In keeping with the theme of things Christians say that have no scriptural basis, one of them is “heaven helps those who help themselves.” This is actually an attitude you see displayed in some political arguments today. The helpless are deemed “lazy” for not rising out of poverty on their own.
I’ve been guilty of this sentiment at times especially following my assimilation to an individualist vs. collectivist culture. I have to check myself when this happens to see how “helpful” I’ve been. Especially when other sentiments like “if you don’t work you don’t eat” also arise. Then I consider realities like “grace”, “opportunity”, and “”systematic discrimination” and realize “but for the grace of God go I.”
I’ve been blessed beyond measure. But for God’s providence, I too would be helpless and have been more times than I care to mention. I remember the movie “Trading Places” starring Eddie Murphy and Dan Akroyd. A simple dollar bet changed the lives of both men forever. Rendering one helpless and the other with unimaginable means. So where does this phrase come from? Not the Bible. It was originally woven into an Aesop fable.
Aesop weaved it into the tale of the Waggoner stuck on a muddy road. The Waggoner prays to Hercules for help to which Hercules essentially responds that: “The gods help them that help themselves.” In the west it was popularized by Benjamin Franklin:
I won’t go into a deep exegesis but let’s just conclude that everything in the Bible points to the opposite.
Too many examples in the old and New Testament. Abraham’s wife Sarah, the Israelites escaping Pharaoh’s wrath; the woman with a small jar of oil but near death and saved by the prophet Elisha; the woman caught in adultery; the wedding family who ran out of wine in Cana; Naaman the leper; the woman at the well; the thief on the cross desperately in need of salvation; or all of us entangled in a vice.
If we could help ourselves, we wouldn’t need the One who created us in the first place and His sacrifice would have been in vain. Whether you’re a person of means or not, you’ll agree there are times you haven’t been in control nor able to help yourself. That feeling when you’ve done everything you can and the answer is still NO! That inability to land the job, the loan, or get over an addiction. Helplessness is real and we need help to overcome. It took divine intervention every time.
I heard a testimony from a 92-year old this weekend who’d been struck with an unexplainable ailment 20 years ago. Expert doctors did all they could. She’d been declared brain dead, been in an induced coma for weeks, but then recovered and endured months of rehab. Her description of heaven rocked me to my core. I wanted to be there. It reminded me clearly that heaven does help the helpless. And when God moves, we’re never able to take the credit. At the end of the struggle we’re handed a proverbial megaphone to share our testimonies.
So, what does this mean for us?
1. We will all experience helplessness on this side of heaven.
2. When we do, know that we are not alone.
3. The purpose of our existence is to be God’s hands and feet on earth.
4. Every testimony of helplessness was met with an earthen vessel that provided help and/or hope.
5. Our purpose is to be available for use by the creator.
Bottom line: Be Available to Help the Helpless…your turn will come!