For you deliver a humble people, but the haughty eyes you bring down. It is you who light my lamp; the Lord, my God, lights up my darkness. By you I can crush a troop, and by my God I can leap over a wall. This God—his way is perfect; the promise of the Lord proves true; he is a shield for all who take refuge in him. Psalm 18:27-30
Last night in a meeting at church, one of my friends was making a point and they said, “The Bible says, ‘Neither a borrower, nor a lender be.” He was making a fine point but I chuckled to myself. (The Bible doesn’t say that. It was actually Polonius’ speech to Laertes in William Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”.)
We do that sort of stuff all the time. We often operate, not on what the Bible actually says, but on what we THINK the Bible says. Most of the time that probably doesn’t matter. Our motives are OK and our actions might not be terribly consequential.
But sometimes it matters. A lot. Because words DO matter. A LOT.
“God helps those who help themselves.” Lots of people think the Bible says that too. But it doesn’t. While it is often attributed to Benjamin Franklin and “Poor Richard’s Almanac”, the sentiment is much older and Franklin got it from someone else.
“God helps those who help themselves.” Certainly there are times when that is true. But we can’t take it too far. We aren’t robots. But we also aren’t gods. Sure, our cars don’t drive themselves. We need to get behind the wheel, turn the key, make it go where we want it to go. But we don’t have to imagine a “car”, design it, manufacture it, build it, and deliver it. We play our part, but only our part.
This next line isn’t directly from the Bible either, but I think it is true. “Sometimes, God helps people who are ready to receive the help that God would give them.” Here too, we can’t take this too far either. We all know plenty of people who are in need of dire help, are eager for the help, are willing to do anything to get the help, but the help they need just isn’t going to be there. There path isn’t about getting rid of the problem but about dealing with the reality of a problem that isn’t going to go away….what will we do now?
Now this line IS from the Bible: For you deliver a humble people, but the haughty eyes you bring down.
Humility – honestly facing the reality of life, not pretending to be someone we are not, openly vulnerable to the chances and changes of life – puts us in a position to be delivered. But haughtiness? Thinking we have the world by the tail, that we don’t need anyone or anything else, that WE know exactly what we need and what we need to do to fix whatever is ailing us – haughtiness closes the door to God’s deliverance.
In lots of different ways, that is exactly what the Bible says.
Let us pray: Deliver us, O God, from evil. Deliver us from self-centeredness, in all the forms it takes. Deliver us from fear, with its sneakiness and its weight. Keep us open to you, open to newness, open to possibilities, open to the new life you would give us. In Jesus’ name. Amen.