else but pray and one day he would find a million dollars in his mailbox?  He said yes. 

He told me that all he had to do was ask God for the million dollars, sit on the couch, do nothing else, and one day God will put a million dollars in his mailbox.

He basically was telling me that he was going to get something for nothing.  I felt like I was talking to the grasshopper in the old nursery tale The Grasshopper and the Ant.

I don’t like to think that I am always right when it comes to opinions on things like faith.  I believe that everyone is entitled to their own beliefs and opinions but I do find it hard to believe that we can use God as our own personal ATM machine to be at our disposal whenever we ask.

I think God wants us to put some effort into taking care of ourselves.

I have found, in Proverbs 13:4 the following: Lazy people want much but get little, but those who work hard will prosper.

Being helpless and being lazy are two separate issues.  There is a difference between being unable to help yourself and being unwilling to help yourself.

I believe it is our responsibility to help those that are not able to help themselves.  Most people who are unable to help themselves have come to this situation through no fault of their own.  And many people in this situation would gladly want to be able to take care of themselves.

But for those who are able to help themselves, I do believe that God wants us to take the first step towards self-sufficiency.

So when we say “God helps those who help themselves”, we are not talking about the helpless.  We are talking about those who can help themselves but may have chosen not to. 

God, and our faith in God, gives us the ability to persevere and work hard to obtain what it is that we want in our lives.  Once we have faith in God and begin to apply ourselves to get to the goals we want to obtain, then God will help us further ourselves towards those goals. 

Comments

  1. And in a previous post you wrote God not only fills our glasses half-way, he fills them to overflowing. If we have faith in this we will find that there is always good to come from everything no matter how dark the day may seem at the time– I think this also relates to what is written in this post – God helps those who help themselves.. hence our glasses overflow when we work to obtain our goals.. . working towards our faith !

  2. Elmer wrote: I have found, in Proverbs 13:4 the following: Lazy people want much but get little, but those who work hard will prosper.

    It amazes me the amount of “opinions” people have about God without ever knowing who he is or what his opinion is. The gentleman you spoke of who insisted that all he had to do was ask for 1 mil dollars and God would give it, he must have overlooked the scripture which insists that we have not , because we ask amiss attempting to conceive it upon our own lust. everyone has an opinion, including GOD……since he created everything and we know so little about anything, it is safe to say the truth lies in his opinion and not ours….therefore there is a right way and a wrong way, we only become right when we align our opinion with the one that is true!

  3. previous post should have applauded Bro. Laydens confidence in scripture, using that (bible) as our source of information and the foundation upon which our faith is built!

    Thank you sir,

  4. Elmer, I just stumbled on something this morning, and found your site while researching. I think I found the origin of that old saying “God helps those who help themselves”. Of course we know this to be false – not only is that found nowhere in the Bible, but it’s in fact blasphemy of the very nature of God and his love for us.

    I was studying Isaiah 40, and was reading Matthew Henry’s commentary. Regarding verses 27-31, Henry notes, “. . . Where God had begun the work of grace, he will perfect it. He will help those who, in humble dependence on him, help themselves. As the day, so shall the strength be. ”

    Matthew Henry was trying to point out Isaiah’s instruction to lean on God’s grace for all our daily needs. But given man’s fallen nature, if you simply omit the humility of one’s self, we end up with a mis-quote from Matthew Henry, and a lie of God.

    The timing of the attribution to Ben Franklin (and also Thomas Jefferson) is about right. Both post-date Henry, and might have read his commentaries, or quoted others who themselves mis-quoted Henry.

  5. You say that God helps those who help themselves….those who have faith in him…and that I understand. But what about those who have fallen on hard times (through no fault of their own.)?! I was just recently laid off from my job and find myself being a stay-at-home mom….I’ve applied for numerous amounts of jobs and yet nothing :-(!! I do believe that things happen for a reason and I put ALL my faith in HIM!! I am by no means lazy at all….I am trying my hardest to be the person that he wants me to be….to live the way he wants me to. Will he still be there for me….to help me get through these hard times?!! I want to succeed…so that way I may be better able to help others.

  6. MIT Van says:

    What images spring to mind when you read the word church?

