HALF-TRUTH. That’s the topic of a sermon series my creative pastor is preaching. Yesterday’s half-truth was this: God helps those who help themselves.
For those casually surveyed Americans who told late-night TV host Jay Leno that this was one of the 10 Commandments: No it’s not.
It’s not even in the Bible.
It’s in Greek tragedies, in one paraphrase or another:
- “Heaven never helps the men who will not do anything.” Philoctetes
- “Try it yourself first, and then call in God. For God helps the worker.” Hippolytus
It’s in Aesop’s Fables, too. The moral of one fable: Help yourself and Heaven will help you, too.
But it was Ben Franklin who nailed the phrasing for Americans when he wrote Poor Richard’s Almanack in 1736.
It’s true enough, I suppose, that God helps us when we work ourselves ragged. I sure felt like I had help when I worked in that Ohio rubber factory to pay my way through the journalism program at Kent State University. And I felt like I had help when I worked full-time at Nazarene Church Headquarters while taking nearly a full academic load at Nazarene Theological Seminary.
But what about that gent I met in Downtown Kansas City with frostbite on his face because he slept outside on a frigid night and fell asleep without covering his head?
Who the dickens is going to help him help himself?
Where does he start?
Should he start by getting a job?
How does he do that when he’s sleeping outside? Especially if he’s sleeping outside because he has some kind of illness that got him there in the first place – whether physical or mental.
Who’s going to help him write his resume?
What’s he going to wear to the interview?
How’s he going to get there without a car?
What kind of impression will he make with a frostbitten face and a growling stomach?
Some people need a God who helps those who can’t help themselves.
And I think God needs people who know that.