Jesus has called us to follow Him. One of the ways we do that is by helping others. He said that the world will know we are His disciples if we have love for one another. If we love our Christian brothers and sisters, we will help them in whatever way we can. But Jesus did not restrict His help to only those of His religious persuasion. He healed Samaritans, Romans, and other Gentiles. As we follow Him, we, too, must reach out to those outside of our spiritual family.
Throughout the Bible we see that God's people are to help one another, as well as anyone else who is in need of assistance. As we read the Old Testament, we see numerous references to people helping. In Deuteronomy, Moses told the Israelites to help lift up their brother's donkey or ox that has fallen down. Job talks about his helping the poor and the fatherless. Zechariah talks about people coming from far off to help build the Lord's temple. The Old Testament is filled with accounts of God helping people. For instance, consider the way He took care of the Israelites in the wilderness, helped David defeat Goliath, and provided for the widow of Zarephath.
We see in the Gospels that Jesus was constantly helping others. From the feeding of the multitudes to the healing of the lame, the deaf, and the mute, Jesus was helping people. Remember Paul's vision of the man from Macedonia, recorded in Acts 16:9? The man asked Paul to come and help them. Throughout Paul's writings, he encouraged the brethren to help others.
Just as effective communication requires a sender and a receiver of the message, so does effective helping require a doer and a receiver of the help. Being the receiver of the help can be difficult for people who grew up hearing the words, "God helps those who help themselves." In the Bible, however, we find such commands as "bear one another's burdens" (Gal. 6:2, ESV), "you give them something to eat" (Mark 6:37, ESV), and "help her in whatever she may need from you" (Rom. 16:2, ESV). These statements were made with the full expectation that those on the receiving end of the help would accept it.
I grew up believing that I should do everything I could to be self-sufficient and independent. I had no problem helping others; that was enjoyable. Accepting help was a problem. As the years went by, I gradually found it easier to accept help and even to ask for help when I faced tasks that I could not do by myself. This change took years to occur. I moved from one apartment to another many times without anyone's help. Why? Because I was perfectly capable of doing so. Granted, it was hard work, but I could do it. I believed that if I could do it myself, I should. Does this sound like I believed "God helps those who help themselves"?
What I didn't realize then was that by not asking for help, I was denying my Christian brothers and sisters an opportunity to demonstrate their love by doing a good work for my benefit. I had physical burdens they could have helped me with, but I said, "No, thanks" and denied them an opportunity to "bear one another's burdens."
I still sometimes find it difficult to ask for help, especially for "fix-it" jobs around the house that I could do myself. However, instead of always planning on doing those jobs by myself, I now try to sort through the items on my to-do list and pick out the ones that would be very difficult for me to do by myself. Those are the tasks that I ask my Christian brothers to assist me in completing.
We need to learn to maintain a balance in the roles we fill as the helper and the helped. As God's Spirit leads us, we can achieve that balance and learn when to say, "I'd like to have your help," or "I appreciate your offer, but I would like to do it myself," or "may I help you with that".
Copyright 2006, Star M. Ferdinand.
Star Ferdinand is the author of The Prayerful Bible Study Series of study guides, numerous devotionals, and other Christian writings. You can read more of her writings at starferdinand.wordpress.com.