    1. an angry preacher ranting about hellfire and damnation to an uptight congregation

    2. a gathering of hypocrites

    3. a boring place to which your parents dragged you as a kid

    4. a group of people who believe they’re right and all those other churches are wrong

    5. the place where Fun goes to die

    There is plenty of evidence to support each and every one of those ideas. How many people have been burned and turned off on religion by a bad experience at church? Perhaps you’ve been there yourself—have you ever looked at a church and thought, “if that’s what being a Christian is all about, I want nothing to do with it”?

    If you think that “church” is about as far away from God that you can get, you’re in pretty good company. Jesus himself had a lot to say about the churches and organized religion of his day. Talking to a crowd of holier-than-thou church attenders, he didn’t mince words:

    “You’re hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You’re like manicured grave plots, grass clipped and the flowers bright, but six feet down it’s all rotting bones and worm-eaten flesh. People look at you and think you’re saints, but beneath the skin you’re total frauds.”

  7. MIT Van says:

    The People of the Way where are they NowLord…….
    Paul said this ………????/:-(
    What did Jesus truly teach?

  8. rsquso says:
    June 22, 2010 at 9:36 am
    You say that God helps those who help themselves….those who have faith in him…and that I understand. But what about those who have fallen on hard times (through no fault of their own.)?! I was just recently laid off from my job and find myself being a stay-at-home mom….I’ve applied for numerous amounts of jobs and yet nothing !! I do believe that things happen for a reason and I put ALL my faith in HIM!! I am by no means lazy at all….I am trying my hardest to be the person that he wants me to be….to live the way he wants me to. Will he still be there for me….to help me get through these hard times?!! I want to succeed…so that way I may be better able to help others.

    I feel bad for rsquso. This is the problem with telling people that God wants you to be successful without defining what success truly is. From what I read in the Bible, success in God’s eyes means denying ourselves and taking up the Cross. “Whosover believeth in Him would not die, but have everlasting life.” There is your success. An eternity in Heaven, not a temporary great job or happy weekends at the beach.

    I also don’t know where the Bible gives us the freedom to judge who we help and who we don’t help. Love your neighbor as yourself doesn’t give us the right to only help our neighbors who are working hard but just having hard times. It is not our concern as to why they are helpless.

  9. “The gods help them that help themselves.” – Aesop’s tales: Hercules and the Wagoneer. Very shocking to find the origin of the quote in ancient Greek Mythology! There is no Biblical verse that states this quote. Do a google search on the quote, it is quite informative.

  10. Frank Trovato says:

    I’m confused about the “god helps those who……” issue. One question I have is, “does it matter what we do to earn a living and be self-sufficient?” Example: Working for a company that makes profits and supplies jobs to people by selling products or services to people that they really don’t need, by manipulating them into thinking they want? Are we responsible as employees? Should we not apply a moral and righteous aspect to business? is it ok just because it’s become the norm?…it’s the way it is? Consider how people earned a living and were self-sufficient in the days of christ. People did what needed to be done to be able to live in harmony with each other. They farmed, built things, sold things that people needed, provided necessaties (water, food, clothing, shelter, etc) No cars, cell phones, open sex, drugs, trendy fashion, restaurants, casinos, television, internet etc, etc, etc) The norm seemed much simpler and honorable back then. We’ve come so far removed from that and accept the world and everything in it for what it is, and have become victims of the rules and manipulation created by a select few through the media to set a standard for ourselves which is mostly based on those 7 deadly sins. No one forces our choices is used as the excuse. Being forced and being unknowingly manipulated are parallel to each other. Denying that is just plain selfish and irresponsible.

  11. Frank Trovato says:

    …I consider my self. In the past, even recently, when I didn’t have what I thought I wanted, I felt unfortunate and less than the person who did have it. When i did get what i thought I wanted, I felt entitled to it (truthfully) i used the excuse of being blessed and thankful. (As if God wishes me to have a certain kind of car, or certain kinds of clothes, or have casual sex, or look a certain way, or have an I-phone, or eat at restaurants, or smoke, or drink etc…) that’s what I want and God wants me to have what I want. The media (internet, tv, radio, periodicals and others tell me what i want) then I ask god for it, or accomodate the system to get these things. These types of things became what I need in order to feel any sense of contentment and normalcy.The truthful infleunce of what is righteous and honorable is lost in the overwhelming saturation of greed and selfishness. Being human and having a sense of spirituality built into us (a little piece of the holy sprit) cause us temporary feelings of guilt and remorse. Unfortunately, the internet, tv, radio etc are such a big part of our lives that we ignore whast we know is right and focus on what we believe is acceptable…….so were back to what we think we want.

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