Does ‘God help those who help themselves’?

The saying, ‘God helps those who help themselves’ used to be quite common. Some people think it is in the Bible, but it is not. In fact, believers often argue that it is not a message of the Bible at all. It is always dangerous to believe ideas that are not in the Bible, so how true is it?

The saying seems to originate in 409 BC in a play by Sophocles: ‘heaven ne’er helps the men who will not act,’ although it is unclear that Sophocles believed in divine intervention rather than what he considered the natural forces in life.

The idea appears in the Quran (13:11),and is reflected in an Arab proverb about a man who left his camel untied because he trusted in Allah. He is told, ‘Tie your camel and then trust in Allah.’

There is also a more humorous version: ‘God help those who get caught helping themselves.’

So what of the Bible?

The Bible message is that we are totally dependent on God for everything. The apostle Paul preached that:

In him we live and move and have our being

Acts 17:28

God had said:

‘…and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand’

Deuteronomy 32:39

Furthermore, although we have choices in life, God is in control and can thwart our plans.

‘The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps’

Proverbs 16:9


‘Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”—yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that”’

James 4:13-15

King David recognized that his only source of help was the Lord God:

‘My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth’

Psalm 121:2

And it is only when we acknowledge our utter dependence on God that we can be saved.

But there is some truth in the proverb about the camel. We must never test God. Jesus exemplified this in his temptations (Luke 4:12), quoting Deuteronomy 6:16:

‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’

On a different occasion Jesus said that God makes the ‘sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust’ (Matthew 5:45). Notwithstanding this, rather than saying ‘God helps those who help themselves’, it might be more accurate to say that ‘God offers special blessings to those who obey Him.’

The Law of Moses promised this to the nation of Israel.

‘If you will diligently listen to the voice of the Lord your God, and do that which is right in his eyes, and give ear to his commandments and keep all his statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you that I put on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, your healer’

Exodus 15:26

The Bible is full of warnings about laziness and inactivity.

‘The desire of the sluggard kills him, for his hands refuse to labor’

Proverbs 21:25

If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living. As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good.

2 Thessalonians 3:10-13

And Jesus himself decried inactivity in Matthew 25, especially in a parable involving a lazy servant. His words of warning, about how he will judge believers when he returns, are very severe:

‘You wicked and slothful servant! …Cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth’

Matthew 25:26-30

True believers do ‘help themselves’ by humbly praying to God for help. They are urged to…

 ’pray without ceasing’

1 Thessalonians 5:1

So we cannot expect God to help us if we are not trying to live faithful lives, and praying to Him for help. And as part of this we need to have the right attitude, accepting that of ourselves we have no power over anything at all, are totally dependent on God and utterly unworthy of all His blessings and help.

Is Easter in the Bible?

It is Eastertime. Easter is one of the main religious festivals of mainstream churches. But the word ‘Easter’ does not appear in the Bible.

The 1611 translation known as the Authorized Version (or King James version) mentions Easter in Acts 12:4, but most translations adhere to the original Greek word which is Passover (or Pesach). Passover was one of the main Jewish religious festivals which involved a lamb with no defect being killed. This was to remind the Jews about how God had delivered them from Egypt under Moses. But it was also to teach them of the need for a perfect sacrifice in the future. This future, most important, sacrifice was when Jesus Christ was crucified, and this was at the time of the Passover festival. Jesus was the ultimate Passover lamb:

For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed

1 Corinthians 5:7

Because of this there is no need for any more sacrifice, and Christians are asked not to sacrifice animals.

Jesus did, however, ask them to remember his death in bread and wine.

And he [Jesus] took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ”This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood”

Luke 22:19-20

The early church did this weekly, on the first day of the week. And the death and resurrection of Jesus form the cornerstone of Christian faith.

And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised

1 Corinthians 15:14-15

So what of Easter itself? There is no record of the early Christian church celebrating the resurrection of Jesus, except in the bread and wine. The festival of Easter started well over 100 years later. Its origins are in spring festivals celebrated centuries before by Babylonians, Phoenicians and Chaldeans who worshipped Astarte, the supposed goddess of spring and rebirth. Sweet buns, eggs and rabbits all feature in these ancient pagan rituals at springtime. And the ideas were merged into church worship.

So Easter is not a biblical concept. But the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are absolutely key to true Christian belief. They are far, far too important to leave to once a year.

As we approach Easter we do well to ask ourselves how much the sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus mean to each of us.

Image by Jeff Jacobs from Pixabay

Gross Miscarriage of Justice.

The UK Post Office scandal is prominent in the news. It has been brought to the public attention by a TV dramatization, and related documentary. However, it had already been in the news, and books have documented the sordid details.

No computer system is guaranteed fault-free, and Horizon certainly wasn’t. But hundreds of people were blamed for its errors and held responsible for large sums of money. There were blatant lies, cover-ups, reluctance to provide the facts, and officials protecting their own reputations: all resulting in false convictions, hundreds of lives ruined, bad physical and mental health, and even suicide. It is difficult to see how any good came out of it. People did not deserve such injustice.

Two thousand years ago an innocent, sinless man was condemned to torture and murder. There were lies, corruption, false evidence, officials concerned only about their own positions and reputations, and nobody prepared to defend a totally innocent man.

The enormous difference is that unspeakably good things did come as a result. While the individuals concerned acted in an evil way, God was giving His son Jesus as a sacrifice for our sins.

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures

1 Corinthians 15:3-4

His life, death and subsequent resurrection are the means, and the only means, by which we can be saved from eternal death.

And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved

Acts 4:12

A ‘great multitude that no one could number’ will be given eternal life in God’s kingdom.

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

Revelation 7:9-10

We are all sinners. We all disobey God. But this man was prepared to suffer and die to wipe this out.

He did not deserve that suffering. We do not deserve the outcome.

Journalists have commented that, despite their reports, it took a drama to bring the Post Office scandal to the forefront of the public attention. The Bible has been around for many hundreds of years. What would it take to bring the saving work of Jesus to the forefront of our attention?

Image by macrovector on Freepik