Reflections by Maxie Dunnam

Apart from Peanuts, Dennis the Menace may be my favorite comic strip. In a recent cartoon Dennis is in his room with his dog; the cookie jar is open, and Dennis has put four or five on the plate for his dog.

It must have been on Sunday. His mother came into the room, and we can only imagine what she said, but Dennis responds, “Didn’t you hear the preacher say, The Lord helps those who help themselves?

Most readers, with Dennis, will know that proverb, believing it comes from the Bible. George Barna, a well-known Christian pollster and religious sociologist, opened one of his survey reports with this indictment, “Americans revere the Bible- but, by and large, they don’t read it. And because they don’t read it, we have become a nation of biblical illiterates.”

Some of the data behind that summary is:

Fewer than half of all adults can name the Four Gospels. 

Sixty percent of Americans can’t name even five of the ten commandments. 

Eighty-two percent believe that the proverb “God helps those who help themselves” is found in Scripture. 

Dennis may have heard it wrong. I doubt if any preacher would say that. I hope the preacher would say, where human power and resources are sufficient, divine power will not be put forth.

So I ask, Is it possible to be too dependent upon God?

I know full well that the message of the Gospel is that God helps those who are helpless – not just those who are down–and-out helpless, but like so many of us, who by the grace of God come to an awareness of an up-and-out-helplessness.

The insensitive philosophy of “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” is also too often stated. The problem with that philosophy is that there are too many who don’t have boots, so there are not straps to pull on.

Yet, I pose the question: Is it possible to be too dependent upon God? It may very well be that when and where human power is sufficient, divine power will not be put forth. That challenges each of us to see the needs around us and respond to those needs with the resources we have. 

-Maxie Dunnam