I was looking up the proverb “God Helps Those Who Help Themselves.” I was pretty sure that Benjamin Franklin originally said it. However, that eventually led me (as so many roads do) to the Wikipedia article and Wiktionary article, “God Helps Those Who Help Themselves.”
There I found that Benjamin Franklin was not the first to say it. Algernon Sidney said it in its present form (Algernon Sidney (1698), chapter 2, in Discourses Concerning Government, volume 1, section 23, p. 298). However he was drawing from Greek Philosophers and a slew of others.
I found the Wikipedia article interesting because it talks about the widespread belief (at least in the United States) that the above proverb is from the Bible. It is clearly not in the Bible… but the question does remain as to whether it is a proverb based on good theology.
I really don’t think it is. As an American, I can relate to the cultural temptation to feel that the proverb is correct. I also feel as if one could put some brackets on it where it does hold true. It is arguable harmonious to the statement of James, “You have not because you ask not.” However, a truer statement is “God Helps Those Who Cannot Help Themselves.” This reminds me of the song by Paul Overstreet, “Love Helps Those (Who Cannot Help Themselves)”
I am presently working on an article based on the Pool of Bethesda story in John 5. Hope to have it done in a couple of weeks and then it will either be published to a journal here in the Philippines or I will simply put it up online. Time will tell. My argument is that the situation at the Pool of Bethesda is a great example of “God Helps Those Who Help Themselves” but that Jesus went there and did exactly the opposite, helping one who absolutely could not help himself. I make the suggestion that the act of Jesus should make us pause and wonder whether what was happening at Bethesda was indeed from God. Does God really grant mercy and favor on the strongest, richest, most capable? With a few possible exceptions, the answer seems to be NO! Hezekiah was granted 15 years extension to his life, but the broader story undermines the act— Hezekiah in effect used his extension of life to put his country in greater danger.