Does God Help Those Who Help Themselves?

Matthew 5

3“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:3, NIV)


The Daily DAVEotional

Have you ever heard someone say that “God helps those who help themselves”?

It’s a popular notion that’s been around for years. But is it biblical?

To be fair, there are numerous passages in the Proverbs that extol the virtues of hard work and the foolishness of being lazy. (See Proverbs 10:4; 12:24, 27; 13:4; 19:15, among others)

Additionally, in 2 Thessalonians 3:10, Paul issues this admonition:

“Even while we were with you, we gave you this rule: “Whoever does not work should not eat.”

However the sentiment of this popular bit of cultural wisdom is not meant to discourage laziness but instead, it promotes an attitude of self-sufficiency and rugged individualism that is associated more with American culture than biblical values.

Jesus teaches the exact opposite. Instead of teaching that “God helps those who help themselves”, Jesus teaches that ”God helps those who CANNOT help themselves.”

To be poor in spirit means to recognize your own spiritual need; to recognize the poverty of your own soul. The New Living Translation says it this way:

“God blesses those who realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is given to them.” (Matthew 5:3, NLT)

The reality is that we are all broken and there is nothing we can do to help ourselves. Many people mistakenly believe that we come to Jesus only to be rescued from an eternity in hell.

While Jesus does save us from the judgment we deserve, we still need Jesus every day, even beyond our initial conversion experience. We are broken and only Jesus can empower us to live the kinds of righteous and holy lives He desires. Only Jesus can provide fullness of life.

Jesus doesn’t just promise to save us from hell. He promises us LIFE. REAL LIFE. Unfortunately, we cannot experience that life if we subscribe to the idea that we must help ourselves first. NO. We cannot help ourselves. We need Jesus to help us every moment of every day!

Reflection

What are some ways our culture promotes the kind of attitude that is expressed in the saying, “God helps those who help themselves.”?

In what ways have you seen this kind of thinking filter into our church and Christian doctrine?

Besides your conversion experience what are some other times or situations where you recognized your own brokenness and need for Jesus?

What are some ways that people can cultivate an attitude of being “poor in spirit”?

 

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

A Word About Hoarding and Price Gouging

The first time I went shopping during the Covid-19 crisis, I thought I would outsmart everyone by getting up early and getting in and out before the rush. Turns out, everyone else had the same idea and I was greeted to a long line just to get into the store.

Proverbs 11

26People curse those who hold their grain for higher prices, but they bless the one who sells to them in their time of need.

(Proverbs 11:26, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

We are fast approaching the one year anniversary of the onset of the global coronavirus pandemic.

I remember the first time I had to go to a super market to buy groceries after lockdowns were implemented. It was a Sunday morning and I got up early to arrive before the store opened, thinking I would outsmart the masses and get in and out before the crowds arrived and bought up everything. However, when I arrived, I realized I wasn’t the early bird as a long line of people had already formed, waiting for the store to open.

When I finally entered the store, I couldn’t believe how empty most of the shelves were. I walked out having purchased almost nothing on my list.

Remember the run on toilet paper and hand sanitizer?

For weeks, even months, I would look for these items any time I entered a store only to see the shelves completely barren.

I read a story about a couple of brothers back east, who, early on in the pandemic, went on a road trip and stopped at every dollar, general and convenience store within a couple hundred miles of their home, buying all the inventory of hand sanitizer and anti-bacterial wipes they could get their hands on (pun intended).

Not surprisingly, these items became short in supply, and with the pandemic turning everyone into a germaphobe, demand went through the roof. The price of the items sky-rocketed. People were paying exorbitant prices on ebay, Amazon and other sites in order to stock up on these “essential” commodities.

Someone found out about the scheme of these brothers and the story went viral throughout social media. Stories ran in most major news publications. Here’s one from the Today Show. Amazon saw that they were using their site to price gouge, so they shut off their ability to sell their contraband.

With a lot of supply and no way to move it, and with public sentiment against them, the brothers decided to donate their items to charities. It was a desperate attempt to portray themselves as generous instead of greedy.

People are the same yesterday and today and will be the same tomorrow as well. People are driven by different motivations, but many people are motivated by greed, looking for any opportunity to prey on people’s vulnerabilities.

The writer of Proverbs states explicitly that this is wrong. It’s unjust because it takes advantage of people who are in a desperate situation, shaking them down for more of their monetary resources in order to provide for them something that they cannot live without.

