The topic of self-help has grown increasingly popular in the past years amongst both believers and unbelievers alike. There are books, blogs, podcasts, magazine, and social media accounts dedicated to learning how to take care of yourself in a loving way.
Not to say self-help is bad, but there comes a point where believers need to ask themselves if they are replacing Gods help with self-help.
Greg Morse recently pointed out the dangers of investing too much time in self-help, while ignoring the help that God has provided for us.
“Can we learn anything from the self-help movement? Why does this placebo help some? Many will line up to testify of its cure-all power. What’s in the snake oil?” Morse asks.
He expounds upon these questions and examines the way the self-help movement can negatively impact Christians.
Morse points out that while self-help resources can be positive, often times “we chew pop-psychology’s ideology of self-reliance and discern no real difference from Christianity, which builds upon God-dependence.”
He further points out that although the ideology of self-help can be dangerous, “self-help acknowledges our personal agency.”
It affirms that humans can, in fact, be in charge of how they react or manage their circumstances, and are not just random byproducts of nature.
“At least self-help affirms what God always has: we can, even now, reap a different harvest by sowing a different crop,” Morse writes. “It properly highlights the truth that we can — and must — own some measures of responsibility for our lives.”
While self-help acknowledges these things to be true, it also preaches directly against the word of God, Morse argues.
“Self-help advice rescues some from the fatalistic, paternalistic, dehumanizing worldviews (so common today) that deny a crucial component of God’s world: ‘So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them’ (Genesis 1:27),” he writes.
Morse then points out that there are three stark differences between the philosophy of self-help and God’s-help.
The first difference is “Self-help gurus have little to sell us other than ourselves. In stopping at mere personal agency, they send us to build a new life while denying us straw for our bricks.”
Morse points out that self-help gurus replace God, and claim to be wise, while “exchange the glory of the immortal God for images of successful man.”
The self-help gurus create illusions in which they want pain in life to cease to exist, Morse adds, pointing out that pain reminds us that we are human.
Morse quotes Psalm 121:1–2, to remind readers where the Bible says help comes from.
“I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.”
The second, and major difference that can be seen between self-help and God’s-help, is the failure to attain lasting help.
“When we look within for help, we receive only temporal solutions to what amounts to eternal problems,” Morse writes. “That alcohol addiction is not first and foremost a sin because it destroys one’s family and poisons oneself.”
He points out that while Gods-help is everlasting, the self-help preached by the world is only momentary.
“Self-dependence may subdue some of the symptoms of sin — you stop drinking, overeating, or committing adultery — but a life of sin against God remains unaddressed and ultimately unaltered,” he adds.
The last point that differentiates self-help and God’s-help, is who receives the glory.
“When we trust in self — and actually succeed— we get the glory. I am smarter, more disciplined, better,” Morse writes. “When we become self-made men and women, and not God-made men and women, we run from disordered lives into the arms of pride.”
This type of success can bring in a “god-complex” where those that had success with self-help start to look down on others, instead of looking up to God.
On the opposing side, Christians who receive help from the Lord, know that they are no good apart from God, which is why they need Him so desperately.
“The Christian, awake to the reality that he has no good apart from his God (Psalm 16:2), speaks repeatedly, “Not to me, O God, not to me, but to your name give glory” (Psalm 115:1). Christ is his boast. Christ is his refrain. He wants every triumph to add another jewel to the crown of his King,” Morse points out.
While self-help can only bring small, momentary self-wins, help from the Lord brings “deep, everlasting joy, secure in his unfading glory.”
Morse urges reads to swap out self-help for Gods-help because the eternal win is worth everything.
“The placebo works only for so long, but all shall fall eventually — and ‘great shall be the fall,’” Morse writes. “But those who trust in Christ have Almighty God working in them, unsearchable promises to guide them, a heaven to journey to, and a Savior to glorify along the way.”