A meditation as preparation for appropriate action
I heard this maxim many times in my youth, living as I did in a working-class culture where Victorian virtues [not "values" as they are now called!] were still common amongst the older generation. It was quoted in terms of not waiting for the State or the local Council or the Church or a Benefactor or even the LORD himself to do what a man or woman could do for himself/herself. At the same time the sentiment did not remove God as the LORD from doing what only God can and must do for our ultimate good; but, it did require of man all that he should do all that he can do within the terms of his ability and context before expecting help from others. (Today, in contrast, with the arrival of the welfare State and the culture of rights, this kind of attitude is rare and regarded by many as suspicious!)
Theologically, the high Calvinist or the convinced Augustinian may regard this statement as infected with the disease of Pelagianism, suggesting that we, as sinful mortals, can contribute to our own salvation by our efforts and meritorious faithfulness. But this approach is to misunderstand the force of this maxim which begins from the fact of man being endowed by God with reason and conscience and being given duties to perform as a creature made in the image of God. It does not seek to usurp what belongs to God as Creator & Sustainer of life, or to God as Saviour & Redeemer of man. Rather, it expects us all to do what we know we have to do and not to expect God, or others - angels or human beings, to do for us what we can actually do for ourselves.
The maxim applies to individual persons, to families and to groups/societies.
Relating this maxim to the relation now existing of the Plano/Dallas AAC Congress of October 7-9 to the Primates' Meeting of October 15-16 (because of the supplication made by the former in writing and also by persons who have traveled to London), I am left wondering whether those who supplicate have done all within their power to help themselves and whether they are prepared in the future to do all within their power to help themselves. Are they perhaps expecting too much of the Primates' Meeting and are they not looking carefully enough at what they can do immediately and in the short & long terms about reforming their own households (dioceses & parishes) by the Word of God and according to the doctrinal tradition of the classic Anglican Way of Christianity? Are they wanting immediate "gain" without being ready to endure long-term "pain"?
"God helps those who help themselves."
The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon M.A., D.Phil. (Oxon.)