As difficult as it may be, placing another person’s needs over our own desire for monetary gain is the godly response, especially during a crisis like a global pandemic.

Reflection

Have you ever been the victim of price gouging? What were the circumstances and what was your response?

In what situations have you been tempted to take advantage of another person? 

What are some steps a person can take to ensure they don’t become someone who takes advantage of others during a crisis situation? 

 

Photo by Dave Lowe

Life is Like a Broken Phone

It was the last day of our Spring Break trip visiting a potential college destination our boys were considering. As I was getting into the rental car, my phone slipped out of my hand and fell to the ground. There was a moment of panic as the phone hit the ground but I had a protective case on it and I had dropped it before and always seemed to avoid any serious damage.

My phone, with the familiar spiderweb-like cracked screen on the bottom right.

The phone was lying face down on the ground. As I picked it up and turned it over, I immediately noticed a spiderweb-like screen crack on the bottom right corner, along with a longer crack stretching across the bottom of the screen. My heart sank in frustration. While my phone wasn’t brand new, it still had plenty of life in it from my perspective. We all know that these new-fangled smart phones aren’t cheap, and one can hardly afford to be buying the latest technology every other year.

I briefly entertained thoughts of self-condemnation, chastising myself for being so careless.

I inspected the phone and found that even with a cracked screen, it appeared to be working normally. I resolved that I would be one of those people who was walking around for months, if not years, with a phone that technically worked on the inside but was clearly damaged on the outside.

Not long after, I noticed that the back plate on the phone was starting to come apart as if it was coming unglued. I wondered if the impact of hitting the ground had weakened the integrity of the back plate, causing it to loosen. I tried to squeeze it back together but clearly the glue was no longer able to hold it in place. I took solace in knowing that the case was holding it all together and it was still working normally.

The back plate on my phone started to come apart. That cant be good!

Over the next few weeks and months, that plate started pulling farther and farther apart. I determined that the issue was not related to the impact of hitting the ground but instead, the battery was failing and beginning to swell, pushing the back plate off and making it impossible to reattach, even with new glue. At that point, I realized that I was going to have to bite the bullet and get a new phone.

After some reflection, I considered how much our lives are like that broken phone. Every single one of us is broken – flawed in some way. It’s inevitable. We are born into a broken and fallen world where nothing works quite the way it was designed, including us. But just because we’re flawed doesn’t mean we can’t thrive and be productive.

Some of our flaws are external and visible to others, like the cracked screen on my phone. But some of our flaws are internal, hidden deep within the depths of our souls, like the battery that began to swell. Perhaps we’re not aware of our issues, or perhaps we are and we’re just really good at hiding our stuff.

The Pharisees were upset that Jesus’ disciples didn’t wash their hands before eating according to Jewish religious traditions. Photo by Samad Deldar from Pexels

In Matthew 15, the Pharisees were upset with Jesus because his disciples didn’t ceremonially wash their hands before eating. Jesus responded to the Pharisees by saying, “from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all other sexual immorality, theft, lying and slander. These are what defile you. Eating with unwashed hands could never defile you and make you unacceptable to God!” (Matthew 15:19-20, NLT)

What Jesus is saying is that our brokenness is an internal issue. All of the ugly stuff that we say and do or think but hide, all stem from our heart. The problem is that just like the battery on my phone began to swell and expand outward, what is on the inside in our hearts inevitably comes out, often in dark and ugly ways.

Unlike our phones when they break, we cannot just order a new, unbroken version of ourselves. We’re stuck with having to navigate broken screens and swelling batteries in our lives.

Jesus provides grace to deal with our brokenness and our internal issues. Photo by Greg Weaver on Unsplash

This is what makes the gospel such good news. The gospel is not just a message that saves us from sin and allows us entrance into heaven some day. The good news is that Jesus understands our pain and our issues and he meets us where we’re at every day. There is grace and forgiveness when we blow it, and there is truth and power to experience freedom and deliverance from sin and shame.

As a Christ-follower, I’m becoming more keenly aware of my brokenness and the internal issues that afflict me. I’m grateful that Jesus loves me and accepts me despite my flaws and issues and my hope is that he will meet me in my brokenness and help me understand my flaws and issues so that I might experience true freedom and victory.

We greatly appreciate your partnership and your prayers for us as we navigate life’s challenges and seek to help Young Professionals do the same!