Weblog of a Christian philosophy student

Weblog of a Christian philosophy student. Please feel free to comment. All of my posts are public domain. Subscribe to posts [Atom]. Email me at countaltair [at] yahoo.com.au. I also run a Chinese to English translation business at www.willfanyi.com.

Location: Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Friday, August 20, 2010

Does God help those who help themselves?

Suppose there's something you're struggling with or you have a persistent desire that hasn't been fulfilled. Can you only depend on God's help if you basically fix the problem yourself, if you "step up" in some impressive way and solve the issue on your own? Does God help those who help themselves?

I find it helpful to think about this whole issue in terms of two general points:

1. Someone once said to me that they didn't fully understand God's love until they had children, because it just crystallised how much God's love for us is not about us doing anything to earn it. Of course, if you have kids, then you basically just want them to do well. You want them to succeed and flourish in life and be happy, and you don't impose a series of hoops or challenges or requirements on that. And you act to bring that about, as far as you can. Now, most parents certainly don't follow a rule: "Parents help their children when they help themselves" in relation to their kids, and we admire and respect that as a part of being a good parent. So the question is: is God worse than most parents? I would certainly hope not. So that counts against "God helps those who help themselves." See for example Rom 5:6: "When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners."

2. The other point comes from a joke which illustrates the other side of this. There's a Christian, let's say 'Andrew,' who is having money problems, and he prays to God, "Dear God, if you help me win the lottery, I will be an incredible Christian. I will build a church, give a lot of money away, witness to heaps of people" and so on. But he doesn't win the lottery. So he prays again, "God, I'm at my wit's end. I will do anything for you if you help me win. Please, let me win!" But he doesn't win. So he prays again, "God, what do you want from me? What am I supposed to do or say? I will do anything for you if you help me win!" And then God answers him from heaven, "Andrew, help me out here. Buy a lottery ticket." See for example Psalm 32:9: "'Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you.'"

The second point shows that if we pray, for example, to find a job but don't send out any resumes and suchlike, then God literally CANNOT answer our prayer. That could be the case sometimes. But, even if it is, God will try and help us as much as a loving parent would, which goes far beyond helping those who help themselves. Although sometimes God may not fulfill a persistent desire because of greater, at present inexplicable reasons, but we can't conclude from this that He doesn't love us completely, especially when one considers that e.g. God died on the cross for us, which involved, in Jesus taking our sins, more than 'just' being crucified.



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