‘God Helps Those Who Help Themselves’ – Origin, Meaning, Expansion and Significance of the Proverb

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‘God Helps Those Who Help Themselves’ – Origin, Meaning, Expansion and Significance of the Proverb


In its exact wording, the proverb ‘God helps those who help themselves’ originates with Algernon Sidney. Sidney was an English political theorist, and his words were later quoted (and made more famous) by Benjamin Franklin in the eighteenth century.

However, the sentiment behind this proverb is a much more ancient one. For example, in the writings of the Greek dramatist Sophocles, we can find the idea that ‘God helps those who dare’.

Later, theological writers, such as George Herbert in the early – mid seventeenth century, also explored this idea.


This proverb has been interpreted in various ways. However, it has one key interpretation, that has dominated the mainstream understanding of the proverb. This interpretation is that people who work hard and take responsibility for their lives will receive additional help from God.

This key interpretation of the proverb is that if a person starts to help themselves, then God will also come to their aid.

The proverb leaves it open whether a person needs to call on God’s aid explicitly, or whether God will automatically come to a person’s aid once they start to help themselves.

The proverb is also ambiguous about whether God always helps people who help themselves, or whether this is something that only applies to some people.

However, it is certain that this proverb can signify several things, including that:

  • If a person helps themselves then it is likely that God will help them too.
  • If a person wants God to help them then first they must begin to help themselves.
  • The people that God helps are also those people who are already helping themselves.
  • God may come to our aid automatically, or we may have to ask for God’s help when we are already helping ourself.


The ‘God’ in this proverb can be the God of any religion. As has been demonstrated by the discussion of the proverb’s origin, the proverb was applicable as much to the lives of the polytheistic ancient Greeks as it was to the lives of Christian writers such as George Herbert. As such, this is a very flexible proverb, and anyone who believes in any kind of higher power can relate to it.


1. Motivation: the proverb is a great thing to remember if we want to get started with our projects. It suggests that we need to first start helping ourselves if we want our projects to succeed!

2. A prayer: this proverb can also be used as a prayer, asking for God’s help. It can be useful to have a set form of words like this ready to hand when praying.

3. Rewarding hard work: this proverb recognizes the importance of hard work as it suggests that God values people’s efforts to help themselves.

4. Hope: ‘God helps those who help themselves’ can also give us hope as it suggests that if we start to help ourselves, we can also count on God’s additional help.

5. Taking responsibility: this is a proverb that encourages us to take responsibility for our actions and to work to make positive change in our lives rather than simply waiting for change to happen.

6. A reminder to care for ourselves: this proverb reminds us to take care of ourselves, whether that means ensuring that we have enough rest at night or getting help when we are feeling down.

7. An expression of religious feeling: this proverb is important to many people who are religious because it expresses their trust that God will help them.


‘God helps those who help themselves’ is a proverb that celebrates the value of hard work, of taking responsibility for our actions, and of taking care of ourselves. As such, it is a brilliant proverb to remember whenever we are starting out on a new project, or whenever we find ourselves putting off chores, or work, or looking after our own selves. In addition, this proverb can keep people motivated when they are in the midst of a project.

All in all, ‘God helps those who helps themselves’ can be applied to numerous different contexts. We might use it to remind a stressed out friend to take some time out to pamper themselves. Or, we might use it to motivate ourselves to find a job and start making a living for ourselves. This is a proverb that encourages positive action that will change the world.

Read more in Wikipedia.

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