Modern Myths: God Helps Those Who Help Themselves

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”

— Ephesians 2:8–9

No doubt you’ve heard the statement “God helps those who help themselves.” What is your reaction when I tell you that this, too, is a myth of our culture? Do you feel shocked? Indignant? Relieved?

We’ve heard this statement again and again, sometimes from deeply spiritual people whom we trust. In fact, we’ve heard it in church so many times that many people think it comes from the Bible. But it doesn’t. We buy into this myth because it has that can-do, pioneer spirit that built our nation, but it often leads us astray.

God does expect us to help ourselves in some things, such as working diligently. But when it comes to salvation, we must rely entirely on God’s provision and mercy. From the beginning, we’ve tried to help God provide us with salvation, but He has put up a sign that clearly states, “No help wanted or needed.” As the late Anglican bishop, Taylor Smith, received a shave from his barber, the bishop brought up the topic of salvation. The barber snapped, “I do my best, and that is good enough for me.” Through the rest of the shave, the bishop remained silent, and when the barber finished, Smith paid his bill. In the meantime, another man had come in for a shave. The bishop picked up a razor and said, “I’ll give this man a shave.” The barber exclaimed, “I don’t think that’s a good idea, bishop.” The bishop said, “Ah, but I assure you, I’ll do the best I can.” The barber said, “But I’m afraid your best will not be good enough for this gentleman.” The bishop replied, “And neither, sir, is your best good enough for God.”

Our best falls far short of what God accepts for our atonement, and for that reason, we can’t help ourselves. And fortunately, we don’t need to. Christ has already fully paid our debts. As far as salvation is concerned, God helps the helpless who trust in Him. Today, thank God for that truth, and rest yourself in Him and in His provision for your atonement.

“Not the labors of my hands can fulfill Thy law’s demands,
All for sin could not atone; Thou must save and Thou alone.”
“Rock Of Ages” (Hymn) By Augustus Toplady