Have you ever heard someone say that God helps those who help themselves? Is this statement true? Let’s break it down a bit more. If God helps those who help themselves, then it means that only those who help themselves are helped by God. In other words, God does not help those who do not help themselves. Even simpler, not unless one helps him/herself, God will not help them. Therefore, God’s help is dependent on whether man helps himself or not. This is absurd. If God’s help is dependent on man helping himself who could ever get God’s help? More fundamentally, who is greater? Man, or God? This statement assumes man to be greater than God, for the help is dependent not on God but on man. It fundamentally robs God his glory, and falsely attributes man with capabilities that are not true of man. God is creator, and man is creature. God does not need our help to help us. In fact, man is the one who needs God’s help to help him/herself. Therefore, the statement that God helps those who help themselves is a fundamentally false statement.
The nature and necessity of help
The nature of help is that the one who is being helped is aware of his/her deficiency. Help necessitates need. If there were no need, there would be no need for help. This is the primary reason why it would be absurd to think or even say that God needs our help to help us. The need for help also acknowledges that there is someone or something outside of us that is sufficient and able to help us. Depending on our need, we look for the appropriate source of help. God’s people know that only God is the ultimate source of help, for God is never deficient in anything. He is all sufficient. God is never needy, he is self-existent, self-sustaining, self-sufficient. Contrary to God, man is ever needy and insufficient. Our existence is not only derived from God, but also sustained by God. We are always in need of help, and God delights to help those who know they cannot help themselves, and thus need his help.
We need help! Reason will have us acknowledge the need for help. Right from infancy, we all have needed assistance and sustenance from outside ourselves. Try and imagine a toddler looking up at the mother saying “I do not need you!” This kind of necessity is what makes God fundamentally different from us. We can never attribute help on God. If God needed our help then he would be dependent on us, and this is furthest from the truth.
The Idolatry of man
In today’s society, many people are working hard to be self-dependent to the extent of excluding themselves from dependence on God. Perhaps this is why the statement above is frequently thrown around. The fall has affected us to the core. The significance of the fall was that man would be independent of the rule of God. The nature and significance of the fall was that man would “be like God.” The problem with this is that it is an impossibility. We can only image God as he created us to, but we can never be God. Unfortunately, our fallenness will never allow us to see this, and that is why many men have continued in the fool’s errand of trying to attain self-dependence.
The promise and fulfillment of help
Man’s need for help was not as a result of the fall. Rather, it is imprinted on his creatureliness. The fall blurred the innate sense of need, and even more, blinded man from God’s ever-present help. The characteristic of the people of God in the Old Testament and in the New Testament is their constant awareness of their need of help from God and the constant experience of the help of God. When Jesus was on earth with his first disciples, he promised them a helper. He had to go away, so that the helper may come (John 16:7). Just as the Old Testament people of God experienced the help of God (Psalm 46:1; 33:20; 28:7; 79:9; 118:7; 121:2; 124:8; 146:5), so the new Testament people of God experience the help of God in and through the Holy Spirit. The triune self-existent, self-dependent, all-sufficient God is committed to helping his people. This is great cause for joy and comfort for the people of God! Paul exclaims “Who is sufficient for these things? …Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God.” The author of Hebrews reminds us of the glorious accomplishment of Christ’s sacrificial death and triumphant resurrection. Because of his accomplishment of redemption, he has become our great high priest through whom we can now with confidence “draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16).
We rob God of his glory when we attribute help to him, it is we who need help, and it is God who helps us. Through Christ, we have access to God’s throne of grace where we find help in time of need. God delights to help his people, “Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God.” (Psalm 146:5).