Tuesday, May 5, 2015


Is The Bible a Self-Help Book?
Yes, and no.
It depends.
Definitely not.

Well? Is it, or isn't it? Tell us straight out.

I googled the phrase "the bible is not a self help book" and got 4.5 million hits. Of course, I didn't go to each and every one of those sites, but what I discovered is that there is a good mix of opinions on both sides of the question.

When I went to Google for an image for this article, I was reminded of how many "bibles" there are in this world. There is "The Shooter's Bible," "The Crystal Bible," "The Investor's Bible," "The Self Esteem Bible," "The Grammar Bible," and, of course, "The Self Help Bible," ad infinitum, ad nauseum.

Why do authors like to title their book a "...Bible"? Could it be that the Holy Bible is still recognized as an authority even though so many are set on destroying its influence?

All seriousness aside, however, let's get back to the main point.
Is the Bible a Self-Help Book?

In order to answer a question like that, it is necessary to first define your terms so that everyone is on the same page thinking through the same filters. (I notice the lack of this strategy and its awful consequences on a regular basis on Facebook.)

Bible = obviously, we are talking about what is termed The Holy Bible, the book that Christians use as their anchor of authority.
Self-Help = "or self-improvement, is a self-guided improvement[1]—economically, intellectually, or emotionally—often with a substantial psychological basis." (taken from Wikipedia, 3/30/2015)

If we can agree on the definition provided above, then the answer to the question becomes quite obvious and further reading of this article is rendered unnecessary.

The true believer recognizes that self guidance is not taught in the Bible, but is, in fact, spoken against.
(Pro. 16:25; Jer. 17:9; Gen. 6:5; Pro. 28:26; John 15:5)

However, let's be perfectly clear. The principles of wisdom that are presented within the pages of the Bible may be applied by anyone and the result will be as promised.
  • Pre-believers may apply Luke 6:38 and increase in this world's good.
  • The Golden Rule is promoted throughout society as a means to maintain a peaceful coexistence.
  • One can overcome one's tendency to bursts of anger by following James 1:19 regardless of whether one is a Christian.
On and on it goes.

So, in another sense of the word, the Bible could indeed be considered a self-help manual.

The modern idea of self help or self improvement has gained quite a bit of traction over the last few decades. Of course, the idea itself is not modern, but ancient. The idea of self improvement lies at the basis of why we have so many languages today. (See Genesis 11:1-9)

Hesiod (circa 750 - 650 BC) wrote Works and Days, which, according to John Boardman in The Oxford History of the Classical World (Oxford 1991), p. 94 "opens with moral remonstrances, hammered home in every way that Hesiod can think of."

In the modern era, a few of the so-called bibles of self help are (in no particular order) Think And Grow Rich, by Napoleon Hill; How to Win Friends and Influence Enemies, by Dale Carnegie, and As a Man Thinketh, by James Allen. The most recent to come on the scene is called The Secret, by Rhonda Byrne, which has now been made into a major motion picture.

When one reads these works, one is given the sense that absolutely anything is possible.

When one reads these works, one is struck with the notion of the power of belief, or in another word, faith.


And herein lies the problem with which we are faced: faith in what, or whom?

The self-help practitioner or teacher/guru says to have faith in the power of your belief. Or, said another way, have faith in your faith.

The health and prosperity Christian practitioner or teacher says to have faith in the power of your belief. Or, said differently, have faith in your faith.

Jesus said, "Have faith in God." (Mark 11:22)

Faith in God is the starting point, the beginning place for the Christian believer to bring about change in his or her life. If you don't begin there, then you are merely pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps--and we all know how efficient that is.

After placing one's faith in God, trusting Jesus as savior, then one is placed on what may be rightly termed a self improvement path. Consider 2 Peter 1:5-10 as an isolated instance among many.

In that place, the Bible then becomes a self help manual in the truest sense of the word. (click to tweet)

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