Okay, let’s find a Bible verse. Ready?
“God helps those who help themselves.”
I’ll give you a few minutes to look, but to save you time, you’ll find it in 2 Obligations 13: 36, right before the “Cleanliness is next to Godliness” verse.
And if you’re looking for 2 Obligations, you won’t find that in the Bible anywhere, which means that you don’t have to incorporate it, or 1 Obligations, into your life. Neither of these statements, no matter how much they align with the way we believe in the U.S. culture into which I was born, is biblical or necessarily true.
But modern, materialist culture is firmly imbued with the idea that whatever success we achieve in life is due to our own efforts, and if we are not successful — i.e., wealthy — then it’s our fault because we’ve been lazy:
“Lazy hands make a man poor, but diligent hands bring wealth.” (Proverbs 10: 4)
Gosh, there must be a lot of lazy people in the world. And there sure are a lot rich people, who don’t look or act particularly kind, who must be Christians because they’re so successful.
Focus on the Whole, as Well as the Parts
When we read the Bible, it’s important to recognize that it’s a book, and the whole thing says something, not just individual verses that we cherry pick (or, in the case of our Obligations verses, invent out of nothing). And when you read the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, you encounter several themes, one of which is that God is in control — of everything — and that includes our lives. To achieve success — which in His terms doesn’t necessarily translate into money — we need to cede to Him that control.
Listen to what God says about us, and Him:
“I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.” (Isaiah 48: 17) While you’re at it, start with Isaiah chapter 40, and read all the way to 50 and beyond. Much of what the prophet is discussing there has to do with events that will happen 100 years hence from his writing, and three basic themes emerge:
Three Things to Think about
1) God not only knows the future, he plans and directs it. (I know — that’s a rough one to wrap our minds around, but He’s in complete control, or He’s not, And if He’s not, then who else is sharing power with Him?)
2) Idols — whether they are made of wood, bronze, or paper with the saying “In God We Trust” blazoned across the back — are powerless, so calling on them for help defies reason.
3) God’s people – the children of Abraham, who are not limited to the Hebrews of the 7th century B.C. but include the Christians of today (1 Peter 2: 9-10) – are dearly loved. Isaiah 43: 4 tells us, “Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you, I will give men in exchange for you, and people in exchange for your life.” I don’t know who the men in question are, but I do know that this sounds like a promise to ransom. You don’t put out resources for people who aren’t worth something to you.
Oh, That PLAN We Always Hear about
Many of us have heard the phrase, “God has a PLAN for your life,” (2 Obligations 16: 14), and while this in true — in the way that hard work is important — it misses the mark in the way all of Obligation’s verses do.
God has a plan, period. He Rules. He Rocks.
“I am the Lord, and there is no other. I form the light and create darkness. I bring prosperity and create disaster. I, the Lord, do all these things.” (Isaiah 45: 6-7)
And lest we think, “Well, Dang. He’s got a plan, I’m in it somehow, and I don’t have any say in the matter,” consider Isaiah 41: 13-14.
” . . . I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear, I will help you. Do not be afraid . . . for I myself will help you.”
Your Dreams Are No Secret to God
I know you’ve got things you want to do. So do I. And God knows this; indeed, He created us with certain skills, abilities, desires and dreams. Isn’t it good to know, though, that it isn’t all on your shoulders, that it isn’t all dependent upon your cleverness and intelligence and resources and connections?
Because I don’t know about you, but I’ve run up against a brick wall — or a Red Sea — enough times to know that I am very finite in all the major ways: intelligence, resourcefulness, power, wisdom and the very ability to draw my next breath, and it’s good to know that Someone who isn’t limited at all, is holding my hand.
Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity, where I write about the challenges of actually living the words that we say we believe. Part of this challenge involves actually reading the words ourselves, and talking to God about them (prayer), as opposed to relying upon a weekly church service or books by Christian celebrities to learn about God.
If you go to church, that’s great — just don’t lapse into complacency that everything you’re told there is all that you need to know. God wants to talk to you directly, without any intermediaries.
Posts that complement this one are
Christians: It’s Time to Read Grown-up Books (Isaiah, which I mention in the article above, is a challenging book to get through, and if all you read in your off-time are “Christian” genre books which have the lamentable tendency to be written at a less than challenging reading level, you’ll avoid the Bible because it’s too difficult. But many an educated person in the past learned to read exclusively by reading the Bible, so there’s hope even for our generation.)
High Anxiety: Conquer Your Fear (Worry isn’t a sin so much as it is a bad lifestyle choice. Let’s get past it and grab onto this joy we keep hearing about: it involves trust and prayer.)
God, the Dentist (In the same way that even a great dentist can’t fill his own teeth, we really can’t live our lives without the guidance and wisdom of God.)