God helps those who help themselves

The saying “God helps those who help themselves” comes to us by various roots and across millennia. One of its earliest known expressions is from the Aesopian fable, “Hercules and the Wagoneer.” Here is the text of that brief fable:

A WAGGONER was once driving a heavy load along a very muddy way. At last he came to a part of the road where the wheels sank half-way into the mire, and the more the horses pulled, the deeper sank the wheels. So the Waggoner threw down his whip, and knelt down and prayed to Hercules the Strong. “O Hercules, help me in this my hour of distress,” quoth he. But Hercules appeared to him, and said:

“Tut, man, don’t sprawl there. Get up and put your shoulder to the wheel.

THE GODS HELP THEM THAT HELP THEMSELVES.”

Aesop lived from about 620–564 BC. A more contemporary provenance and one which matches the common wording identically comes to us by way of Benjamin Franklin (Poor Richard’s Almanac, 1736). Franklin himself was a deist and so he believed that God did not play an active role in men’s lives. In his point of view if man was not able to help himself, then man was hopeless.

The Bible teaches something entirely different than the above saying, because God makes special provision to help the helpless.

Romans 5:6, 8
For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly…But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Proverbs 28:26
He who trusts in his own heart is a fool,
But he who walks wisely will be delivered.

Jeremiah 17:5
Thus says the LORD,
“Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind
And makes flesh his strength,
And whose heart turns away from the LORD.

Published in Sayings Not Found in Scripture, Scripture