Sermon Illustrations

God warns us against thinking we can help ourselves without him. In Jeremiah 17:5, the prophet tells us,

“This is what the Lord says: ‘Cursed are those who put their trust in mere humans and turn their hearts away from the Lord.’”

And in Proverbs 28:26 (NIV), we read,

“He who trusts in himself is a fool…”

So, since it’s not in the Bible, where did the idea that God helps those who help themselves come from?

It came from Greek mythology, in one of Aesop’s fables about a Wagoner and Hercules:

“A Wagoner was once driving a heavy load along a very muddy way. He came to a part of the road where the wheels sank halfway into the mire, and the more the horses pulled, the deeper sank the wheels.

So the Wagoner threw down his whip, and knelt down and prayed to Hercules the Strong: ‘O Hercules, help me in this my hour of distress.’

But Hercules appeared to him, and said: ‘Man, don’t sprawl there. Get up and put your shoulder to the wheel. The gods help them that help themselves.’”

Over the centuries, this phrase evolved to a single God and slightly better grammar. Yet many Christians today quote it, believing that it’s biblically based, without realizing it really comes from pagan mythology. And, of course, it’s not in the Bible.