God helps those who help themselves
As I rushed in and out of department stores this week, the ringing bells of the Salvation Army volunteers made me ponder about the title of this post. In the recent budget bill, the Senate passed a $602 billion bill that cuts funds for health, education and labor programs on the same day the Senate approved two separate rounds of cuts to health care programs for the poor.
Whenever there is a drive to make cuts in the budget, there is never any debate about where the cuts will come from; social services. And I believe there is one philosophical ideal that makes these types of cuts socially acceptable; God helps those who helps themselves.
I readily admit that the previous quote sounds plausible but not only is it selfish, it is nowhere in the Bible. In fact, a national survey conducted by the Barna Research Group found that when Christians were asked if the expression ‘God helps those who help themselves’ was in the Bible’, only 38% of all Christians correctly stated that that phrase cannot be found anywhere in the Scriptures. Forty-two percent thought that this was a Biblical quotation, and 20% had no idea. So lets assume for arguments’ sake that half of the people who had no idea actually believed that the quote was in the Bible, that would mean a clear majority of Christians believes that the quote was in the Bible. But what is the big deal?
A lack of compassion will lead people to believe that those who are less fortunate must have done something wrong in order to deserve God’s lack of compassion. And perhaps more troubling is the idea that because one is financially stable, God is smiling on you and your family. When this type of flawed thinking is applied to local, state, and national policies, the poor are always demonized for not doing their part to contribute to society. The reality is that not everyone who is in financial straits can pull themselves up by their boot straps. And the people who are comfortably living the middle class life, they should know that no one in succeeds at anything by themselves. For those of you who have not read Black Wealth, White Wealth, by Melvin L. Oliver and Thomas M. Shapiro, you will understand the huge pull that history has on people’s life choices. And like so many people of the middle class have experienced in 2005, there is not a huge barrier that separates them from those in the unemployment line.
In closing, the erroneous phrase that God who helps those who help themselves only adds to the disdain and indifference that so many middle class people show to the poor. And for all of the Bible loving people who walk past the poor without ever giving the change in their pocket, I urge them to read Leviticus 25:35-36 (NIV) which reads, “If one of your countrymen becomes poor and is unable to support himself among you, help him as you would an alien or a temporary resident, so he can continue to live among you. Do not take interest of any kind from him, but fear your God, so that your countrymen may continue to live among you…” And for the people who need things in black and white, consider the consequences of helping the poor and not helping the poor:
For those who bless the poor, God promises to bless them (Ps 41:1-3; 112; Prov. 14:21; 19:17, 22:9, 14:31, 28:27; Isaiah 58:6-10).
But, He promises to judge those who oppress the poor (Deut 27:19, Prov. 17:5, 21:13, 22:16, 28:27; Isaiah 10:1-4; Eze 18:12-13, 16:49).
Therefore, there are two things that would make life a whole lot better in America. How about people actually read the Bible or whatever is the religious text of their religion. And while we’re at it, why don’t we look at holding elected officials accountable for enacting policies that earn God’s disrespect.
Stay up fam,