“God Helps Those Who Help Themselves”

Psalm 90:12, So teach us to number our days, that we may get a heart of wisdom.

It should go without saying that we live in a narcissistic society. In today’s society, autonomy is the framework within which our morality is formulated—the self has become sacred. Society teaches us we should spend our time and energy on things for our own benefit. Some even disguise this narcissism as care for their neighbour while demanding social justice. Underneath the façade, it’s all about them and their subjective beliefs. A lot of people on American streets think the following phrase is one of the Ten Commandments: “God helps those who help themselves.” I’m not sure where this came from, but it’s utter rubbish. Not only is this phrase not found anywhere in Scripture, but it is also not implied by Scripture. Throughout the entire Scriptures we see God and Jesus helping those who are unable to help themselves. Television ads and humanitarian Facebook memes, however, tell us we have to do everything ourselves.

For example, I recently saw a meme that follows this false teaching, which says, “Sometimes the reason good things are not happening to you is because you are the good thing that needs to happen to other people.” This is the humanitarian rubbish I’m talking about—disguising narcissism as care for one’s neighbour. Apparently, according to this meme, good things will only come to you if you do good things for other people. Either that’s the truth, or the truth is that we live in a world tainted with sin and when bad things happen to you it’s not because you’re not doing enough good things and it’s your fault; it’s because bad things are inevitable in a sinful world no matter how “good” you are. Society berates us with messages to spend our time doing things that will ultimately benefit us in return while even disguising the selfish drive with something compassionate, which is all done with fancy semantics.

In stark contrast, the psalmist who wrote the above psalm says we ought to spend our time serving our Saviour. St. Paul makes the same exhortation, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:15-17). Satan is constantly attempting to entice us with our selfish desires and because he’s a subtle little bugger, he’s really good at disguising our selfishness as something good. So, the psalmist asks for God to give us wisdom because “the days are evil.” Turn on the news channel and you’ll see just how evil the days are. So how can we receive this heart of wisdom in order to discern what the Lord’s will is?

Fortunately, the answer is simple. God’s will is found in His Word. If the world says or does something that doesn’t match with Scripture, then you know it’s not God’s will. Yet American evangelicalism is trying to find God’s will outside of His Word. The reason why people are having difficulty discerning God’s will is because they are not looking to God’s Word, where His will is revealed.

Instead of searching for ways to serve ourselves even as we pretend to serve others with an ulterior motive, let us rather serve God our Saviour and subsequently serve our neighbour as the Lord intends.

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