A lot of people think “God helps those who help themselves,” is a Bible quote.

But it’s not in the Bible. Is it true, though? Substitute any word or concept for God you like —

Universe, Divine Principal, Reality … Put another way, where does human agency stop and something greater begin?

Dennis Voth

Thinking about this question, I would like to begin with a global view and then narrow it down to practical application. We can think in broad strokes concerning the saying, “God helps those who help themselves,” but is that fair?

How many of us when we were born said that we wanted to be born a certain gender, race and born into a certain country? We had no decision in this action. I will use myself as an example. I am male, white, and born in the United States. By my birth alone, I have certain advantages.

If I were born in a third world country, into poverty, a different race, and gender, my life could be very different; not everyone is afforded the same opportunities.  As someone commented, “By being born in the United States, you have already hit the jackpot.”

Does God help those who help themselves? Yes, but often, we think of this in successful terms, such as financially security and having prestige.  Does not God also help those who struggle, those born into poverty, those with disabilities?

Jesus offered a series of blessings that we refer to as the Beatitudes

(Matthew 5:1-11): Jesus knew the struggles that many in his day faced, and he had compassion for them. I think that is something we miss in today’s world. We have become too self-centered, everything does not revolve around me, but Thee.

Love is one shared reality, and our common name for that reality is “God” (1 John 4:7-21). God is within and all around us. In God we have our beginning and our end. As human beings we live within God’s love whether we realize it or not.

The question, ‘where does human agency stop and something greater begin,’ is a bit short-sighted, I think.  We cannot escape God or take all the credit for the fortunes that come our way. God loves us. Let us rest in God’s love and see where that leads us.

Dennis Voth is pastor at Central Christian Church in Arkansas City.      

Pamela White

My favorite biography from childhood is about Glenn Cunningham. If any life fits “God helps those who help themselves,” his is exemplary.

Cunningham was considered the greatest American miler of all time. Born in Atlanta, Kan., he grew up in Elkhart. At 8 years old, he survived a tragedy that badly burned his legs and deformed his feet. He was told he’d never walk.

His parents nurtured his recovery and supported “Glenn’s will to walk.” With determination, he ran everywhere, clocked a 4:04 mile, placed on the 1932 and 1936 U.S .Olympic teams, and held a 1500 world record at 3:47.8. He was called “the Kansas Ironman.”

Elkhart’s faith, commitment to family and community is a strong ethic. The Glenn Cunningham Youth Ranch gave 10,000 youths and his 10 children a strong foundation. They lived by the Golden Rule, honor, and the satisfactions of accomplishment.

Who designs our survival? Trauma happens. Trauma hurts. Trauma is a common story — more common than we acknowledge.

Too frequently, prejudiced aggressions and killings are perpetrated for self-serving purposes. Victims suffer; victims die. Suffering is often assumed as God’s punishment. Victims fear “God helps those who help themselves” grants the persecutor legitimacy.

What is in our control? We search to know the full scope of our universe. But the only certainty is that the sun will come up in the morning. We’re born and we die, and in between there is a daily life we must face, no matter what happens.

What is our responsibility to each other? When we stand together, we provide ourselves comfort and community. Not everyone agrees to the compassion of the Universal Golden Rule: to treat others as we want to be treated. However, each day, many thrive beyond adversity with “true grit.” There is power in “grit.”

Pamela R White, LSCSW, practices in Winfield. Her experience includes working with Head Start and optimizing aging and end of life.

Tim Durham

You can see why many people believe that the saying is in the Bible. It sounds like a proverb and seems wise and directive. On its face, it reminds us that, even if you believe in a God who is in charge of the universe, you still have a part to play. It attempts to summarize our interaction with God in a practical way and gives power to action.

But the truth is that, if people were really able to help themselves, then they would not need God. What if you do all you can do but nothing happens?

Jesus said, Blessed are the poor in Spirit…” It means that you are at the end of your rope and you realize that, given your own resources, you cannot survive. That does not sound “blessed” does it? It is still the best place to start. As we realize how fragile we are, we become humble enough to understand how much we need God. It is then we are blessed because we are able to receive the help that must come outside of us, and even outside the best circumstances of the world. This is the beginning of true spirituality.

The best way to help yourself is to realize how grateful we should be for all the good things and realize that we routinely take them for granted. Maybe the best way to help yourself is to realize that, even if we “pull ourselves up by our bootstraps,” we are still thankful for the bootstraps and the ability to keep pulling. We must try to do practical things to change circumstances, but also allow God to show us how we can do things differently, and trust him for genuine miracles when we are at the end of ourselves. Then God.

Tim Durham is the former director of Family Life Services. He also teaches Developmental Psych at Cowley College. Tim writes songs about all kinds of things and performs routinely for good listeners everywhere. He can be reached at 620-441-1082.

In Ethics and Outlooks, local clergy and other “experts” will respond to questions from readers about morals, values and what it means to be human. Please email questions to daseaton@ctnewsonline.com.

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