Summary: The Lord responds to those who cry out to him for help. We must admit God is our only source of help; without it we are sunk.
This is the fourth message in the series “No, that’s NOT in the Bible!” We’re examining ten popular statements people think are in the Bible, but they aren’t found in scripture. There are millions of Bibles in America, yet there is an alarming level of biblical ignorance. George Barna leads an organization that conducts research to determine the state of the American Church and culture. His surveys reveal some interesting beliefs:
65% believe the Bible “answers all or the most of the basic questions of life.” But 44% believe the Bible, the Koran, and the Book of Mormon teach the same truths. 60% of Americans can’t name half of the Ten Commandments; 63% can’t name the four gospels of the New Testament; 31% believe a good person can earn his/her way into heaven; 81% believe that “God helps those who help themselves” is a direct quote from the Bible.
Bill O’Reilly hosts a popular show on Fox News Channel called “The No Spin Zone.” In January 2002, O’Reilly was interviewing the pastor of the 5th Street Presbyterian Church in New York City, which has an active ministry to help the homeless. O’Reilly told the pastor, “Jesus would have demanded that the homeless people shape themselves up or else, because, we all know the passage ‘The Lord helps those who help themselves.’” Oops. That statement revealed that Mr. O’Reilly is certainly no theologian.
“God helps those who help themselves” isn’t found in the scriptures. But it certainly sounds good doesn’t it? Let’s examine three aspects of this spurious Biblical misquote.
I. THE HALF TRUTH: GOD WON’T HELP YOU IF YOU’RE LAZY!
Most of these Biblical misquotes contain a degree of truth. After all, a broken clock is right twice a day! There is a measure of truth in this saying, but not the full measure. Some suggest this saying was originated by Benjamin Franklin who published it in Poor Richard’s Almanac in 1735. But Ben only popularized it. Most likely it originated from an old Aesop fable that tells the following story: “A wagoneer was once driving a heavy load along a very muddy way. He came to a part of the road where the wheels sank half-way into the mire, and the more the horses pulled, the deeper sank the wheels. So the wagoneer threw down his whip, knelt down, and prayed to Hercules: “Oh, Hercules, help me in 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.”
“God helps those who help themselves” it is seldom spoken in kindness. Like Bill O’Reilly from Fox News, it’s usually spoken as a harsh statement challenging someone to get up from their pity party and get to work. This is a half-truth because the Bible does teach God won’t bless laziness. Paul wrote in II Thessalonians 3:10-12, “We gave you this rule: ‘If a man will not work, he shall not eat.’ We hear that some among you are idle. They are not busy, they are busybodies (lazy-good-for-nothings). Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ, to settle down and earn the bread they eat.” Let’s imagine that you need a job to feed your family. You should get on your knees and ask God to give you a job, but then you shouldn’t get up and sit by the phone and just expect some employer to call you out of the blue and offer you a job. Don’t do anything until you pray, but then get out and knock on doors and put in applications. That’s what Jesus meant when He told us to ask, seek, and knock. We’ve all met slackers who created the need for such a biblical misquote. Laziness is part of our sinful nature. Some people would love to just lay around and have God put food in their mouth and then massage their jaws to chew it, and tickle their throats so they’ll swallow it.
God blesses people who display energy and initiative. If you’ve ever watched ants work, you’ll agree they are busy little creatures. In the book of Proverbs, God uses the tiny ant as an example for us. We read in Proverbs 6:6-7, “You lazy fool, look at the ant. Let it teach you a thing or two. Nobody has to tell it what to do. All summer it stores up food. So how long are you going to laze around doing nothing? How long before you get out of bed?” (The Message)
A Children’s teacher was using this verse in Sunday School one day. She said, “Boys and girls, everyday the little ant gets up and goes to work. Everyday, the ant works hard. And in the end what happens to the ant?” Little Johnny raised his hand and said, “He gets stepped on!”