JIM CREES: Get your quotes from the source
In a recent voicemail left on my home phone castigating me for a recent column entitled “Just Work a Little Harder,” the angry grandmotherly caller told me I should measure my “liberal writing” against the Biblical promise that “God helps those who help themselves.”
Here’s the problem. Nowhere in the Bible does it say, or is it insinuated, that God helps those who help themselves.
Ben Franklin said this in his 1736 edition of “Poor Richard’s Almanac,” but nobody in the Bible said such a thing.
In fact, quite the opposite!
In Isaiah 25:4 the prophet praises God saying, “For you have been a defense for the helpless, a defense for the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm ...”
Also, in the New Testament, readers are assured Jesus gave of Himself “ ... while we were still helpless.” (Romans 5:6)
Nowhere does it say that God only responds to those who have already helped themselves. What would be the point?
There is, however, an interesting tidbit in the Bible that discusses the relationship between followers of God and the poor, the ill and distressed, and the strangers in our midst.
In Matthew 25, Jesus teaches his followers saying:
“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”
So ... let’s review.
The Bible DOES NOT say “God helps those who help themselves.”
The Bible DOES have a lot of answers when it comes to questions of the day.
When considering outreaches to the poor and needy in this and any community, Jesus said whatever you do to the “... least of these my brothers and sisters, so you did for me.”
When debating equitable healthcare for all people, keep in mind Jesus said your actions will be affecting the “least of these my brothers and sisters.”
Don’t bother writing me an angry letter. Jesus said it. Not me.
When we discuss dealing with immigrants, aliens and strangers in the land whatever your course of action, Jesus says “ ... so you did for me.”
No. There is no such thing as “God helps those who help themselves.”
But when Donald Trump or any other person speaks insultingly or disparagingly about Mexicans or undocumented workers — the “stranger” among us — remember who he (and we) are talking about — “... so you did for me.”
Hey! I didn’t make it up. It’s no “liberal” propaganda.
Jesus said it, not Ben Franklin.
So ... to all those who call themselves believers, you have a number of choices.
You can believe the Bible is the infallible and inerrant Word of God, free of human touch or taint. And if you do, you must then believe Matthew 25 and take it at face value. It is, after all, the Word of God.
You are commanded to reach out to the poor, the sick, the hungry and the stranger amongst us.
You can follow that command, or ...
You can say you believe the infallibility and inerrancy stuff, but still choose to ignore the direct words of Jesus. You can simply continue to cherry pick what you read and believe — to fit your own political and personal agenda.
Hey, folks! Don’t get mad at me. I never said “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
I didn’t make it up.
You want to be mad, go right to “The Source.”
And “The Source” never said “God helps those who help themselves.”
The Source of All Good said “Get busy and help these people ...”