Pollster George Barna reports that eight out of ten Americans actually believe the statement God helps those who help themselves is in the Bible. For the record, it is not. Scour the Bible from Genesis to Revelation and you will not find anything even close to such words or sentiments.
On the contrary, it was Aesop who first said in one of his famous fables, the gods help them who help themselves. Later, Euripides, a Greek philosopher, said something similar: Try first thyself, and after, call on God. In the seventeenth century, George Herbert wrote, help thyself and God will help thee. The version of this falsehood we are most familiar with actually came from none other than Benjamin Franklin, a deist who believed that God did not play an active role in the world today. God helps those who help themselves, said Franklin. Oh really?
Many of us would be hesitant to admit that we are among the eighty percent in Barna’s poll that actually believe the statement is biblical. We are also afraid to confess that we live our lives like practical deists, our attitudes and actions denying belief in a personal God who is involved in and cares about our daily life. Rather than trusting God to get us through a given situation, we, more often than not, take matters into our own hands, thinking God will help me if I just help myself.
God never promises to help those who help themselves. Instead, he comes alongside those who are willing to admit their own helplessness. That’s why he sent the Helper. And that’s why Jesus said to his disciples, “Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).