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What does the Bible say about self-help methods?

self-help methods
Question: "What does the Bible say about self-help methods?"

The self-help genre of books and videos is incredibly popular and broad-reaching. There are self-help methods for everything from de-cluttering to being more productive at work to learning confidence to improving one’s health, and the list goes on. The desire to improve oneself is laudable inasmuch as it recognizes that we are imperfect creatures living in a world that is less than what we were intended for. However, self-help aids miss the point. Humans are not in need of self-improvement. We are in need of a Savior. This is not to say that all self-help methods are inherently bad; simply that anything that emphasizes self to the exclusion of God is off the mark.

When we come to faith in Jesus, we are made completely new (2 Corinthians 5:17). We are counted righteous before God, yet we are still in the process of actually becoming righteous. This is called sanctification, and it is a work of the Holy Spirit in us. God doesn’t just improve us; He actually transforms us and gives us new hearts. Even though sanctification is a work of God, it is a process in which we participate. We do things like pray, study the Bible, learn from sound teachers, and engage in Christian fellowship to help us know God more. Some self-help methods, such as for time management or improved memory or having healthy relationships, may be useful to us here. There is nothing wrong with seeking to improve one’s organizational skills.

The key is discernment. Does the self-help method involve New Age meditation, mantras, or other mystical practices? If so, that method is not helpful. Are you looking at the self-help method through the lens of biblical truth, or has the method become a religion of its own? For example, methods to improve your confidence have no weight apart from knowing why you can be confident in Christ. Methods to help you be more organized are useful only insofar as you need to use that skill. Being an organized person does not make you suddenly acceptable or lovable or better than others. God is who gives you worth. Learning skills of any kind is simply stewardship of gifts He has bestowed. Using secular self-help methods to aid your spiritual growth or to improve skills needed for daily living may well be valuable. But they are not necessary, and spiritual discernment is vital.

The self-help mentality can be dangerous, and many of the mantras and basic concepts in self-help methods are humanistic. However, with a firm foundation in biblical truth and reliance on the Holy Spirit to transform our hearts, some self-help methods may be a useful tool for Christians looking to improve a certain area of their lives.

Recommended Resource: Beyond Self-Help by Pankau, Leach, & Donovan

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