Friday, June 5, 2015

Finish this sentence: "God helps those who..."

Go to the ant, O sluggard;
consider her ways, and be wise.
Without having any chief,
officer, or ruler,
she prepares her bread in summer
and gathers her food in harvest.
Proverbs 6:6-8

The most often misquoted scripture is not in the bible at all... "God helps those who help themselves." Go ahead. Search for it. Google it. It ain't in the book! It has been used as a colloquial proverb for generations and many people think it is a verse of scripture. It is not. It originated in Greek philosophy with both Sophocles and Euripides. In English the phrase as we know it probably dates to the 17th century, first mentioned in publication by Englishman Algernon Sidney (a nod to wikipedia for that trivial insight). So the phrase is not scriptural... but the concept has some merit as a principle.

This passage using ants for illustration sets forth a general principle: God often uses our daily hard work as a means of His common grace to provide for our needs. That is why the lazy person is instructed to consider that even in the natural world, animals must seek food and shelter of their own effort. A colony of ants provides this insight. The busy ants gather food so that all of them may thrive. God provided them with the instinct and ability to do so. They still must diligently gather.

It is that idea that guides my understanding of God's common grace. I have proud blue collar roots. My dad was a hard working man. He hauled freight and drove trucks, loaded freight on docks across Kansas City, and drew a union wage and pension his entire life. He literally worked until his back broke. He taught me the necessity and value of hard work. We were never rich. But we were never hungry. The week that I graduated from High School I got a warehouse job. I have been employed ever since both outside ministry and from within ministry. Before being privileged to be supported as a full-time pastor, I have been a grade school janitor, a factory worker, a window installer, an underground utilities locator, a telecommunications technician, a graphics arts designer, and a house painter. And though not wealthy either, God has supplied for my family systematically by His common grace. The ants will teach us a lifetime lesson if we look to them as scripture asks us to do. Hard work is a means of God's provisioning grace.

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