What verse in the Bible says, “God helps those who help themselves?” I will give you a minute to look for it. Find it? Nope, and you will not.
According to Wikipedia, the phrase “God helps those who help themselves” is a motto that emphasizes the importance of self-initiative and agency. The expression is known around the world and is used to inspire people to self-help. The phrase originated in Ancient Greece as “the gods help those who help themselves” and may originally have been proverbial.
Although it is not in the Bible, did you know a recent poll found that seventy-five percent of American teenagers said they believed that it was the central message of the Bible?
As shocking as this may be to us, it should not surprise us. American culture has shifted into a self-help culture. This even includes Christian culture. Sometimes this self-help ideal can come through Christian music, Christian books, and even the pulpit on Sundays. Many Christians today are being tricked into believing that their dependence is to be placed solely on themselves, which removes any dependence on God.
It can make us wonder what Paul meant by this statement in his letter to the Thessalonians in 1 Thessalonians 4:12, “So that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one?”
When Paul made the statement “be dependent on no one,” it was in the context of walking properly before those that are outside the faith. It is those that have not yet come to faith in Jesus who are always watching to see how Christians are living their lives. A great deal of the time they watch and wait for an opportunity to discount the message they carry.
In the prior sentence, Paul stated the importance of working with one’s own hands, “And to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you” (1 Thessalonians 4:11).
Christians are to work with their own hands barring any physical limitations they may have. Working with one’s own hands allows the self-supporting person not to be a burden to others. Paul had taught this earlier in the letter (1 Thessalonians 2:9).
Why is it so important that a Christian “works with his own hands?” Whereas the motto, “God helps them who help themselves,” is meant to encourage dependence on self, Paul’s statement, “to work with your hands,” was meant to discourage those spreading the Gospel from having unbelievers perceive they were being charged for the message. The Thessalonian believers were to provide for their own livelihood when presenting God’s plan of salvation to those without faith. In turn, when believers walk properly before outsiders and do not charge for the Gospel, which is freely given to all men, unbelievers will have a better opportunity of deeming the message worthy of acceptance and not something they feel obligated to pay for.
“What then is my reward?
That in my preaching I may present the gospel free of charge,
so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel.”
(1 Corinthians 9:18)