We have a lot of axioms in America that sound good from an Americanized Christianity but have no basis in truth. One common phrase I hear is, “God only helps those who help themselves.” Or I’ve even heard it, “God always helps those who help themselves.” Either way, this is presented, it is entirely wrong and damaging if it determines how we respond to people.
Job was doing everything right. He lived a righteous life; he made sacrifices daily for his family, and God took notice of Job’s righteousness. Job still had to suffer. He didn’t try to pull himself up by his bootstraps and get out of his suffering either, but in the end, God still restored him to health and gave him more than he had before. Job wanted to complain and die, but God helped him when he couldn’t and wouldn’t help himself.
Saul was on the road to Damascus to persecute the church when Jesus interrupted his trip. He wasn’t trying to improve his condition; he was trying to live out his zeal for the tradition of his fathers, and Jesus had to help him out of a situation he wasn’t trying to fix.
One weekend I took a Sunday school class from a local church with Relevant Hope to help with a service project. We went to a couple of homeless camps and hauled away tires that were dumped on them, several bags of garbage and debris, and improved the sanitation of their outdoor homes.
Of the six people staying between the two camps, only two did anything to help us help them. The rest either left or sat there and watched us work. One of the people helping us commented to me about the fact that they weren’t doing anything to help, and I took advantage of his statement to help him understand the reality of depression in the homeless community.
When someone is in a place where they feel so small, they are not always able to help themselves out of it.
I battled depression a few years ago when I lost my job and couldn’t get any work. I could barely get out of bed some days. There was nothing I was doing to help myself, and I had a family relying on me. Some may call it selfishness, but depression is a real problem that has real control over people.
Thankfully, God did help me even when I wouldn’t and couldn’t help myself.
He used other people to drag me back to my feet. And I explained to that volunteer that sometimes it isn’t about what they do when we come to help them as much as it is how we respond to them when they won’t help. I could have packed up shop and told them we would come back when they were ready to help, but what kind of help is that?
Jesus didn’t do that to us.
As a matter of fact, God proved how much he loved us by sending Jesus to die for us even when we were still sinning against Him (Romans 5:8).
See the difference? God helps those who can’t help themselves.
None of us are seeking God (Romans 3:11) or trying to improve ourselves, so stop trying to hold someone else to a standard different from the one out of which God saved you. Instead of scoffing at the next person you see living outside, reach out your hand. If they swat it away, love them anyway.
That is what Jesus did for us, and that is what we are supposed to do for them.