Where does it say ‘God helps those who help themselves?’

Our culture is replete with colloquialisms that we think are from the Bible but actually aren’t.  ‘God helps those who help themselves’  is rooted in Greek philosophy and was coined by the English political theorist Algernon Sidney.  It may serve as a motivational saying but it is not the portrait of God that I read in the  Bible.  Actually the God that I have come to know in scripture is the God who helps those who cannot help themselves.  Whether you read the Exodus story, the Psalms, or the exile stories we see God working on behalf of the poor and oppressed.  In Jesus we see the manifestation of God who ate with sinners, healed the sick, and raised the dead – all people who could not help themselves.  And I believe the biblical mandate is for each of us to live as Jesus did.  The writer of Ephesians said that “God planned for these good things to be the way that we live our lives.”  The Colossians writer encourages us to let our words and deeds be a true representation of Jesus – the one who commanded his disciples to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and visit the imprisoned.  As modern agents of God’s kingdom we are invited to do the same thing for those who cannot help themselves.

The following is a daily reflection with a prayer focus for this week.  I invite you to be in thought and prayer as you consider how God is inviting you to help those who cannot help themselves.

Monday: read Deuteronomy 10:18-19

God commanded the newly liberated Hebrews to remember that they were once mistreated foreigners in the land of Egypt. God demanded they love foreigners, widows and orphans as they would their own family verses mistreating them as they had been mistreated. When you see someone in need do you despise them, look down upon them, or do you love them as you would your family?


Tuesday: read Deuteronomy 33:27-28 and Psalm 28:7-9

Both writers proclaim that God is a deliverer. God does not ignore the poor and needy; rather God hears and responds with the strength only God can muster. In God is shelter, safety, and refuge. What is your role in portraying this activity of God in the world today?


Wednesday: read Isaiah 41:17-20

In a time of destruction and exile the prophet reminds the people of their relationship with God. As a chosen people God promises to take care of them even when they are the poor and needy. Once they realize it is God, the people will know that God is once again planning for them to experience God’s goodness. Are you feeling poor in spirit or weak because of sin? Do you see that God is working for you to experience goodness?


Thursday: read Hebrews 13:5-7

So often we try to get ourselves out of the trouble we have created for ourselves. We rely upon wealth, talent, or intellect only to find that they often come up short. God invites us to be a people of faith whose witness to others demonstrates this faith. How are you relying on God today and is it noticeable to others?


Friday: read I Timothy 5:3-8

The Apostle Paul reminded Timothy and the community he was leading of their social and familial responsibilities, especially to those who could not provide for themselves. We live in a society that allows us to make care facilities responsible for our senior adults instead of the family making them a priority. Do you have a senior adult that needs the care of their family? How are each and all invited to do their part in providing for the needs of your widow/widower?


Saturday: read Matthew 25:34-45

Jesus leaves his followers with a very specific example of what it means to “love God and to love your neighbor.” The example is a lived expression of charity to the hungry and thirsty prisoner who was sick and without clothing. By caring for these persons, we express our love for God. Have you been in contact with someone this week who needed your help and did you respond in a way that shows you love God?


Prayer Focus:  loving God by daily helping my neighbor who is in need; recognition of experiences of God’s helping hand in moments when I cannot help myself.


Blessings for the journey.

About Jim Hoffman

Pastor, teacher, leader, novice blogger, wanna be author and Christian conversationalist. Passionate about environmental architecture - creating spaces where people can foster new or growing relationships with each other and God. Currently leads a faith community on Ward Parkway in Kansas City and happily married to Margaret. Blessed with four adult children and two grandsons.
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